Conference Preview: Pac-12

Conference Preview: Pac-12

This article is part of our Conference Preview series.

Following a season rocked by scandal and mediocrity in the NCAA tournament (the conference didn't win a game), the Pac-12 faced a resurgence of sorts in 2018-19. It won a total of four NCAA tournament games, even seeing Oregon lose to the eventual Champion -- Virginia -- in the Sweet 16. 

The conference looks quite top heavy on paper, with Oregon, Arizona and Washington expected to separate themselves from the rest of the pack as the season goes on. Oregon loses quite a bit of talent but seems to have reloaded via the transfer market and late reclassifications. Arizona welcomes top recruits Nico Mannion and Josh Green to the fold. Washington adds the top overall recruit entering the conference in Isaiah Stewart, who appears ready to lead the Huskies. An incredible influx of young talent, specifically big-men, is brought to the conference to mix with plenty of savvy veterans for the upcoming campaign. On paper, the Pac-12 still looks like the weakest of the major conferences, but is ripe for the taking and should be full of intrigue for the 2019-20 season. 

Key Players

Center: Nick Rakocevic, C, Sr, USC

There were a few to choose from in a conference loaded with big men, but Rakocevic is up there with some of the best in the country at the center position, fantasy-wise. Last season, the soon-to-be senior averaged 14.7 points and 9.3 rebounds per game, both top-10 in the conference. His usage likely won't stop there, as according

Following a season rocked by scandal and mediocrity in the NCAA tournament (the conference didn't win a game), the Pac-12 faced a resurgence of sorts in 2018-19. It won a total of four NCAA tournament games, even seeing Oregon lose to the eventual Champion -- Virginia -- in the Sweet 16. 

The conference looks quite top heavy on paper, with Oregon, Arizona and Washington expected to separate themselves from the rest of the pack as the season goes on. Oregon loses quite a bit of talent but seems to have reloaded via the transfer market and late reclassifications. Arizona welcomes top recruits Nico Mannion and Josh Green to the fold. Washington adds the top overall recruit entering the conference in Isaiah Stewart, who appears ready to lead the Huskies. An incredible influx of young talent, specifically big-men, is brought to the conference to mix with plenty of savvy veterans for the upcoming campaign. On paper, the Pac-12 still looks like the weakest of the major conferences, but is ripe for the taking and should be full of intrigue for the 2019-20 season. 

Key Players

Center: Nick Rakocevic, C, Sr, USC

There were a few to choose from in a conference loaded with big men, but Rakocevic is up there with some of the best in the country at the center position, fantasy-wise. Last season, the soon-to-be senior averaged 14.7 points and 9.3 rebounds per game, both top-10 in the conference. His usage likely won't stop there, as according to Ken Pomeroy, he was the focal point on 24 percent of offensive possessions last season. With veterans Bennie Boatwright and Derryck Thornton both departing and combining for 43 percent usage last season, expect Rakocevic to take on some of that responsibility. The 6-foot-11 center got into the dirty areas also, as he offensive rebounded at a 12 percent clip last season, good for 88th in the country according to KenPom. USC has freshman big men Onyeka Okongwu and Isaiah Mobley that will surely work into the rotation, but regardless of that fact, expect Rakocevic to be one of the top fantasy producers in the country for 2019-20. 

Also considered: Onyeka Okongwu, C, Fr, USC; N'Faly Dante, C, Fr, Oregon; Romello White, C, Jr, Arizona State

Freshman: Isaiah Stewart, C, Fr, Washington

An influx of young talent will head west this season to the Pac-12, with none bigger than consensus top-five recruit Stewart. The McDonald's All-American hails from La Porte, Indiana, and has already been dominating in the team's European trip, going for 23 points and 16 rebounds in their opening game. Listed at 6-foot-9, 245 pounds, Stewart has shown his dominance inside the paint scoring and rebounding, but also flashing his ability to work outside and make 3's from the perimeter. Stewart forms an elite frontcourt with fellow five-star Jaden McDaniels, filling the shoes of graduated Matisse Thybulle. Expect Stewart to be one of the main focal points of the offense for coach Mike Hopkins this season, while also contributing plenty of blocks and rebounds. 

Also considered: Nico Mannion, G, Fr, Arizona; Jaden McDaniels PF, Fr, Washington; Josh Green, SF, Fr, Arizona; CJ Walker, PF, Fr, Oregon; Isaiah Mobley, PF, Fr USC

Scoring: Tres Tinkle, PF, Sr, Oregon State

Perhaps the most dominant player in the conference from a fantasy perspective returns for his senior season in Tres Tinkle. Last season, the All-Conference performer averaged a staggering stat line of 20.8 points, 8.1 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 1.7 steals. The veteran was tied for 35th in the nation in scoring in 2018-19, and could produce at an even bigger output this campaign. If that wasn't enough to persuade you to take notice of Tinkle, the veteran was the focal point of the offense on 29 percent of his team's possessions last season, good for 71st in the country according to KenPom. In fact, Tinkle ranked in the top 300 in many of Pomeroy's analytics last season, most notably percent of shots taken (29 percent) and assist rate (23.8 percent). The 6-foot-8 forward should once again be the leading man for the Beavers not only in scoring, but all categories, and gets a boost with his point guard Ethan Thompson returning to distribute him the basketball this season. 

