Conference Preview: Pac-12

Conference Preview: Pac-12

This article is part of our Conference Preview series.

The Pac-12 is coming off one of their its impressive postseasons in recent memory, as each of the five teams in last season's NCAA Tournament were able to win at least one game -- with USC and Oregon St. making it to the Elite Eight, and UCLA advancing to the Final Four. That's a far cry from the previous two editions of March Madness when only three teams made the dance and just one team made it to the Sweet 16. It won't be an easy task for the conference to duplicate last season's success, however, with the Pac-12's top-12 scorers nowhere to be found. The Bruins will look to lead the conference as one of the preseason favorites to win the national championship with their starting lineup remaining intact. Depth doesn't appear to be much of an issue either, as they'll have formidable options off the bench in Rutgers transfer Myles Johnson -- a talented center who is one of the best rebounders and shot blockers in the country, and five-star freshman wing Peyton Watson.

One of the teams that will look to challenge UCLA is Oregon, albeit in a different way with only two returning starters. As is with the landscape of much of the NCAA this season, the Ducks will rely on a trio of impact transfers that have all started at Power-5 basketball schools in De'Vion Harmon (Oklahoma), Jacob Young (Rutgers) and Quincy Guerrier (Syracuse). Five-star freshman center Nate Bittle rounds out a group of

The Pac-12 is coming off one of their its impressive postseasons in recent memory, as each of the five teams in last season's NCAA Tournament were able to win at least one game -- with USC and Oregon St. making it to the Elite Eight, and UCLA advancing to the Final Four. That's a far cry from the previous two editions of March Madness when only three teams made the dance and just one team made it to the Sweet 16. It won't be an easy task for the conference to duplicate last season's success, however, with the Pac-12's top-12 scorers nowhere to be found. The Bruins will look to lead the conference as one of the preseason favorites to win the national championship with their starting lineup remaining intact. Depth doesn't appear to be much of an issue either, as they'll have formidable options off the bench in Rutgers transfer Myles Johnson -- a talented center who is one of the best rebounders and shot blockers in the country, and five-star freshman wing Peyton Watson.

One of the teams that will look to challenge UCLA is Oregon, albeit in a different way with only two returning starters. As is with the landscape of much of the NCAA this season, the Ducks will rely on a trio of impact transfers that have all started at Power-5 basketball schools in De'Vion Harmon (Oklahoma), Jacob Young (Rutgers) and Quincy Guerrier (Syracuse). Five-star freshman center Nate Bittle rounds out a group of talented newcomers that will give Dana Altman a plethora of options offensively. Nonetheless, the Ducks and everyone else in the conference will have an uphill climb to challenge UCLA at the top.

From there, both Arizona schools should figure to be strong contenders near the top of the conference. After two straight seasons of advancing to the NCAA Tournament, Arizona St. had high expectations but faltered to an 11-14 record a season ago. The Sun Devils will look to top-30 recruit Enoch Boakye and transfers Marreon Jackson (Toledo) and Luther Muhammad (Ohio St.) to right the ship. Meanwhile, over in Tuscon, the Wildcats moved on from a tumultuous Sean Miller era and brought in long-time Gonzaga assistant, Tommy Lloyd, to take over the program. Although the team won't look the same, Arizona returns a pair of key forwards in Bennedict Mathurin and Azuolas Tubelis, who both recorded a 30-point game last season.

Another question will be how tournament teams USC, Colorado and Oregon St. respond from strong seasons while losing key pieces from their teams. The Trojans will have to replace Evan Mobley, who was the conference's Player of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year and Freshman of the Year. Evan's brother, Isaiah Mobley, will look to play a bigger role after averaging 9.9 points and 7.3 rebounds last season. The Trojans will also look to transfer Boogie Ellis, a former top-50 recruit and capable scorer who showed flashes in two years at Memphis. In Boulder, Colorado boasts the top-ranked incoming freshman class in the conference with three top-100 recruits -- led by 7-foot center Lawson Lovering. With double-digit scorer Evan Battey returning alongside the talented sophomore Jabari Walker, a return trip to the NCAA Tournament is possible for the Buffaloes. Oregon St. will likely have the toughest path in making it back to the dance, as it will need to fill the void left by its go-to-player in Ethan Thompson without any notable incomers. Nevertheless, they played outstanding defense in their tournament runs, and Jarod Lucas and Warith Alatishe give them a strong foundation to build around.

