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In our ballot for Pac-12 basketball poll, UCLA, Oregon, ASU and Stanford at top
editor's pick

In our ballot for Pac-12 basketball poll, UCLA, Oregon, ASU and Stanford at top

UCLA Utah Basketball

UCLA guard Chris Smith (5) attempts to dribble around Utah guard Rylan Jones (15) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Thursday, Feb. 20, 2020, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Alex Goodlett)

The Pac-12 asked those of us who regularly cover the league to submit predictions for the conference’s annual preseason poll, to be announced at Thursday’s Pac-12 (virtual) media day.

So after talking to all 12 head coaches over the summer, then considering recruiting classes, NBA Draft decisions, returning rosters, coaching history and some intangibles, here's the ballot I came up with:

(Note: While media vote on Pac-12 preseason and weekly awards, the league's 12 head coaches pick all postseason awards.)

1. UCLA

The Bruins return almost everyone from the team that made a remarkable turnaround under Mick Cronin in the middle of last season. While five-star point guard Daishen Nix went none-and-done, opting instead for the G League, the Bruins already have one of the league’s better point guards in Tyger Campbell and the return of Chris Smith from the NBA Draft pool gives UCLA the edge.

Last season: 19-12 overall; 12-6 Pac-12 (2nd)

Returning core: PG Tyger Campbell (So., 8.3 ppg, 5.0 apg), SG David Singleton (Jr., 4.1 ppg, 1.8 rpg), SF Jaime Jaquez Jr. (So., 8.9 ppg, 4.8 rpg), PF Chris Smith (Sr., 13.1 ppg, 5.4 rpg), C Jalen Hill (Jr., 9.0 ppg, 6.9 rpg), C Cody Riley (Jr., 8.8 ppg, 4.5 rpg), G Jules Bernard (Jr., 5.5 ppg, 2.6 rpg), G Jake Kyman (5.3 ppg, 40.3 3FG%)

Key losses: G Prince Ali (6.8 ppg, 2.3 rpg), F Alex Olesinski (1.3 ppg, 1.7 rpg.

New guys: G Jaylen Clark (four star freshman), G Johnny Juzang (So., Kentucky transfer, 2.9 ppg, 1.9 rpg)

2. OREGON

Yes, Payton Pritchard is gone. That still doesn’t mean it’s a good time to bet against Dana Altman, especially with a strong cast of returners joining three accomplished transfers.

Last season: 24-7 overall; 13-5 Pac-12 (1st)

Returning core: G Will Richardson (Jr., 11.0 ppg, 3.7 rpg), F Chris Duarte (Sr., 12.9 ppg, 5.6 rpg), C N’Faly Dante (So., 5.8 ppg, 2.8 rpg), F Chandler Lawson (4.5 ppg, 3.9 rpg), F Addison Patterson (So., 4.6 ppg, 1.3 rpg).

Key losses: G Payton Pritchard (20.5 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 5.5 apg), G Anthony Mathis (8.5 ppg, 2.3 rpg), F Shakur Juiston (6.3 rpg, 2.0 apg).

Newcomers: G Amauri Hardy (Sr., UNLV transfer, 14.5 ppg, 3.3 apg), F Eugene Omoruyi (Sr., Rutgers transfer, 13.8 ppg, 7.2 rpg), F Eric Williams (Jr., Duquesne transfer, 14.0 ppg, 7.6 rpg), G Jalen Terry (four-star freshman)

3 ARIZONA STATE

This may be the best version of Bobby Hurley’s “Guard U” yet, with five-star freshman Josh Christopher joining Remy Martin and Alonzo Verge on the perimeter, though questions remain inside.

Last season: 20-11 overall; 11-7 Pac-12 (3rd, tie).

Returning core: G Remy Martin (Sr., 19.1 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 4.1 apg), SG Alonzo Verge (Sr, 14.6 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 2.3 apg), F Kimani Lawrence (Sr., 4.9 ppg, 2.6 rpg), F/C Taeshon Cherry (Sr., 4.6 ppg, 3.4 rpg), C Jalen Graham (3.2 ppg, 2.8 rpg), G Jaelen House (3.9 ppg, 1.9 rpg),

Key losses: G Rob Edwards (11.6 ppg, 3.6 rpg), C Romello White (transferred to Mississippi, 10.2 ppg, 8.8 rpg), F Mickey Mitchell (1.8 ppg, 2.7 rpg)

New guys: SF Josh Christopher (five-star freshman), F Marcus Bagley (four-star freshman), C Pavlo Dziuba (Ukrainian freshman), F Chris Osten (juco transfer).

