Over the next few weeks, I’ll be doing a preview of each of the seven major college basketball conferences (American, ACC, Big 10, Big 12, Big East, Pac-12, SEC), leading up to the November 10th tip-off of the 2017-2018 College Basketball season. You can access previous previews by clicking on the conference name. Today, we’re going to dive into the Pac-12.
Brief History: The Pac-12 was founded in 1959 after the disbanding of the Pacific Coast Conference. Its 12 member-schools have combined for 16 basketball national championships, the last of which came in 1997. Larry Scott has been the commissioner since 2009.
Reigning Regular Season Champion: Oregon/Arizona (Co-Champs)
Reigning Conference Tournament Champion: Arizona
2017 NCAA Tournament Teams (and Seed): Arizona (2), Oregon (3), UCLA (3), USC (11)
- Arizona – Allonzo Trier is the centerpiece of what is likely one of the top five offenses in the nation, if not better. The Wildcats will also be adding DeAndre Ayton, who was one of the most sought-after recruits in the country. This team is going to be fun to watch, and is the conference’s best chance in a while at a national title.
- USC – Every major player on the team who shocked the nation last season with arguably the biggest upset of the first round, an 11 over 6 win against SMU, is returning for another season. Bennie Boatwright and Chimezie Metu are two names in particular to keep an eye on as the Trojans look to grab a conference title.
- UCLA – UCLA lost its biggest story line of the season last year, with Lonzo Ball being drafted 2nd overall to the Lakers. However, the real unsung hero of last year’s team, C Thomas Welsh, is back for another season. He’ll look to lead a team without much experience back to the NCAA tournament.
- Oregon – The Ducks lost a lot of players from a phenomenal team last season. This team will be looking to a lot of freshmen and transfers to get the job done on what will likely be a heavily offensive team.
- Stanford – Here’s where the conference begins to drop. Stanford’s got a unique level of experience, with three seniors, one junior, and three freshmen that will likely see major time. This team’s performance will all depend on the ability of those freshmen to step up to the plate.
- Utah – This is an extremely experienced team, which will likely be starting four seniors and a transfer junior, so we know what to expect from the Utes. This is a middle of the pack team, who’s relatively balanced on offense and defense. They’ll be in competition with Stanford for the 5th spot in the conference.
- Oregon State – Last season, this team went 1-17 in conference play. One of the big reasons for the disappointing season was the early loss of F Tres Tinkle to injury. He’ll be back and ready to go this season, and should help the Beavers improve majorly.
- Arizona State – The Sun Devils have a really solid offense, but will undoubtedly struggle to keep up defensively. They’ll be looking to their three seniors guards to help improve the defensive effort while maintaining their strong offensive performance from last season.
- Colorado – The Buffs lost a lot of their minutes from last season. Their group of starters is pretty experienced, but they lack experience and depth on the bench, which is likely to get them in trouble, particularly down the stretch.
- California – This team is the exact opposite of Arizona State. They’ve got a strong defense, but are extremely weak offensively. They return very few of their minutes from their 21-win effort last season. They’re looking at a big drop-off from their previous results.
- Washington – This team lost their best player this offseason, Markelle Fultz, who was taken first overall in the NBA Draft, and they’ll struggle to replace him. This Huskies squad is inexperienced, and is undoubtedly going to have a tough time this season.
- Washington State – Say hello to the Pac-12 cellar again, Cougars. There’s not really much to say about this team. They have the longest postseason drought of any team in the conference, and there’s nothing exciting about the team again this year.
Bottom Line: Similar to previous seasons, this is a very top-heavy conference. The top four teams should be able to compete with anyone in the country, while the middle tier will be fighting hard for one of the last NCAA at-large bids.