Lastly, can anyone replicate what the Beavers did last season and go from being picked at the bottom of the conference by most last year to winning the Pac-12 tournament? Utah is a potential sleeper team that shouldn't be so under-the-radar. Craig Smith takes over the program after successful stints at South Dakota and most recently Utah St. Coming off a tournament appearance, he inherits a frontcourt of Riley Battin and Branden Carlson who have both shown to be efficient players. They should team well with transfer guard David Jenkins, a high volume scorer in from UNLV.

Top Players

Overall: Johnny Juzang, G, UCLA

Talk about a tale of two seasons -- Juzang went from averaging 14 points over 21 games during the regular season and Pac-12 tournament to leading the Bruins to the Final Four while scoring 22.8 ppg during the NCAA Tournament. Originally a four-star recruit that had a limited role in one season at Kentucky, Juzang emerged over the second half of the conference season and ultimately decided to return to UCLA after initially entering the NBA Draft. The star wing doesn't have much to work on offensively after posting efficient shooting splits of 50/35/88 while accounting for 30 percent of the team's shots. Juzang will have his chance to shine on the national stage from the get-go this season, with the Bruins being anything but a Cinderella story this time around. 

Also considered: Evan Battey (COLO), Tyger Campbell (UCLA), Marreon Jackson (ASU), Azuolas Tubelis (ARIZ)

Scoring: Michael Flowers (WSU)

Flowers will take a step up in class this season, as the graduate transfer from South Alabama will look to prove that he can continue his high-level of play in a Power-5 conference. After averaging over 15 ppg in his final two seasons with Western Michigan, Flowers upped his game to rank fourth in the country at 21 ppg for South Alabama last season. He steps into a great opportunity at Wazzou, filling the void that was left by point guard Isaac Bonton. Considering Bonton accounted for 32 percent of the team's shots last season, Flowers can move into the role as the team's go-to-guy to form a formidable backcourt alongside Noah Williams. I don't imagine he'll have a difficult transition against better competition -- Flowers lit up a great Michigan team for 31 points as a sophomore.

Also considered: Jaiden Delaire (STAN), Marreon Jackson (ASU), Johnny Juzang (UCLA), Jarod Lucas (ORST)

Rebounding: Warith Alatishe, F, Oregon St.

Alatishe returns as the leading rebounder in the conference, finishing only behind Evan Mobley -- the third overall pick in this summer's NBA Draft. Also one of the best defensive players in the Pac-12, Alatishe posted nine double-doubles in his first season with the Beavers, including three during their shocking run in the Pac-12 and NCAA Tournament. Even with 7-foot-1 center Roman Silva expected to be a full-time starter this season, Alatishe was still able to out-rebound him 37-23 in Silva's four starts during March Madness.

Also considered: Efe Abogidi (WSU), Andre Kelly (CAL), Isaiah Mobley (USC), Azuolas Tubelis (ARIZ)

Assists: Tyger Campbell, G, UCLA

Campbell feels like a shoo-in to lead the conference in assists after leading in the category last season, as the star point guard averaged a whopping 2.5 assists more than anyone that's returning this season. He'll have plenty of options at his disposal, with conference Player of the Year frontrunner Juzang and lights-out three-point shooters Jaime Jaquez and Jules Bernard returning. Campbell averaged 5.5 assists during the Bruins six NCAA Tournament games and had a pair of games in the regular season with double-digit assists. He's also a factor on the offensive end with three double-digit scoring games to close the tournament.

Also considered: Joel Brown (CAL), Gianni Hunt (ORST), Marreon Jackson (ASU), Rollie Worster (UTAH)

Center: Branden Carlson, Utah

Carlson should get a chance to shine in his junior season with the departures of Timmy Allen and Alfonso Plummer, who combined to account for over 55 percent of the team's shots when they were on the court. Carlson made nice strides from his freshman campaign, especially in the second half of the season, averaging 11.8 points and five rebounds over the final 10 games. He's one of the few true centers in the conference that should be locked into getting 25+ minutes while also being a significant offensive contributor.

