Pac-12 basketball returned to national relevancy in 2019-20, is it here to stay in 2020-21?
Against all odds, college basketball is slated to return on November 25, just a mere 12 days away. College basketball fans have been through a lot, having their coveted tournaments stripped away in the blink of an eye just to be left sport-less for months, but the suffering is finally over. Through much discussion, college basketball is set to return, and whether or not it looks pretty, it is what the fans deserve. For Pac-12 basketball fans, this can’t come sooner.
Over the next three weeks, our team at CBB Review will get you ready for this unusual season with conference previews, continuing with Pac-12 Basketball. With potential All-Americans in Remy Martin and Oscar Da Silva returning, a top recruit in Josh Christopher trying to lead his team to a conference title, and upper echelon coaches in Bobby Hurley, Larry Krystkowiak, Mick Cronin, and Jerod Haase battling it out, the Pac-12 never has a dull moment.
Below are the predictions for the final standings, awards, and outlooks for each team in the Pac-12. Brace yourself, it will be a wild year of college basketball, just what every fan has been waiting for.
12) Washington State Cougars
Kyle Smith has a super young roster, as he brings in a total of six freshmen into Pullman. Andrej Jakimovski out of Macedonia is the most touted of the bunch and hopes to replace the production lost by CJ Elleby a season ago.
Issac Bonton figures to lead this bunch but needs more help if the Cougs have any hope in competing for a decent seed come Pac-12 tourney time.
The Cougs did notch conference wins over Oregon, Stanford, and Colorado a season ago, but still need to show more consistency in 2020.
11) Oregon State Beavers
Wayne Tinkle no longer has his son and go-to bucket getter Tres on the roster, but he does get Ethan Thompson back for his senior season.
The Beavers have some size at their disposal and do have an under the radar frontcourt to go along with Thompson in the backcourt. Tinkle adds freshman forward Isaiah Johnson and JUCO forward Rodrigue Andela to help beef up their front line.
In terms of the Beavers roster makeup compared to the rest of the league, 2020-21 figures to be a rebuilding type of season for Tinkle and co.
10) California Golden Bears
Mark Fox is clearly the right man for the job in Berkeley, but the Bears are still a ways away from being considered Pac-12 contenders.
Star guard Matt Bradley returns and finding a robin to his batman will be a much-needed task for Fox and co. in 2020. Could Fresno State transfer Jarred Hyder be the answer?
The Bears open conference play hosting Arizona State on December 3rd and then hit the road to face UCLA on December 6th. A great early test for a young core.
9) Colorado Buffaloes
A team that had the makings of a potential NCAA tournament sleeper team a season ago, Tad Boyle and the Buffs are in for a rougher go around in 2020-21.
Star forward Tyler Bey declared for the draft, while Shane Gatling and Lucas Siewert graduated. McKinley Wright is back for his senior season, and alongside D’shawn Schwartz and Evan Battey the Buffs return 60% of last seasons starting five.
Boyle did bring in ex-Tulsa/Nebraska wing Jeriah Horne who figures to provide some of the offense. The Buffs did end last season losers of their last five contests, with the latter coming against Washington State in the Pac-12 tournament.
The Buffaloes will be a part of Kansas State’s MTE to open the season. The Buffs are slated to face the projected Big-12 bottom feeder on November 27th and then head to Tucson to open conference play on December 2nd.
8) Washington Huskies
The 2019-20 version of Washington Huskie basketball looked ever so promising. The Huskies opened their season with a 67-64 win over Baylor and coupled it with a Diamond Head Classic championship game appearance.
It seemed Mike Hopkins had his team figured out. Then, news broke regarding Kentucky transfer Quade Green’s academic ineligibility. Without a lead guard things began to derail.
An interesting note regarding the 2019-20 Washington Huskies, they ranked 353rd out of 353 teams in KenPom luck rating. Luck rating is measured by the difference between a team’s actual record and their projected KenPom record.
Fast forward to 2020 and the Huskies outlook isn’t as promising as it was last preseason, but there’s still a lot of talent on this roster.
Isaiah Stewart and Jaden McDaniels are gone, but Quade Green is back in the fold. Last season with Green on the floor UW was 11-4. Without him they were 4-13.