4. STANFORD

Coach Jerod Haase’s recruiting keeps getting better at Stanford, even though the win-loss records haven’t reflected it. Maybe now, with versatile five-star wing Ziaire Williams joining an experienced group, it will.

Last season: 20-12 overall; 9-9 Pac-12 (7th)

Returning core: G Daejon Davis (Sr., 8.8 ppg, 3.3 rpg), F Oscar da Silva (Sr., 15.7 ppg, 6.4 rpg), G Bryce Wills (Jr., 7.8 ppg, 4.0 rpg), F Spencer Jones (So., 8.8 ppg, 3.2 rpg), F Jaiden Delaire (Jr., 6.1 ppg, 2.4 rpg), C Lukas Kisunas (2.4 ppg, 2.8 rpg)

Key losses: G Tyrell Terry (early NBA departure, 14.6 ppg, 4.5 rpg), G Isaac White (early Australia pro departure, 4.2 ppg, 1.7 rpg

New guys: F Ziaire Williams (five-star freshman), G Michael O’Connell (four-star freshman), F Max Murrell (three-star freshman), F Brandon Angel (three-star freshman), G Noah Taitz (three-star freshman)

5. UTAH

The Utes broke a string of five straight top-four finishes last season but might have enough to start another one this season. Mesa’s Timmy Allen leads a more veteran cast, while gritty point guard Rylan Jones, slick-shooting Alfonso Plummer and athletic freshman Ian Martinez should collectively offset the surprise transfer of wing Both Gach.

Last season: 16-15 overall; 7-11 Pac-12 (tie, 8th)

Returning core: F Timmy Allen (Jr., 17.3 ppg, 7.3 rpg), F Riley Battin (Jr., 7.8 ppg, 4.6 rpg), G Rylan Jones (So., 9.6 ppg, 4.0 apg), G Alfonso Plummer (Sr., 8.4 ppg, 1.1 rpg, 42.0% 3FG), C Branden Carlson (7.0 ppg, 4.9 rpg), F Mikael Jantunen (6.7 ppg, 4.9 rpg), F Lahat Thioune (1.8 ppg, 2.3 rpg), G Jaxon Brenchley (4.2 ppg, 2.4 rpg),

Key losses: F Both Gach (10.7 ppg, 3.6 rpg, transferred to Minnesota), C Matt Van Komen (1.7 ppg, 1.7 rpg, transferred to St. Mary’s),

New guys: G Ian Martinez (four-star freshman), G Pelle Larsen (freshman from Sweden), G Jordan Kellier (juco transfer), G Brendan Wenzel (redshirted as freshman last season)

6. COLORADO

Expected to challenge for the league title last season, the Buffs skidded to the finish with five straight losses. That, plus the loss of athletic forward Tyler Bey to the NBA Draft, dampens expectations this time but there’s still a lot of talent and experience.

Last season: 21-11 overall; 10-8 Pac-12 (tie 5th)

Returning core: G McKinley Wright (Sr., 14.4 ppg, 5.7 rpg), F Maddox Daniels (Sr., 3.2 ppg, 1.3 rpg), F D’Shawn Schwartz (Sr., 9.8 ppg, 3.6 rpg), C Evan Battey (Jr., 8.9 ppg, 5.9 rpg), C Dallas Walton (Sr.,1.6 ppg, 1.1 rpg), G Eli Parquet (Jr., 2.6 ppg, 1.0 rpg.

Key losses: F Tyler Bey (Jr., 13.8 ppg, 9.8 rpg), G Shane Gatling (6.5 ppg, 1.7 rpg), F Lucas Siewert (Sr., 8.9 ppg, 5.0 rpg), G Daylen Kountz (3.0 ppg, 0.8 rpg),

New guys: F Jeriah Horne (Tulsa transfer, 11.1 ppg, 5.2 rpg), G Keeshawn Barthelemy (Canadian redshirt freshman), G Dominique Clifford (four-star freshman), Luke O’Brien (three-star freshman), F Jabari Walker (three-star freshman), F Tristan da Silva (freshman from Germany).

7. ARIZONA

With the Pac-12’s top rated recruiting class – but only three reserves back from last season’s fifth-place team – the Wildcats are the toughest team to predict in the conference. There are lots of questions about chemistry, leadership, and roles -- not to mention an ongoing NCAA infractions case.