Also considered: Nate Bittle (ORE), Enoch Boakye (ASU), Andre Kelly (CAL), Cody Riley (UCLA)

Freshman: Harrison Ingram, F, Stanford

Ingram is the No. 18 recruit in the 2021 class (via 247 sports) and will look to follow in the footsteps of fellow Stanford five-star recruit Ziaire Williams (10th pick in 2021 NBA Draft) as a potential one-and-done prospect. Ingram is known for his basketball IQ and ability to also play the point, even with his 6-7 frame. With the Cardinal also losing their leading scorer Oscar da Silva (18.5 ppg), Ingram will have the opportunity to not only start immediately, but to contribute as a double-digit scorer alongside Jaiden Delaire.

Also considered: Nate Bittle (ORE), Enoch Boakye (ASU), Lawson Lovering (COLO), Peyton Watson (UCLA)

Sleepers

Jabari Walker, F, Colorado

It feels a little odd to put Walker on a list of sleepers as some scouts feel like he could potentially be a lottery pick next year, but he did average under 15 minutes per game last season. He got a chance to shine off the bench in Colorado's NCAA Tournament opener against Georgetown, going 5-for-5 from deep en route to leading the team with 24 points. The departures of D'Shawn Schwartz and Dallas Walton opens up a starting spot for Walker, and with leading scorer McKinley Wright now in the NBA, Walker has the opportunity to emerge as the team's go-to player.

Roman Silva, C, Oregon St.

It took some time for the Beavers to realize they had something with the former JUCO transfer in Silva, as he was a key piece during the team's run in winning the Pac-12 tournament and advancing to the Elite Eight. In the team's four NCAA Tournament games, Silva averaged 7.8 points on 67 percent shooting and 4.6 rebounds over 26 minutes -- drastic increases from his earlier season totals. He should be a more integral part of the team from the beginning this season and can cause some matchup problems for opposing teams with his 7-1, 265-pound frame.

David Jenkins, G, Utah

Jenkins comes into the conference as an under-the-radar guy that played two years at South Dakota St. and last season at UNLV, where he averaged 14.7 ppg on a sub-.500 team. Utah will certainly need scoring with the loss of four starters, so the big question mark is how efficient can Jenkins be in a Power-5 conference? He's only had a few games against elite competition so it's tough to say with certainty, but he is a career 41 percent three-point shooter with 2.9 makes per game. He'll be given the chance to fill the void as a significant contributor, and his experience will be much needed on a young team.

Also considered: N'Faly Dante (Oregon), Chevez Goodwin (USC), Christian Koloko (ARIZ)

Transfers

Marreon Jackson, G, Arizona St.

Replacing Remy Martin is no simple task, but Sun Devils head coach Bobby Hurley may have done just that with Jackson. The graduate transfer was a prolific scorer at Toledo, averaging over 18 points in each of the last two seasons. He's known for his long-range shooting, where he's connected on 37 percent of his attempts while making 2.5 per game throughout his collegiate career, as well as his ability to get to the line often. He'll also have plenty of options in the passing game with Marcus Bagley returning to form a strong frontcourt with incoming top-50 recruit Enoch Boakye.

Quincy Guerrier, F, Oregon

Guerrier comes in from Syracuse where he was a full-time starter as a sophomore, making tremendous strides from his freshman campaign to earn third-team All-ACC honors. Capable of playing the three or four position, Guerrier is improving as a jump shooter and is an efficient rebounder, having posted eight double-doubles last season. He'll have to compete with Bittle/Dante on the glass and a multitude of other capable scorers, but there's certainly a path for him to come close to matching his 13.7 pgg/8.4 rpg stat-line from a season ago.

Kim Aiken, F, Arizona

Aiken joins from Eastern Washington, where he helped get the Eagles back dancing for the first time since 2015. A Big Sky first-team selection and the conference's Defensive Player of the Year, Aiken contributed with 11.3 ppg and a team-high 8.4 rpg. With Arizona having a revamped look this season, Aiken is in a situation to get plenty of minutes and serve as a role player on offense who will be ready to defend the opposing team's top offensive option. He's quietly efficient on the offensive end also, having connected on 60 percent of his attempts from inside the arc last season.

