Pac-12 basketball preseason media poll
SAN FRANCISCO — Since he joined what was then the Pac-10 before the 2009-10 season, Sean Miller has never had an Arizona Wildcats team finish lower than fourth place.
Not even in his first season, when the Wildcats didn’t make the postseason, nor in their rebuilding season of 2011-12. In both of those seasons, UA finished fourth, while they have won or tied for the league title four times during Miller’s tenure.
History could change this season, however, and Miller is bracing for the lower expectations.
Miller said a straw poll of the league’s coaches in May placed Arizona sixth, and he said at Arizona’s McKale Center media day on Oct. 1 that this season almost compared with starting a new program.
The Wildcats will be replacing their entire starting lineup, but another reason for Arizona’s lower expectations is that a reloaded Oregon team appears to lead a group of programs that are challenging for the league’s top four spots, which earn coveted first-round byes in the conference tournament.
“I think Oregon stands out,” Miller said. “They have a lot of talent, both coming in but also returning. (Ducks coach) Dana Altman is, I think, one of college basketball’s best coaches. They improve as the year goes on and the combination of their freshmen plus their returners really puts them in as the class of our conference.
“But there’s a number of programs that I think will be very good — USC, Colorado, UCLA, Arizona State, Stanford. ... And Washington, for example, based on their experience, how difficult their zone defense is to prepare for, and the players that thrived a year ago in their system.”
All that is not to forget about Utah, which has also not finished lower than fourth since 2014. But the Utes might be picked lower this season after losing four starters from last season.
“Utah is obviously very well-coached,” Miller said of Utah’s Larry Krystkowiak. They have “always a difficult place to play, and from one year to the next, Larry does a great job.”
The Pac-12 at media day in San Francisco on Thursday released its preseason media poll. Here are the results (with total points, and first-place votes in parentheses):
1. Oregon 288 (16)
2. UCLA 264 (6)
3. Washington 249 (2)
4. Arizona 205 (1)
5. USC 203
6. ASU 165
7. Colorado 161
8. Utah 122
9. Stanford 109
10. OSU 102
11. Cal 45
12. WSU 37
This was the Star’s ballot in the Pac-12’s media poll, with some detail about each team for the upcoming season:
Coach: Dana Altman (210-83 in eight seasons at Oregon, 210-83 in 30th season overall)
Last season: 23-13 overall, 10-8 Pac-12 (tie sixth)
Who’s back: G Payton Pritchard (Jr., 14.5 ppg, 4.8 apg), F Paul White (Sr., 9.4 ppg, 3.5 rpg), F Kenny Wooten (So., 6.4 ppg, 2.6 bpg), G Victor Bailey (So., 6.7 ppg, 1.7 rpg), F Abu Kigab (So., 1.6 ppg, 1.1 rpg)
Who’s gone: F Troy Brown (13.6 ppg, early to NBA), G Elijah Brown (13.6 ppg, 2.5 apg), F Mikyle McIntosh (11.8 ppg, 6.1 rpg), F Keith Smith (1.9 ppg, 1.4 rpg), F M.J. Cage (1.7 ppg, 2.2 rpg, transferred to Pepperdine)
Who’s new: SF Louis King (five-star freshman), C Bol Bol (five-star freshman), SG Ehab Amin (Texas A&M Corpus Christi grad transfer), C Francis Okoro (four-star freshman), F Miles Norris (four-star freshman), G Will Richardson (four-star freshman)
Bottom line: Ducks rarely play below expectations under Altman, who has restocked talent after a post-Final Four exodus in 2017. Wooten and Bol could bring back a Jordan Bell/Chris Boucher-type of rim protection, too.
Coach: Steve Alford (117-57 in five seasons at UCLA; 580-292 in 27 seasons overall)
Last season: 21-12 overall, 11-7 Pac-12 (tie third)
Who’s back: F Kris Wilkes (So., 13.7 ppg, 4.9 rpg), PG Jaylen Hands (So., 9.9 ppg, 2.6 apg), SF Prince Ali (Jr., 9.1 ppg), PF Cody Riley (redshirt freshman was suspended last season), PF Jalen Hill (redshirt freshman was suspended last season)
Who’s gone: G Aaron Holiday (20.3 ppg, 5.8 apg, early to NBA), C Thomas Welsh (12.6 ppg, 10.8 rpg), PF G.G. Goloman (7.1 ppg, 4.2 rpg)
Who’s new: C Moses Brown (five-star freshman), G Tyger Campbell (four star freshman), G David Singleton (four-star freshman), G Jules Bernard (four-star freshman)
Bottom line: The upside of the Bruins’ Chinese shoplifting embarrassment was that the suspended Hill and Riley spent a year learning the UCLA system, while LaVar Ball disappeared (he took middle son LiAngelo out of the program for good while his youngest son, LaMelo, turned pro and forfeited his UCLA commitment). But former UA commit Shareef O’Neal is out for the season because of a heart condition.