Last season: 21-11 overall; 10-8 Pac-12 (fifth, tie)

Returning core: G Jemarl Baker (5.7 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 2.3 apg), F Ira Lee (Sr., 3.3 ppg, 3.1 rpg), C Christian Koloko (2.3 ppg, 2.4 rpg, 0.9 bpg).

Key losses: F Zeke Nnaji (16.1 ppg, 8.6 rpg, early pro departure), G Nico Mannion (14.0 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 5.3 apg, early pro departure), G Josh Green (12.0 ppg, 4.6 rpg, early pro departure), G Dylan Smith (8.6 ppg, 3.2 rpg), F Stone Gettings (6.6 ppg, 4.2 rpg), G Devonaire Doutrive (6.3 ppg, 3.3 rpg, dismissed), C Chase Jeter (6.5 ppg, 4.2 rpg), G Max Hazzard (5.3 ppg, 1.6 rpg),

New guys: G James Akinjo (Jr., Georgetown transfer, 13.4 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 4.4 apg) F Jordan Brown (So., sat out last season as Nevada transfer), G Terrell Brown (Seattle U grad transfer, 10.7 ppg, 6.2 rpg), G Dalen Terry (four star freshman), F Azuolas Tubelis (four-star freshman from Lithuania), G Kerr Kriisa (four-star freshman from Estonia), C Daniel Batcho (four-star freshman from France), F Bennedict Mathurin (four-star freshman from Quebec), F Tibet Gorener (three-star freshman from Turkey), F Tautvilas Tubelis (two-star freshman from Lithuania).

8. USC

The Trojans are second to Arizona in roster turnover but bringing in projected high NBA lottery pick Evan Mobley helps considerably.

Last season: 22-9 overall; 11-7 Pac-12 (t-8th)

Returning core: F Isaiah Mobley (So., 6.2 ppg, 5.3 rpg), G Ethan Anderson (So., 5.5 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 4.2 apg), F Max Agbonkpolo (2.5 ppg, 1.1 rpg),

Key losses: F Onyeka Okongwu (16.2 ppg, 8.6 rpg, early pro departure), F Nick Rakocevic (Sr, 10.5 ppg, 8.3 rpg, G Elijah Weaver (6.6 ppg, 2.4 rpg, transferred to Dayton), G Jonah Mathews (13.4 ppg, 2.5 rpg), G Daniel Utomi (8.2 ppg, 3.8 rpg).

New guys: C Evan Mobley (five-star freshman), G Tahj Eaddy (Santa Clara grad transfer, 9.1 ppg, 21 apg), F Noah Bauman (Jr., redshirted last season, 10.8 ppg 2.7 rpg in 2018-19), F Isaiah White (grad transfer from Utah Valley 14.5 ppg, 8.4 rpg), F Chevez Goodwin (grad transfer from Wofford, 11.9 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 1.1 bpg), F Boubacar Coulibaly (three-star freshman from Mali)

9 CALFORNIA

If it wasn’t for UCLA, the Bears might have been the top turnaround story of last season. And now Cal has more talent to help take the pressure off one of the Pac-12’s most underrated players, Matt Bradley.

Last season: 14-18 overall; 7-11 Pac-12 (tie, 8th)

Returning core: G Matt Bradley (17.5 ppg, 4.9 rpg), F Andre Kelly (7.5 ppg, 5.6 rpg), F Grant Anticevich (8.3 ppg, 5.6 rpg), C Lars Thiemann (3.0 ppg, 2.2 rpg), F Kuany Kuany (2.2 ppg, 1.1 rpg), G Joel Brown (So., 2.4 ppg, 1.8 apg), F D.J. Thorpe (So., 1.6 ppg, 1.7 rpg).

Key losses: G Paris Austin (9.4 ppg, 2.7 rpg 2.5 apg), G Juhwan Harris-Dyson (4.0 ppg, 1.8 rpg, left team early), G Kareem South (8.9 ppg, 2.3 rpg),

New guys: G Ryan Betley (grad transfer from Penn, 12.8 ppg, 5.1 rpg), G Makele Foreman (grad transfer from Stony Brook, 15.6 ppg, 2.8 rpg), F Monty Bowser (four-star freshman), F Jalen Celestine (three-star freshman).

10. WASHINGTON

At least some of the Huskies' first-to-worst slide last season was due to the loss of point guard Quade Green to academics in January. They were 11-4 with Green and 4-13 without. Green is back in good graces now.

