2020-21 Pac-12 basketball preview

Pac-12 basketball will be very competitive this year. It seems like it was only a short time ago we were laughing at how bad the conference was. Now it should get seven teams in the tournament, and some think it could be near as many as nine. Oregon was thought to run away with the conference last year after its remarkable run at the end of the 2019 season. The Ducks won the conference outright, but UCLA sure shocked us all. It was supposed to be a work-in-progress for Mick Cronin and the Bruins and it sure seemed bleak at the beginning of the season, but they finished second.

USC and Arizona State were sure to make the NCAA Tournament, but for some reason the metrics never like the Trojans and Sun Devils. Colorado and Arizona finished behind them in the Pac-12 but were liked by the metrics more. Stanford was in and out toward the end. Oregon State, Utah, Cal and Washington State had exciting players, but they couldn’t win games. Then there was Washington. The Huskies were great until Quade Green got suspended because of academics, and they fell all the way to last place.

So the Pac-12 was very exciting last season. At first glance, UCLA should be the favorite. The Bruins return all five starters from a team that shocked the country and finished second. You know Dana Altman will have a very competitive team despite only returning one starter. Between transfers last year and this offseason, the Ducks have three guys who have averaged over 10 points per game in their college careers. Oregon has had some good luck with transfers lately.

When it comes to breaking down a team, I like Oregon slightly more. Will Richardson, Rutgers transfer Eugene Omoruyi and UNLV transfer Amauri Hardy all average over two assists per game. Besides Tyger Campbell, UCLA hasn’t proved much depth in the assist department. With Payton Pritchard gone, Chris Duarte should see his three-point shooting go up from his 47 last season. UCLA has nice diversity, but no one that can be consistent enough. They’re even in rebounding and defense, but I choose Altman over Cronin.

USC has just one returning starter, but it has Isaiah Mobley, who was a top-20 recruit last season and didn’t start that much. The Trojans get a top-five recruit in Isaiah’s brother Evan Mobley. Arizona State has one of the best guards in the country in Remy Martin. Most of his supporting cast returns along with a top-15 recruit. But like I said before, the Trojans and Sun Devils are never liked in the world of metrics.

Arizona is a funny team. The Wildcats have talent, but none were starters last season. Brandon Williams was a starter two years ago but missed all last year because of an injury. Colorado returns McKinley Wright V, D’Shawn Schwartz and Evan Battey, but their defense is bound to let them down. Stanford has four starters coming back including one of my favorite players in Oscar Da Silva. Oregon State has Ethan Thompson. Utah returns Timmy Allen. Cal brings back Matt Bradley, and Washington State has Isaac Bonton. Those guys will make their teams competitive but not enough to be in the top couple tiers. Then there’s Washington. It lost its two top-15 big men, but Nahzier Carter, Jamal Bey, Hameir Wright and Raequan Battle are back. Same with Quade Green. Hopefully he can keep his grades up.

Preseason predictions

1 Oregon
3 Arizona State
4 Stanford
6 Colorado
7 Arizona
8 Washington
9 Utah
10 Oregon State
11 Cal
12 Washington State

First team

G Remy Martin, Arizona State
G McKinley Wright V, Colorado
F Timmy Allen, Utah
F Oscar Da Silva, Stanford
C Evan Mobley, USC

Second team

G Quade Green, Washington
G Chris Smith, UCLA
G Chris Duarte, Oregon
F Jalen Hill, UCLA
F Ziaire Williams, Stanford

Third team

G Ethan Thompson, Oregon State
G Matt Bradley, Cal
G Isaac Bonton, Washington State
F Eric Williams Jr., Oregon
F Evan Battey, Colorado

Player of the Year

Remy Martin, PG, Arizona State

Photo courtesy of Sun Devil Athletics

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