The NBA Draft is right around the corner, transfers are moving to and fro, and teams are focusing on player development. There is still a lot to between now and the beginning of the 2018-19 season, but we can still take a look around the Pac-12 to see what has been happening this spring.
Just so it’s clear, we’re doing this in power rankings form because that’s the easiest way to move team-to-team. These rankings will be trash by the time the season starts, it’s fine.
1. Oregon Ducks
In what appears to be a down season for the Pac-12, the Ducks are taking flight. A year after losing the majority of their Final Four roster, Oregon looks to be building another elite team. Freshman Troy Brown may be gone, but Dana Altman has replaced him with five-star recruits Louis King and Bol Bol (Manute’s son). Altman will also bring back Kenny Wooten, Payton Pritchard and former New Mexico transfer Elijah Brown. I hate to say it, but the Ducks are very good again.
2. UCLA Bruins
UCLA’s offseason was contingent on the freshmen staying, and fortunately for the Bruins, Jaylen Hands, Kris Wilkes and Cody Riley are all returning. UCLA is also bringing in five-star center Moses Brown, plus a stockpile of polished scorers, most notable of whom is Shareef O’Neal, Shaq’s son who had been committed to Arizona. Aaron Holiday is gone to the NBA and Thomas Welsh graduated, but UCLA’s youth movement should more than make up for those losses.
Let’s make this absolutely clear: Lorenzo Romar is a terrible coach. In 2016-17, Washington went 2-16 in the Pac-12 and they had MARKELLE FULTZ. The following season, Romar was fired, Michael Porter, Jr. de-committed, and it looked like the Huskies would be even worse, somehow. Alas, Mike Hopkins took over as head coach and did wonders with this team en route to an impressive 21-13 record. This season, they’re bringing back their entire starting lineup, which may be the best in the conference. Matisse Thybulle is the best defensive player in the Pac-12, Noah Dickerson might be the best power forward, and Jaylen Nowell looks like a star in the making. Additonally, center Sam Timmins is back and they’re bringing in four four-star recruits.
4. USC Trojans
USC is reeling from having lost four of their five best players to graduation (Jordan McLaughlin and Elijah Stewart) and the NBA Draft (De’Anthony Melton and Chimezie Metu). Despite those heavy losses, USC will still be decent shape to contend in the Pac-12. Bennie Boatwright is still around, as are 3-and-D wing Jonah Mathews and uber athletes Shaqquon Aaron and Jordan Usher. USC are also bringing in five-star recruit Kevin Porter and former five-star Duke transfer Derryck Thornton. The Trojans aren’t going to be ranked 10th in the country like they were in last season’s pre-season poll, but they’re still going to be a dangerous team, even if they are inexperienced.
The Buffs are here because they made a legitimate push for the tournament bubble with one of the youngest teams in the country. With three freshmen starting (sometimes four), the Buffs put together a string of upsets that showed this team’s potential. Now the Buffs will return every contributor besides George King, Dom Collier and Lazar Nikolic — and even of those guys, only King is a significant loss. The Buffs have McKinley Wright, Namon Wright, Tyler Bey and Dallas Walton leading the team, plus D’Shawn Schwartz and Evan Battey in supporting roles. All they lacked was the guard depth Collier provided and the shooting of King, both of which they may have replaced with one player, JUCO transfer Shane Gatling. And just to fortify the frontcourt depth, the Buffs may also add a transfer to replace Tory Miller-Stewart.
Arizona had quite the wild ride last season, what with their NCAA scandals, humiliating loss to Buffalo in the NCAA Tournament, and promptly losing nearly their entire 2018 recruiting class. Even worse, their entire starting lineup is gone from the school. Now in the offseason, Arizona has held onto Sean Miller and he’s recouped a solid freshman class that is led by point guard Brandon Williams, who is rated as the 32nd best in the class. The Wildcats won’t be a top-15 team next season and may not even make March Madness, but with Chase Jeter, Emmanuel Akot and Williams, they should still be plenty good.
Arizona State will lose star guard Tra Holder and role players Kodi Justice and Shannon Evans, but they’re in good shape. ASU still has promising sophomores Romello White and Remy Martin to lead them, plus they should have great production from De’Quon Lake and Kansas transfer Carlton Bragg. The Devils also have the 10th best recruiting class in the nation coming in, featuring Luguentz Dort (28th in the nation), wing Taeshon Cherry (36th) and center Uros Plavsic (104th).
I’m higher than most are on Oregon State, and not because I’m a closeted Beavers fan. OSU hasn’t exactly been good lately — they have 11 total Pac-12 wins in the past two seasons, football included — but they have some legitimate players with plenty of experience. They may not have much depth, especially now that Drew Eubanks is gone, but their top three players could be All-Pac-12. If they stay healthy, Tres Tinkle, Stephen Thompson and Ethan Thompson will carry this team higher than many expect.
Stanford was going to be good so long as their key players returned. Unfortunately, after Michael Humphreys and Dorian Pickens both graduated, their best player Reid Travis announced Wednesday that he will leave Stanford as a graduate transfer. That’s great news for Villanova and Kentucky — the favorites to land him — but that could be back-breaking loss for the Cardinal. Now Stanford will have to rely on Daejon Davis and Kezie Okpala, both promising players, but probably not ready to lead this team.
10. Utah Utes
Utah, like so many other teams in the Pac-12, have graduated nearly their entire starting lineup. The only holdover is scoring guard Sedrick Barefield, who probably isn’t good enough to carry a heavy burden on a quality team. Utah will always develop great players — watch out for Jayce Johnson and Donnie Tillman — but there are too many uncertainties around this young team to peg them as anything more than middling.
Wyking Jones is in the second year of rebuilding the Cal basketball program... it’s probably going to take him a few more years. The Bears only have a couple quality players in Jusitce Sueing and Darius McNeill, but they don’t have anyone there to support them, at least not yet. They have a solid recruiting class coming in that should give them hope for brighter days.
Hey at least Robert Franks is back! But that’s all there is. Poor Cougs.