Also considered: Daejon Davis (WASH), Boogie Ellis (USC), De'Vion Harmon (Oregon), Myles Johnson (UCLA)

Top-10 Players*

  1. Johnny Juzang, G, UCLA
  2. Evan Battey, F, Colorado
  3. Tyger Campbell, G, UCLA
  4. Marreon Jackson, G, Arizona St.
  5. Azuolas Tubelis, F, Arizona
  6. Jaime Jaquez, F, UCLA
  7. Harrison Ingram, F, Stanford
  8. Michael Flowers, G, Washington St.
  9. Jaiden Delaire, F, Stanford
  10. Isaiah Mobley, F, USC

*Note: These rankings are at the discretion of the article author, and may not necessarily correspond with RotoWire's official 2021-22 player rankings. 

Projected Standings

  1. UCLA
  2. Oregon
  3. Arizona St.
  4. Arizona
  5. USC
  6. Colorado
  7. Oregon St.
  8. Stanford
  9. Utah
  10. Washington
  11. Washington St.
  12. California

Projected Rotations

First NameLast NameSchoolPosition
KerrKriisaArizonaG
JustinKierArizonaG
PelleLarssonArizonaG
DalenTerryArizonaF
BennedictMathurinArizonaF
AzuolasTubelisArizonaF
ChristianKolokoArizonaC
OumarBalloArizonaC
Kim AikenArizonaF
MarreonJacksonArizona StG
JayHeathArizona StG
MarcusBagleyArizona StF
KimaniLawrenceArizona StF
JalenGrahamArizona StF
LutherMuhammadArizona StG
EnochBoakyeArizona StC
JoelBrownCaliforniaG
JordanShepherdCaliforniaG
GrantAnticevichCaliforniaF
MakaleForemanCaliforniaG
KuanyKuanyCaliforniaF
AndreKellyCaliforniaF
JalenCelestineCaliforniaG
KeeshawnBarthelemyColoradoG
EliParquetColoradoG
EvanBatteyColoradoF
JabariWalkerColoradoF
MaddoxDanielsColoradoG
TristanDa SilvaColoradoF
Lawson LoveringColoradoC
K.J.SimpsonColoradoG
De'VionHarmonOregonG
WillRichardsonOregonG
JacobYoungOregonG
QuincyGuerrierOregonF
NateBittleOregonC
EricWilliamsOregonF
FranckKepnangOregonC
N'FalyDanteOregonC
WarithAlatisheOregon StF
TreWilliamsOregon StG
GianniHuntOregon StG
MauriceCallooOregon StF
JaredLucasOregon StG
RodriqueAndelaOregon StF
RomanSilvaOregon StF
SpencerJonesStanfordF
JaidenDelaireStanfordF
MichaelO'ConnellStanfordG
LukasKisunasStanfordC
HarrisonIngramStanfordF
IsaSilvaStanfordG
MaxMurrellStanfordF
TygerCampbellUCLAG
JohnnyJuzangUCLAF
JaimeJaquezUCLAG
CodyRileyUCLAF
MylesJohnsonUCLAC
PeytonWatsonUCLAF
JulesBernardUCLAG
DavidSingletonUCLAF
EthanAndersonUSCG
BoogieEllisUSCG
DrewPetersonUSCF
ChevezGoodwinUSCF
IsaiahMobleyUSCF
IsaiahWhiteUSCF
MaxAgbonkpoloUSCF
DavidJenkinsUtahG
BrandenCarlsonUtahF
RileyBattinUtahF
MarcoAnthonyUtahG
RollieWorsterUtahG
BothGachUtahF
LahatThiouneUtahC
NateRobertsWashingtonF
JamalBeyWashingtonF
DaejonDavisWashingtonG
TerrellBrownWashingtonG
EmmittMatthewsWashingtonF
P.J.FullerWashingtonG
JacksonGrantWashingtonC
ColeBajemaWashingtonF
NoahWilliamsWashington St. G
AndrejJakimovskiWashington St. F
EfeAbogidiWashington St. F
DishonJacksonWashington St. F
MichaelFlowersWashington St. G
TJBambaWashington St. G
TonyMillerWashington St. F
D.J.RodmanWashington St. F

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Ryan Pohle
Ryan Pohle is a DFS Product Specialist at RotoWire and has written for the site since 2020.
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