Green’s absence last season allowed freshman guard Marcus Tsohonis to get extensive work at the one. Tsohonis was planning to redshirt but was thrust into action. Now with close to a full season under his belt, Tsohonis can man backup duties at the one or even play off the ball.
Assuming the Huskies luck progresses, their outlook in 2020-21 should improve from Pac-12 bottom feeder status.
7) Utah Utes
The Utes profile as a dark horse contender in 2020-21. Larry Krystkowiak returns much of what was a competitive roster last season who notched non-conference victories over the likes of Kentucky, BYU, and Minnesota.
The Utes did lose lead guard Both Gach to the transfer portal, as he is now a member of the Minnesota Golden Gophers. Expect sophomore guard Rylan Jones to step into a similar role. They do return star wing, Timmy Allen, following his withdrawal from the NBA draft process.
Utah had slated to begin their season with three games at the Bad Boy Mowers Classic (Sioux Falls.) What would have been a good early-season test for this group is now negated.
If the Utes can once again rack up signature wins in the non-conference slate, they could position themselves for an at-large bid with a solid conference season.
6) USC Trojans
Similar to Dana Altman and Sean Miller, Andy Enfield had to completely revamp his roster this offseason.
After losing four starters from a season ago headlined by future lottery selection Oneyka Okungwu and do it all guard Jonah Matthews, Enfield adds five transfers to go along with two freshmen to his 2020-21 roster.
With multiple new faces joining Enfield’s roster, a good deal of uncertainty comes with it. Sophomore guard Ethan Anderson needs to assert himself as the lead guard following the departures of Jonah Matthews, Elijah Weaver, and Quinton Adlesh.
One thing Enfield will have at his disposal is length, with six out of the seven new additions all measuring 6′7″ or taller. The Trojans floor seems like it is NIT bound with their ceiling being a fringe bubble team.
5) Arizona Wildcats
Another team with a complete roster makeover, Sean Miller and co. enter 2020-21 with a good deal of question marks.
Who will be the lead guard following Nico Mannion’s departure? Georgetown transfer James Akinjo looks the part on paper, but at times under Patrick Ewing in D.C., Akinjo made some head-scratching decisions. Miller does add Seattle transfer Terrell Brown Jr. who is a more steady lead guard.
How do the Wildcats replace Zeke Nanji down low and Josh Green on the wing? Miller brings in the top-rated recruiting class in the conference, with a total of seven freshmen stepping foot in Tucson amidst the pandemic.
6′6″ guard and four-star prospect Dalen Terry headlines the Wildcats class. Terry has the length to be a lockdown perimeter defender in the Pac-12.
Five of Miller’s seven newcomers also hail from outside the U.S. After sitting out the 2019-20 season, former McDonald’s All-American and Nevada forward Jordan Brown is also back in the fold.
Establishing a consistent rotation takes work, and with such a wacky offseason I’m very curious to see who Miller pairs together in the early go.
With a revised non-conference schedule that now omits previously scheduled games on the road vs. Illinois and Gonzaga, plus a trip to the preseason NIT, it’s looking more and more like we won’t know much about this team until conference play begins.
4) Stanford Cardinal
Jerod Haase has got things cooking up in Palo Alto. The Cardinal had a tournament-caliber roster a season ago, and now look to secure a bid to the big dance in 2021.
The loss of star guard Tyrell Terry stings, but Daejon Davis is no slouch in replacing Terry as the primary ball-handler. Incoming freshman Michael O’Connell is a gritty playmaker who could also have an opportunity for lead guard duties.
The signing of five-star wing Zaire Williams gives the Cardinal another all-conference caliber wing alongside senior Oscar Da Silva. Expect third-year leaps from forwards Lukas Kisunas and Jaden Delaire to bolster the Cardinal frontcourt. Sophomore wing Spencer Jones will show improvements as well.
The Cardinal also rank as the top defensive team in the conference (according to KenPom.) Playing 40 minutes against Haase’s group is going to be a grind.
3) Oregon Ducks
Much has changed in 2020, but Dana Altman’s ability to rebuild the makeup of his roster in one offseason has not. Payton Pritchard, Anthony Mathis, and Shakur Juiston have since graduated. CJ Walker, Addison Patterson, and Francis Okoro all transferred. A tough blow for most programs, but this isn’t Dana’s first rodeo.
