Preseason Player of the Year:
Jaylen Hands, UCLA
Preseason All-Conference Team:
Bennie Boatwright, USC
Noah Dickerson, Washington
Jaylen Hands, UCLA
Tres Tinkle, Oregon St
Kris Wilkes, UCLA
Preseason Newcomer of the Year:
Kevin Porter Jr., USC
Projected Order of Finish:
Head coach Steve Alford has the unenviable task of trying to navigate the harsh and unrealistic UCLA fan base. His seat is as hot as it gets and he’ll probably need to make it to the second weekend to save his job. The backcourt trio of sophomores Jaylen Hands, Kris Wilkes and junior Prince Ali will be one of the best in the country. Freshman center Moses Brown will be tasked with being the defensive anchor. There’s plenty of talent here, but the Bruins will have to keep the noise away.
No one expected the Huskies to be as good as they were last season, but they managed to find themselves to the bubble. This season should see the Huskies become one of the best teams in the Pac-12. Senior forward Noah Dickerson is a true low-post scorer that will be tough for anyone to guard. Throw in the 2-3 zone and the combination of a true star plus style of play can lead Washington to a Pac-12 title.
The Ducks missed the tournament last season after making a Final Four run the year before. The talent here this season is impressive. Junior guard Payton Pritchard and senior forward Paul White return along with a top 5 recruiting class featuring Bol Bol and Louis King. Texas A&M-CC Ehab Amin will also be able to produce right away as well for this Pac-12 title contender.
Injuries never allowed the Trojans to meet their full potential last season, but there is enough talent here to get back to the tournament. The frontcourt is set with senior Bennie Boatwright and junior Nick Rakocevic. Junior guard Jonah Matthews will also be a key contributor. However, the Kevin Porter Jr. is the wild card here. The possible one-and-done prospect could be enough to make USC a truly dangerous team.
5. Arizona St
The Sun Devils started out the season as hot as any team in the country as they climbed all the way to a top-5 ranking. People will remember them for faltering down the stretch just as much. Tra Holder, Shannon Evans and Kodi Justice are gone from that team. Sun Devil fans should not fret though as sophomores Romello White and Remy Martin return along with newcomers, transfer Rob Edwards and freshmen Lugentz Dort and Taeshon Cherry.
6. Oregon St
Head coach Wayne Tinkle did the impossible by getting this program to the NCAA tournament in 2016. The past two years have been less than stellar. There is talent with The Thompson brothers in the backcourt and the coaches son, Tres Tinkle, in the frontcourt. The Beavers will be a middle of the pack Pac-12 team and, with the right victories, can get into the bubble conversation.
Head coach Tad Boyle is one of the most underrated coaches in the country so there is no concern whether this team will be competitive. The backcourt of sophomore McKinley Wright IV and senior Namon Wright will be among the best in the Pac-12. Sophomore Tyler Bey and junior Lucas Siewart will be important to just how good this team can be.
Outside of Louisville, no team was tied up in the middle of the FBI investigation as much as Arizona. That cloud will remain over the program for the foreseeable future. That plus having to replace DeAndre Ayton, Allonzo Trier, Rawle Alkins and Dusan Ristic will prove to be tough for head coach Sean Miller. Transfers Chase Jeter and Ryan Luther will have to hit the ground running as will freshmen Brandon Williams and Devonaire Doutrive.
The Utes are in a transitional period as a program as head coach Larry Krystkowiak attempts to get his team back to the tournament. Senior guard Sedrick Barefield returns to try to help move the program forward. Freshmen Both Gak and Timmy Allen are the future of the program, but they’ll have to be prepared right away.
Injuries took a huge toll on the Cardinal last season and then Reid Travis transferred to Kentucky. Now head coach Jerod Haase is back to square one. Sophomores K.Z. Okpala and Daejon Davis return with other young pieces like sophomores Kodye Pugh, Oscar da Silva and freshman Jaiden Delaire. Stanford is at least a year away.
11. Washington St
This is the single toughest job in a power 5 conference. Head coach Ernie Kent knows this now as his time is running out in Pullman. Making matters worse is Malachi Flynn’s transfer to San Diego St. If Kent is to get out of this hole, he’ll need his numerous about of juco transfers to mesh and be productive.
Head coach Wyking Jones is having difficulty keeping his best players from transferring. The roster this year is young and needs a few years for seasoning. It’s going to be tough this season for Jones as his team struggles with an improving Pac-12.