Last season: 15-17 overall; 5-13 Pac-12 (12th)

Returning core: G Quade Green (Jr., 11.6, 2.6 rpg, 5.3 apg), G Marcus Tsohonis (So., 7.3 ppg, 2.1 rpg) F Naz Carter (Sr., 12.2 ppg, 4.9 rpg), F Jamal Bey (Jr., 3.1 ppg, 1.5 rpg), F Hameir Wright (Sr., 5.6 ppg, 4.2 rpg), G Raequan Battle (So., 4.9 ppg, 1.4 rpg), F Nate Roberts (So., 1.3 ppg, 1.7 rpg),

Key losses: C Isaiah Stewart (14.7 ppg, 8.6 rpg, early pro departure), F Jaden McDaniels (12.1 ppg, 6.0 rpg, early pro departure), G Elijah Hardy (1.9 ppg, 1.1 rpg, transferred to Portland State), C Sam Timmons (1.6 ppg, 1.5 rpg), C Bryan Penn-Johnson (1.6 ppg, 0.7 rpg, transferred to LSU)

New guys: G Nate Pryor (juco transfer), F J’Raan Brooks (transfer from USC, 2.0 ppg in 2018-19). Waivers to play immediately pending for G Erik Stevenson (Wichita State transfer, 11.1 ppg, 4.7 rpg) and F Cole Bajema (Michigan transfer (2.6 ppg, 0.4 rpg)

11. WASHINGTON STATE

Cougs took an immediate jump under analytics-minded coach Kyle Smith last season. While C.J. Elleby’s departure will limit their movement this season, a strong recruiting class suggests long-term upside.

Last season: 11-21 overall, 4-14 (11th) in Pac-12

Returning core: G Isaac Bonton (Sr., 15.3 ppg, 3.7 rpg), F Tony Miller (Sr., 7.7 ppg, 3.3 rpg), G Marvin Cannon (). G Noah Williams (So. 6.2 ppg, 3.5 rpg), G Ryan Rapp (So., 1.6 ppg, 0.6 rpg), F Daron Henson (Sr., ), C Volodymyr Markovetsky (So., 2.1 ppg, 2.4 rpg), F D.J. Rodman (So.,1.7 ppg, 1.9 rpg), F Aljaz Kunc (So., 4.5 ppg, 3.2 rpg),

Key losses: F CJ Elleby (18.4 ppg, 7.8 rpg, early pro departure), F Jeff Pollard (8.7 ppg, 4.1 rpg), G Marvin Cannon (3.8 ppg, 2.4 rpg, transferred to Charlotte).

New guys: F Andrej Jakimovski (four-star freshman), Carlos Rosario (four-star freshman), C Dishon Jackson (three-star freshman), G TJ Bamba (three-star freshman), C Efe Abogidi (three-star freshman), F Jefferson Koulibaly (three-star freshman).

12. OREGON STATE

Wayne Tinkle’s do-everything son, Tres, is gone. So what happens now?

Last season: 18-13 overall; 7-11 Pac-12 (tie, 8th)

Returning core: G Ethan Thompson (Sr., 14.8 ppg, 4.2 rpg), F Alfred Hollins (Sr., 5.2 ppg, 3.0 rpg), G Zach Reichle (Sr., 7.9 ppg, 3.3 rpg), G Antoine Vernon (Jr., 1), G Gianni Hunt (So., 2.8 ppg, 1.5 rpg), G Jerod Lucas (So., 4.6 ppg, 0.9 rpg), C Roman Silva (2.0 ppg, 1.3 rpg), F Dearon Tucker (So., 0.6 ppg, 0.6 rpg),

Key losses: F Tres Tinkle (18.5 ppg, 6.8 rpg), C Kylor Kelley (11.1 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 3.5 bpg),G Sean Miller-Moore (juco transfer), F Payton Dastrup (BYU transfer),

New guys: G Tariq Silver (juco transfer), F Rodrique Andela (juco transfer), F Maurice Calloo (juco transfer), F Isaiah Johnson (three-star freshman), F Julien Franklin (Fr.,redshirted last season ). Waiver to play immediately pending for F Warith Alatishe (Jr., transfer from Nicholls State, 10.9 ppg, 8.3 rpg).

Contact sports reporter Bruce Pascoe at 573-4146 or bpascoe@tucson.com. On Twitter @brucepascoe

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