Coach: Mike Hopkins (21-13 in one season at Washington; 21-13 overall)
Last season: 23-13 overall, 10-8 Pac-12 (tie sixth)
Who’s back: F Matisse Thybulle (Sr., 11.2 ppg, 3.0 spg), F Noah Dickerson (Sr., 15.5 ppg, 8.4 rpg), G Jaylen Nowell (So., 16.0 ppg, 4.0 rpg), G David Crisp (Sr., 11.6 rppg, 3.1 apg), G Dominic Green (Sr., 5.4 ppg, 2.1 rpg)
Who’s gone: G Carlos Johnson (3.8 ppg, 1.4 rpg, transferred to Grand Canyon)
Who’s new: C Bryan Penn-Johnson (four-star freshman), PF Nate Roberts (four-star freshman), SF Jamal Bey (four-star freshman)
Bottom line: The Huskies return their entire rotation, and they already know how to run the 2-3 zone defense this time after struggling with it early last season.
Coach: Andy Enfield (71-73 in four seasons at USC; 111-101 in six seasons overall)
Last season: 24-12 overall, 12-6 Pac-12 (second), lost in NIT second round
Who’s back: F Bennie Boatwright (Sr., 13.6 ppg, 6.4 rpg), G Jordan Mathews (Jr., 9.3 ppg, 2.6 rpg), F Nick Rakocevic (Jr., 8.1 ppg, 6.2 rpg), G Shaqquan Aaron (Sr., 4.3 ppg, 2.1 rpg), G Derryck Thornton (Jr., 3.8 ppg, 1.4 rpg), G Chuck O’Bannon (So., 1.3 ppg, 0.6 rpg), F Jordan Usher (So, 4.8 ppg, 2.0 rpg)
Who’s gone: G Jordan McLaughlin (12.8 ppg, 8.3 apg), F Chimezie Metu (15.7 ppg, 7.4 rpg, early to NBA Draft), G Elijah Stewart (11.7 ppg, 3.0 rpg), G De’Anthony Melton (DNP because of school ruling, early to NBA Draft)
Who’s new: G Elijah Weaver (four-star freshman), F Kevin Porter Jr. (four-star freshman), F J’Raan Brooks (four-star freshman)
Bottom line: The Trojans replaced some big losses with plenty of talent and are loaded with guys rated with four- or five-stars in high school. Especially if Boatwright stays healthy, they shouldn't slip far.
Coach: Tad Boyle (166-110 in eight seasons at Colorado; 222-176 in 11 seasons overall)
Last season: 17-15 overall, 8-10 Pac-12 (tie eighth)
Who’s back: G McKinley Wright (So., 14.2 ppg, 5.5 apg), F Tyler Bey (So., 6.1 ppg, 5.1 rpg), G Deleon Brown (Jr., 5.0 ppg, 1.2 rpg), G Namon Wright (Sr., 9.7 ppg, 3.5 rpg), F D’Shawn Schwartz (So., 3.4 ppg, 1.8 rpg), F Lucas Siewert (Jr., 6.8 ppg, 3.9 rpg), C Dallas Walton (So., 5.7 ppg, 3.4 rpg)
Who’s gone: G George King (12.9 ppg, 7.8 rpg) F Lazar Nikolic (2.3 ppg, 2.3 rpg, early pro departure to Europe), F Tory Miller-Stewart (6.2 ppg, 4.7 rpg, grad transfer to Denver), G Dom Collier (7.5 ppg, 1.4 apg)
Who’s new: G Shane Gatling (juco all-American junior), F Evan Battey (redshirt freshman sat out for academic reasons and also suffered a stroke), F Jacub Dombek (freshman from Czech Republic), G Dylan Kountz (three-star freshman), G Eli Parquet (freshman)
Bottom line: So everyone says the biggest jump comes between the freshman and sophomore seasons for those who play a lot? The Buffs have a lot of talented sophomores who played extensively last season, and McKinley Wright is an all-conference candidate. So watch out.
