It’s that time of the year again. College basketball is back. With the release of the first AP men’s basketball poll of the season, it’s time to take a look at how the Pac-12 is shaping up.
UCLA (2021-22 Record: 27-8)
The primordial Darth Vader of the Pac-12 returns for another year. The Bruins come into the season ranked No. 8 in the AP poll. UCLA returns long-term leaders senior guard Jaime Jaquez Jr. and redshirt senior guard Tyger Campbell. Coupled with freshman phenoms guard Amari Bailey and forward Adem Bona, the team’s experience and young talent are what drive the Bruins’ case for being considered a top-10 team and give them a strong argument for preseason No. 1 in the Pac-12.
Arizona (2021-22 Record: 33-4)
Even after losing three of its best players to the NBA draft, the Wildcats are ready to repeat as Pac-12 champions. Ranked No. 17 in the preseason AP poll, Arizona is led by juniors forward Azuolas Tubelis and guard Kerr Kriisa. Tommy Lloyd’s team will look to keep up its high-scoring regime after climbing to No. 3 in the nation in points per game last year.
Oregon (2021-22 Record: 20-15)
After falling short of high preseason expectations last year, the Ducks once again reloaded in the transfer portal, nabbing two Power 5 guards: junior Keeshawn Barthelemy and redshirt senior Jermaine Couisnard. The No. 21 Ducks will be led by fifth year guard Will Richardson and have one of the strongest front courts in the nation, with senior center N’Faly Dante, sophomore center Nate Bittle and freshman center Kel’el Ware locking down the paint.
USC (2021-22 Record: 26-8)
With a mix of talented freshmen and veteran leadership, the Trojans will look to take back the throne of the Pac-12. Fifth year guard Drew Peterson and senior guard Boogie Ellis are the anchors of this team and headline an extremely talented guard group this year. Watch out for a small ball, guard-heavy lineup this year from the Trojans, despite immense young talent at power forward and center.
Stanford (2021-22 Record: 16-16)
Stanford may be the biggest dark horse to win the Pac-12 this year. Returning its two highest scorers from last year, sophomore forward Harrison Ingram and senior forward Spencer Jones, the Cardinal are seriously underrated coming into the season. Stanford added more scoring with graduate transfer guard Michael Jones, who averaged 11.8 points last season at Davidson. Don’t sleep on the Cardinal this year.
Colorado (2021-22 Record: 21-12)
Even though the Buffaloes lost their top three scorers from last season, they will still look to contend in the Pac-12. Sophomore guard KJ Simpson will be handed the reins to the team after showing much promise his freshman year. A pair of Ivy League transfers will hope to make up for the team’s potential lack of scoring, as well as junior forward Tristan da Silva who will provide defense down low.
Arizona State (2021-2022 Record: 14-17)
Bobby Hurley went out and scored big in the transfer portal, landing four solid transfers in sophomore guard Frankie Collins, senior forward Warren Washington and brothers senior guard Devan Cambridge and fifth year guard Desmond Cambridge Jr. Returning much of their team from last year including exciting players such as junior guard DJ Horne and sophomore forward Marcus Bagley, the Sun Devils have nowhere to go but up.
Washington State (2021-22 Record: 22-15)
Yet another team that could shock fans in the 2022-23 basketball season is Washington State. Though the Cougars lost leading scorer guard Michael Flowers, sophomore forward Mouhamed Gueye is primed for a breakout year. Additionally, junior guard TJ Bamba and freshman center Adrame Diongue look to surprise a lot of teams.
Washington (2021-22 Record: 17-15)
The Huskies lost their only two double-digit scorers, but landed a top-tier recruiting class in the transfer portal. Highlighted by Kentucky transfer senior forward Keion Brooks, Washington looks to change what has been an extremely disappointing last few years. The Huskies also nabbed two big centers, junior Franck Kepnang from Oregon and junior Braxton Meah from Fresno State, giving them great depth at center.
Utah (2021-22 Record: 11-20)
Utah will need their transfers to step up in a big way if they are to be any different from last year. The Utes do return their leading scorer, senior center Branden Carlson, but will need players such as sophomore guard Lazar Stefanovic and Cincinnati transfer junior guard Mike Saunders Jr. to be leaders if they want to have any success this year.
Cal (2021-22 Record: 12-20)
The Golden Bears can be looked at with some upside as they return three big front court options — senior forward Lars Thiemann, senior forward Kuany Kuany and sophomore forward Sam Alajiki — while also adding freshmen forwards ND Okafor and Grant Newell to the roster. Cal also snagged former four-star recruit junior guard Devin Askew from the transfer portal. However, they lost arguably their three best players and three highest scorers. With no real competition at point guard, Cal fans can hope Askew will finally live up to his high school ranking.
Oregon State (2021-22 Record: 3-28)
Lower your expectations, Beaver fans. After what can only be described as a horrific performance last season, Oregon State may be in for another rocky season. Oregon State lost its five highest scorers, including the team’s only true bright spot from last season, guard Jarod Lucas. The Beavers have nine freshmen and only secured one transfer, sophomore guard Christian Wright from Georgia who will likely miss most of the season with a torn meniscus. Like I said, lower your expectations.