Pac-12 men’s basketball rundown
Last March, the Pac-12 sent four teams to the NCAA tournament: Arizona (No. 2), Utah (No. 5), Oregon (No. 8) and UCLA (No. 11). Arizona survived the longest, dropping to Wisconsin 85-78 in the Elite Eight.
The Pac-12, which recently cut ties with a plethora of NBA talent in this year’s draft, will enter this season with three teams in the AP Top 25 — Arizona (No. 12), California (No. 14) and Utah (No. 16). Oregon received the most votes (116) for a team not in the initial rankings.
Here is the run down of every team heading into the season:
Record last season: 34-4, 16-2 Pac-12
Key returners: Kaleb Tarczewski, Gabe York
Summary: After losing four key starters — T.J. McConnell, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Stanley Johnson and Brandon Ashley — to the NBA, Sean Miller will look to seasoned big man Kaleb Tarczewski for a reliable foundation to build on. Tarczewski, who has reportedly worked on his offensive game in the offseason, will be tasked with not only leading this year’s roster, but also stepping up as a primary option on both sides of the ball. No one is ever going to question Arizona’s talent level, but it will be worth watching Tarzewski’s progress as he plays the game of risk versus reward by staying another year.
Record last season: 18-15, 7-11 Pac-12
Key returners: Tyrone Wallace, Jordan Matthews, Jabari Bird
Summary: California will go as far as its strong recruits take them. Jaylen Brown and Ivan Rabb, both highly touted recruits, have a lot of hype heading into the season and will have a lot of opportunities to play/start right away. Let’s see if the Golden Bears can make a drastic improvement following a productive offseason.
Last season record: 26-9, 13-5 Pac-12
Key returners: Jakob Poeltl, Jordan Loveridge
Summary: Delon Wright took his talents to the NBA, but that doesn’t mean Utah will be counting its losses. Returning 7-footer Jakob Poeltl, who averaged 9.1 points and 6.8 rebounds, is projected to have a breakout season as the Utes’ anchor.
Last season record: 26-10, 13-5 Pac-12
Key returners: Elgin Cook, Dwayne Benjamin, Dillon Brooks
Summary: Oregon will start the season just outside the Top 25. It’ll also enter the season with one of the most talented groups Dana Altman has had since taking over in 2010. Keep your eyes out for newcomers Tyler Dorsey and Chris Boucher to make an instant impact as the Ducks patiently wait for Villanova transfer Dylan Ennis to return from a foot injury.
Last season record: 22-14, 11-7 Pac-12
Key returners: Tony Parker, Bryce Alford
Summary: Gone is Kevin Looney, UCLA’s top athlete and the Pac-12 reigning rebounding leader. Here is Tony Parker and Bryce Alford, two players that could form a formidable duo this season. The Bruins will be relying on their backcourt of Alford (15.4 points, 4.9 assists) and Isaac Hamilton (10.6 points, 3.2 rebounds), but if they avoid complacency, there’s no reason why they can’t be in the mix as an NCAA tournament bubble team with a balanced roster.
Last season record: 17-14, 8-10 Pac-12
Key returners: Gary Payton II
Summary: Wayne Tinkle made an immediate impact as Oregon State’s new head coach but he was limited by the lack of talent and depth in the Beavers roster he initially inherited. Now, Tinkle will have the luxury of pairing a program-best recruiting class with NBA-ready, senior point guard Gary Payton. The Beavers will be no pushovers this season.
Last season record: 24-13, 9-9 Pac-12
Key returners: Marcus Allen, Rosco Allen
Summary: Despite winning the National Invitational Tournament to conclude the season last year, Stanford will be without their three main contributors. Losing Chasson Randle, Anthony Brown and Stefan Nastic, the Cardinal will essentially have to redefine themselves this season. As of now, the team doesn’t appear to have one glaring standout. Expect a balanced approach on both sides of the ball.
Last season record: 18-16, 9-9 Pac-12
Key returners: Savon Goodman, Gerry Blakes
Summary: After an impressive year at Buffalo, Bobby Hurley will be joining the Sun Devils staff in 2015. Hurley, who will have his fair share of returners at his disposal, could fly under the radar in a loaded Pac-12 conference. A lot will depend on Savon Goodman’s (11.2 points, 7.6 rebounds) production.
Last season record: 16-18, 7-11 Pac-12
Key returners: Josh Scott
Summary: Colorado will live or die based on how senior Josh Scott plays this season. Scott, who is the lone double-digit scoring returner, will have to carry a lot of the Buffaloes’ weight this season. He averaged 14.5 points and 8.4 rebounds last year.
Last season record: 12-20, 3-15 Pac-12
Key returners: Katin Reinhardt, Nikola Jovanovic
Summary: USC will welcome back nine players from last season. Andy Enfield will have to make something of that. Coming off a dismal 3-15 outing in Pac-12 play, the Trojans will have the fortune of low expectations on their side. We’ll see if they can return to relevancy.
Last season record: 16-15, 5-13 Pac-12
Key returners: Andrew Andrews
Summary: The addition of a top-10 recruiting class will make the Huskies, at the very least, exciting. While head coach Lorenzo Romar will look to senior Andrew Andrews (15.0 points, 4.3 rebounds) for consistency, he’ll also try to integrate freshman Dejounte Murray as soon as possible. The two could end up forming a deadly backcourt, as Murray carries early NBA potential.
Last season record: 13-18, 7-11 Pac-12
Key returners: Josh Hawkinson, Ike Iroegbu
Summary: Projections for the Cougars this season are low for two main reasons: lack of experience and overall depth. While Josh Hawkinson (14.7 points, 10.8 rebounds) and Ike Iroegbu will anchor the Cougars, the rest of the roster will need to do much more if they want to stay afloat in the Pac-12.
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