Also considered: CJ Elleby, SF, So, Washington State; Nico Mannion, G, Fr, Arizona; Josh Green, SF, Fr, Arizona; Ethan Thompson, PG, So, Oregon State

Rebounding: Tyler Bey, PF, Jr, Colorado

Bey made an incredible jump from his freshman to sophomore year last season, averaging 13.6 points and 9.9 rebounds, while playing an average of 27 minutes a night for the Buffaloes. Even though he ranked second in the conference behind Arizona State's Zylan Cheatham in rebounding, Bey was still ranked 20th in the country in that category. The junior was an absolute menace on the glass last season according to Pomeroy's analytics, as he ranked 227th in offensive rebounding percentage (10.1 percent), and second in the country in defensive rebounding percentage (33 percent). Not only will he get you boards fantasy-wise, but he's flashed his offensive and shooting ability, as his effective field goal percentage was at 55 percent, and shot free throws at a 78 percent clip last season. Bey and point guard McKinley Wright will form one of the most dangerous duos in the conference, looking to get Colorado back to the NCAA tournament for the first time since the 2015-16 season. 

Also considered: Romello White, C, Jr, Arizona State; CJ Elleby, SF, So, Washington State; Chase Jeter, C, Sr, Arizona

Assists: Remy Martin, PG, Jr, Arizona State

Martin led the Pac-12 in assists per game last season with five, and narrowly edged out Colorado's Mckinley Wright for the top spot in the assist category. The junior ranked 81st in the country in assist rate last season according to KenPom last season, but could take a hit as two of his top players depart in Luguentz Dort and the aforementioned Cheatham. On the flip side, that could open the door for Martin to be involved in the offense more from a scoring standpoint, as he was used in just 22 percent of his team's offensive possessions last season. The 6-foot guard averaged 13.0 points per game last season, and could face some progression to the mean for 2019-20, considering he only shot the 3 at a 31 percent clip. After winning a game in the NCAA tournament last season, Martin will likely be leaned upon heavily for coach Bobby Hurley if the Sun Devils want to make their way back.

Also considered: McKinley Wright, PG, Jr, Colorado; Payton Pritchard, PG, Sr, Oregon; Ethan Thompson, PG, So, Oregon State; Paris Austin, PG, Sr, California; Nico Mannion, G, Fr, Arizona

Transfer: Shakur Juiston, PF, RS Jr, Oregon

I would be remiss if I didn't mention an impact transfer in this day and age of college basketball. Transfers have been ever so prevalent in the sport, and Juiston is one of the biggest, arriving from UNLV. Juiston played just eight games last season for the Rebels due to a knee injury, but still averaged 10.8 points, 8.8 rebounds and two assists. As a graduate transfer, he'll be eligible right away for the Ducks, and is expected to start at one of the forward positions heading into 2019-20. At 6-foot-7 220 pounds, Juiston can play a heavy game inside, but also step out and shoot, as evidenced by his 32 percent 3-point percentage last season. Expect Juiston to be a major part of the rotation this season, contributing an all facets of the game. 

Also considered: Anthony Mathis, SG, RS Jr, Transfer from New Mexico to Oregon; Max Hazzard, SG, Sr, Transfer from UC Irvine to Arizona
 

Sleepers

Payton Pritchard, PG, Sr, Oregon

Pritchard is as steady as they come in regards to point guard play in college basketball. He's started pretty much every game since he came to campus just three seasons ago. In 2018-19, Pritchard led the Ducks to a Sweet 16 appearance against the eventual Champion Virginia, and averaged 13 points, four rebounds and 4.6 assists. The junior is set to take on a significant role for Oregon this season, especially considering Paul White, Ehab Amin and Bol Bol all depart. Pritchard played 88 percent of possible minutes last season, and could see similar usage rates as veteran leadership is important as ever, especially at the point guard position. 

CJ Elleby, SF, So, Washington State

Following stud Robert Franks' graduation this offseason, Elleby assumes a monster role for the Cougars for 2019-20. Last season as a freshman, Elleby averaged 14.7 points, 7.1 rebounds and three assists in 32 games. His point total placed him in the top-10 of the conference, and was the focal point in 27.3 percent of his team's offensive possessions last season. Even though his team only won 11 games last year and could be headed for a similar output, Elleby is expected to handle a do-it-all role for the Cougars in his second full season. 

Also considered: Ethan Thompson, PG, So, Oregon State; C.J. Walker, PF, Fr, Oregon; Addison Patterson, SF, Fr, Oregon; Paris Austin, PG, Sr, California; Daejon Davis, SG, Jr, Stanford; Timmy Allen, SF, So, Utah
 

Top-10

  1. Tres Tinkle, F, Oregon St.
  2. Nick Rakocevic, F/C, USC
  3. Isaiah Stewart, F/C, Washington
  4. Nico Mannion, G, Arizona
  5. Tyler Bey, F, Colorado
  6. Remy Martin, G, Arizona St.
  7. McKinley Wright, G, Colorado
  8. Jaden McDaniels, F, Washington
  9. Shakur Juiston, F, Oregon
  10. Josh Green, G, Arizona

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dan Labosky
A former D1 hockey player for the University of Wisconsin, Dan started writing for RotoWire in 2018, covering the NFL, NCAA Football, NHL, NCAA Basketball and Tennis. He is also the host of Beyond the Badgers on WSUM 91.7 FM.
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