Looking ahead to men's basketball in the Pac-12 conference
Arizona basketball kicks off their season with their annual Red-Blue game, where the Arizona roster is spilt into two teams and play a full game against one another. The Red-Blue game gives the team a chance to show off to their fans and get pumped up for the upcoming season.
The Pac-12 conference has been extremely underwhelming in recent years, fielding just six teams to the NCAA tournament each of the last two years combined. The conference, which has been the laughingstock of the power-five conferences over the years, will look to bounce back this season in what should be an exciting year with tons of top-freshmen coming into the conference this season. In fact, four of the top 11 recruiting classes in the country come out of the Pac-12 conference, according to 247sports composite rankings.
The University of Arizona has the second-best recruiting class in the Pac-12 and sixth best recruiting class in the country, according to 247sports, led by two five-star recruits in Nico Mannion and Josh Green. Mannion, who is a local to Arizona out of Phoenix, should be leaned on more since the Wildcats lost sophomore guard Brandon Williams due to season-ending knee surgery.
Four-star recruit Zeke Nnaji will join Mannion and Green in Tucson this year and will bring some size to the Wildcats' front court off the bench. Arizona also has Chase Jeter returning, along with forward Ira Lee and transfer Max Hazzard who can bring a spark off the bench. The Wildcats, who had its first losing conference record last year under Sean Miller in his 15-year career as a head coach, should bounce back into the tournament this season.
The University of Oregon has the best recruiting class in the Pac-12 and fourth best recruiting class in the country coming to Eugene this season, according to 247sports. They are led by N’Faly Dante out of Kansas and C.J. Walker out of Florida, two five-star big-men recruits. The Ducks also have two other four-star and three-star recruits joining the team this season, including guard Addison Patterson out of Bella Vista College Preparatory School in Scottsdale, Ariz. The most important factor to the recent success of Oregon in recent years, Payton Pritchard, will be returning for his senior season.
Coming off a dreadful finish to end last season, USC has something to look forward to this season with the third best recruiting class in the Pac-12 and seventh best recruiting class in the country, according to 247sports. The Trojans are led by two five-star recruits in Isaiah Mobley and Onyeka Okongwu, both out of California. USC also has a four-star recruit and three other three-star recruits coming to campus this season.
The fourth and final elite recruiting class in the Pac-12 conference this season comes out of the University of Washington, who rank as the fourth best recruiting class in the Pac-12 and 11th best recruiting class in the country, according to 247sports. They are led by two five-star recruits in Isaiah Stewart and Jaden McDaniels. They will have huge shoes to fill, with the Huskies losing five of its top six scorers from last season. The only returner from last season with experience is junior Nahziah Carter, who scored 13 points against Utah State University in the first round and 10 points against University of North Carolina in the second round of the NCAA tournament last season. Washington also brought in four-star recruit RaeQuan Battle, a Washington local, and transfer Quade Green, who will be coming from the University of Kentucky but will be forced to sit out this season.
Another notable team is University of Colorado, who doesn’t have an elite freshman class like the previously mentioned teams but have arguably the most experience of the conference coming into the season, with McKinley Wright IV and Tyler Bey both returning to Boulder this year, both of whom were named as First Team All-Pac-12 players last season. The Buffaloes won 10 of its final 13 games during the regular season, en route to losing to No. 2 seed University of Texas at El Paso in the quarterfinals of the NIT Tournament.
ASU will attempt to make the NCAA Tournament for the third straight season under Head Coach Bobby Hurley. They are led by Remy Martin, a potential conference player of the year candidate who averaged almost 13 points and five assists per game last season.
After firing Head Coach Steve Alford, UCLA was looking all over the place for a new coach before they eventually brought in Mick Cronin, who was the head coach at University of Cincinnati since 2006. The Bruins also lost the top-three scorers from last season.
Oregon State University is led by Tres Tinkle, the Pac-12’s leading returning scorer who averaged over 20 points and 8 rebounds per game. Tinkle has been named to the First Team All-Pac-12 the last two seasons. The Beavers as a team bring back three of the top four scorers from last season and should be an intriguing team to watch this season.
The University of Utah has brought in a decent recruiting class this year, but they also lost three of the top four scorers from last season. Rylan Jones, the Gatorade Player of the Year, should be fun to watch, but the Utes do not have too much else going for them.
Stanford University has struggled in the Pac-12 in recent years and brought in zero top-100 prospects coming into this season. They are hoping to avoid missing the NCAA Tournament for the fourth straight season.
Washington State University fired their head coach, Ernie Kent, following the Cougars' struggles over the past few seasons and brought in Kyle Smith, who previously coached at the University of San Francisco. He will have some rebuilding to do with the Cougars.
University of California, Berkeley also went through a coaching change, firing Wyking Jones after the team went 5-31 in conference play the last two seasons. They brought in Mark Fox, who will look to bring a change to the Golden Bears locker room.
According to a Pac-12 Media Poll put out earlier in this month, Oregon is the favorite to win the conference followed by Colorado, Washington, Arizona and USC rounding out the top-5, respectively. These five teams are all also mentioned in the early top-25 of many national media outlets.
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