Altman adds not one, not two, but three left-handed transfers who figure to all be key rotational pieces in 2020. Sharpshooter Amauri Hardy (UNLV), slasher Aaron Estrada (Saint Peter’s), and uber-athletic forward Eric Williams Jr. (Duquesne) are the new left-handed additions to the Ducks roster. Hardy is the most heralded of the three, but Eric Williams Jr. has the potential to carve out a role in the frontcourt.
The Ducks are hopeful to also add former St. John’s star, LJ Figueroa—who’s eligibility for 2020-21 is still uncertain— to the rotation as well. If Figueroa’s waiver clears, the Ducks will have yet another wing capable of creating his own shot.
The last transfer who will see significant minutes is former Rutgers forward Eugene Omoruryi. Omoruryi is pegged to start at the four following his redshirt season in 2019-20.
Four-star guard Jalen Terry is the only true freshman added to this mix. With a plethora of capable and experienced guards, as talented as Terry is, it will be interesting to monitor how much run Terry gets in 2020-21. Terry’s de-commitment from Michigan State stemmed from the Spartans signing fellow guard A.J. Hoggard, and now Terry joins a backcourt with a good deal of depth. Redshirt freshman Lok Wur is yet another athletic wing who can switch one through five and someone to keep your eye on if given the opportunity to get minutes.
While there are certainly a lot of new faces, there is still some continuity on this roster. The Ducks return three significant pieces from a season ago in guards Will Richardson and Chris Duarte, and forward Chandler Lawson. All three figure to be starters once the season tips off.
We probably won’t see this teams’ best basketball until the latter part of the season. I am optimistic Dana and co. will once again have the opportunity for a deep run come tourney time.
2) UCLA Bruins
Year two of the Mick Cronin era in Westwood figures to yield more consistency. The Bruins return all five starters from a season ago, on a team that ended last season winners of eight out of their last ten Pac-12 contests.
The Bruins do lose one significant contributor from their rotation in Prince Ali but add ex-Kentucky wing Johnny Juzang (immediately eligible) to the mix. The lone freshman added to this group is four-star guard Jaylen Clark, who gives Cronin yet another combo guard capable of holding his own in his first season.
While every program was stung by the abrupt ending to the 2019-20 campaign, it felt like this Bruin roster felt the brunt of it. UCLA entered the 2019-20 Pac-12 season looking more like a spoiler than a contender but quickly eradicated that narrative.
The Bruins open their season on November 25th against San Diego State at Viejas Arena. Win or lose, it figures to be a barometer of just how dangerous this team can possibly be.
1) Arizona State Sun Devils
Will this finally be the season Bobby Hurley and the Sun Devils make a deep run in the tournament? On paper this looks to be Hurley’s deepest and most talented roster and figures to be once we get to see the Devils in action.
Rob Edwards and Mickey Mitchell have since graduated and Elias Valtonen turned pro in Germany. Romello White and Khalid Thomas transferred, with White signing with Ole Miss and Thomas heading to Portland State.
Woods initially planned to redshirt but later announced his intention to remain eligible for 2020-21. A 2019-20 first team all-Big Sky player, Hurley adds yet another experienced guard to his mix. Osten is a defensive minded, high motor big who can run with guards and fits Hurley’s uptempo system.
The Sun Devils return three starters from a season ago in preseason all-american Remy Martin, Alonzo Verge and Kimani Lawrence. Taeshon Cherry and Jaylen Graham also return in the frontcourt. Caleb Christopher is back from injury, and along with Jaelen House add to the Devils backcourt depth.
With sky-high expectations in 2020, it feels like the Devils are an elite eight or bust type of squad.
CBB Review Pac-12 Basketball Player of the Year: Remy Martin (Arizona State)
CBB Review Pac-12 Basketball Freshman of the Year: Josh Christopher (Arizona State)
CBB Review Pac-12 Basketball Coach of the Year: Jerod Haase (Stanford)
CBB Review Pac-12 Basketball First Team:
G: Remy Martin (Arizona State)
G: McKinley Wright (Colorado)
G: Timmy Allen (Utah)
F: Oscar Da Silva (Stanford)
F: Evan Mobley (USC)
CBB Review Pac-12 Basketball Second Team:
G: Quade Green (Washington)
G: Chris Duarte (Oregon)
G: Chris Smith (UCLA)
F: Josh Christopher (Arizona State)
F: Evan Battey (Colorado)