Coach: Sean Miller (247-72 in nine seasons at Arizona; 367-119 in 14 seasons overall)
Last season: 27-8 overall, 14-4 Pac-12 (first), lost in NCAA first round
Who’s back: G Brandon Randolph (So., 3.7 ppg, 0.8 rpg), F Emmanuel Akot (So., 1.8 ppg, 1.1 rpg), F Ira Lee (So., 2.4 ppg, 2.3 rpg), G Alex Barcello (So., 2.4 ppg, 1.0 rpg), G Dylan Smith (Jr., 4.3 ppg, 1.6 rpg)
Who’s gone: F Deandre Ayton (20.1 ppg, 11.6 rpg, early to NBA Draft), G Allonzo Trier (18.1 ppg, 3.0 rpg, early to pro basketball), F Rawle Alkins (13.1 ppg, 4.8 rpg, early to pro basketball), C Dusan Ristic (12.2 ppg, 6.9 rpg), G Parker Jackson-Cartwright (7.8 ppg, 4.5 apg), F Keanu Pinder (2.3 ppg, 2.1 rpg)
Who’s new: C Chase Jeter (Jr., Duke transfer), G Justin Coleman (Samford grad transfer), F Ryan Luther (Pitt grad transfer), G Brandon Williams (four-star freshman), G Devonaire Doutrive (four-star freshman), F Omar Thielemans (freshman from Belgium)
Bottom line: Miller says he feels almost like he’s starting over with a new program.
Coach: Larry Krystkowiak (138-97 in seven seasons at Utah; 180-117 in nine seasons overall)
Last season: 23-12 overall, 11-7 Pac-12 (tie third), lost in NIT championship game
Who’s back: G Sedrick Barefield (Sr., 12.0 ppg, 2.5 apg), F Donnie Tillman (7.8 ppg, 4.8 rpg), C Jayce Johnson (5.5 ppg, 5.4 rpg), G Parker Van Dyke (Sr., 4.0 ppg, 1.1 rpg)
Who’s gone: G Justin Bibbins (14.8 ppg, 4.7 apg), F David Collette (12.3 ppg, 4.5 rpg), F Tyler Rawson (10.8 ppg, 6.8 rpg), G Gabe Bealer (5.9 ppg, 2.0 rpg)
Who’s new: G Charles Jones Jr. (Jr., juco player of year), F Timmy Allen (four-star freshman), F Both Gach (three-star freshman), G Vante Hendrix (redshirted in 2017-18; brother of UA’s Devonaire Doutrive), C Novak Topalovic (Idaho State grad transfer), F Riley Battin (four-star freshman), F Lahat Thioune (freshman)
Bottom line: Picking Arizona and Utah below the top four spots is always risky, and Utah hasn't finished below that line since 2014. But Utah lost four starters while Arizona lost all five.
8. Arizona State
Coach: Bobby Hurley (50-47 in three seasons at ASU; 92-67 in five seasons overall)
Last season: 20-12 overall, 8-10 Pac-12 (tie eighth), lost in NCAA First Four
Who’s back: G Remy Martin (So., 9.6 ppg, 3.0 rpg), F Romello White (So., 10.5 ppg, 7.1 rpg), F Mickey Mitchell (Jr., 5.8 ppg, 5.2 rpg), F Vitaliy Shibel (So., 1.8 ppg, 1.8 rpg), F Kimani Lawrence (So., 3.1 ppg, 1.7 rpg), F De’Quon Lake (Sr., 7.2 ppg, 5.2 rpg)
Who’s gone: G Tra Holder (18.2 ppg, 4.2 rpg), G Shannon Evans (16.5 ppg, 3.3 rpg), G Kodi Justice (12.7 ppg, 2.7 rpg)
Who’s new: G Rob Edwards (Jr., Cleveland State transfer), G Luguentz Dort (four-star freshman), F Taeshon Cherry (four-star freshman), F Zylan Cheatham (Sr., San Diego State transfer), F Elias Valtonen (four-star freshman from Finland), C Uros Plavic (freshman from Serbia)
Bottom line: “Guard U” gets bigger with Edwards and Dort, while more size up front should give much-needed boost to ASU’s rebounding and interior defense. But the Sun Devils need to prove they can sustain success after last season’s conference nosedive.
Coach: Jerod Haase (33-33 in two seasons at Stanford; 113-86 in six seasons overall)
Last season: 19-16 overall, 11-7 Pac-12 (tie third), lost in NIT second round
Who’s back: G Daejon Davis (So., 10.7 ppg, 4.4 rpg), F KZ Okpala (So., 10.0, 3.7 rpg), G Marcus Sheffield (Jr., 6.7 ppg, 1.5 rpg), G Isaac White (So., 8.3 ppg, 1.7 rpg), C Josh Sharma (Sr., 3.5 ppg, 2.3 rpg), F Oscar da Silva (So, 6.2 ppg, 4.7 rpg)
Who’s gone: F Reid Travis (19.5 ppg, 8.7 rpg, grad transfer to Kentucky), F Michael Humphrey (10.0 ppg, 7.3 rpg), Dorian Pickens (15.1 ppg, 3.8 rpg)
Who's new: F Jaiden Delaire (four-star freshman), G Cormac Ryan (four-star freshman), G Bryce Wills (three-star freshman), C Lukas Kisunas (three-star freshman) C Keenan Fitzmorris (three-star freshman)
Bottom line: Davis and Okpala have given Stanford a more athletic, uptempo look, and there's some promising young talent around them. But this season will always be a case of "what-if" without Travis, who might have been Deandre Ayton's toughest defensive assignment last season.
10. Oregon State
Coach: Wayne Tinkle (57-70 in four seasons at Oregon State; 215-161 in 11 seasons overall)
Last season: 16-16 overall, 7-11 Pac-12 (10th)
Who’s back: F Tres Tinkle (Jr., 17.6 ppg, 7.2 rpg), G Stephen Thompson Jr., (Sr., 15.8 ppg, 3.1 rpg), G Ethan Thompson (So., 9.9 ppg, 4.1 rpg), F Alfred Hollins (So., 5.8 ppg, 2.6 rpg), G Gligorije Rakocevic (2.7 ppg, 2.2 rpg)
Who’s gone: F Drew Eubanks (13.2 ppg, 6.8 rpg, early to pro basketball), G Seth Berger (3.0 ppg, 2.3 rpg), G JaQuori McLaughlin (2.7 ppg, 3.7 apg, transfer to UC Santa Barbara), G Kendal Manuel (2.6 ppg, 1.2 rpg)
Who’s new: C Jack Wilson (four-star freshman), C Kylor Kelley (Jr., juco transfer), G Antoine Vernon (three-star freshman), G Jordan Campbell (three-star freshman), F Warren Washington (three-star freshman)
Bottom line: Tres Tinkle, Stevie and Ethan Thompson make up one of the Pac-12’s best trios, but the Beavers have to stop kicking away close games and losing on the road, as they did too often last season.
11. Washington State
Coach: Ernie Kent (47-77 in four seasons at Washington State; 372-331 in 23 seasons overall)
Last season: 12-19 overall, 4-14 Pac-12 (11th)
Who’s back: F Robert Franks (Sr., 17.4 ppg, 6.6 rpg), G Viont’e Daniels (9.0 ppg, 2.3 rpg), F Arinze Chidom (So.,3.8 ppg, 2.2 rpg), F Davante Cooper (Sr., 1.4 ppg, 1.2 rpg), G Carter Skaggs (Jr., 8.2 ppg, 2.6 rpg)
Who’s gone: G Malachi Flynn (15.8 ppg, 3.4 apg, transferred to San Diego State), F Drick Bernstine (6.9 ppg, 6.9 rpg), G Milan Acqaah (4.9 ppg, 1.8 rpg, transferred), G Kwinton Hinson (3.9 ppg, 2.3 rpg, transferred)
Who’s new: G Jervae Robinson (Jr., juco transfer), G Ahmed Ali (Jr., juco transfer), F Isaiah Wade (Jr., juco transfer), F James Streeter (Jr., juco transfer), G Marvin Cannon (So., juco transfer), F Aljaz Kunc (Slovenian freshman), F C.J. Elleby (freshman)
Bottom line: Losing Flynn unexpectedly was a bad sign for the Cougars but Franks resisted the temptation to turn pro after blowing up as a junior last season. Maybe that helps Ernie Kent keep his job.
12 . California
Coach: Wyking Jones (8-24 in one season at Cal; 8-24 overall)
Last season: 8-24 overall, 2-16 Pac-12 (12th)
Who’s back: F Justice Sueing (So., 13.8 ppg, 5.4 rpg), G Darius McNeill (So., 11.3 ppg, 2.9 rpg), G Juhwon Harris-Dyson (So., 6.2 ppg, 3.4 rpg), F Grant Anticevich (So., 1.6 ppg, 1.5 rpg), F Roman Davis (Jr., 1.9 ppg, 2.1 rpg)
Who’s gone: F Marcus Lee (11.4 ppg, 7.2 rpg), G Don Coleman (14.2 ppg, 2.9 rpg, transferred to South Alabama), C Kingsley Okoroh (5.7 ppg, 5.4 rpg)
Who’s new: G Paris Austin (Jr., Boise State transfer), G Matt Bradley (four-star freshman), F Andre Kelly (three-star freshman), C Connor Vanover (three-star freshman), F Jacobi Gordon (freshman), C Matz Stockman (So., transfer from Louisville via Minnesota)
Bottom line: Hard to see the Bears moving anywhere, especially since other teams in the bottom of the Pac-12 are mostly improved, too.