Weird, isn't it?
This year is supposed to be the inaugural Pac 12, with Utah and Colorado coming in and starting off on a new page. Fast forward many months later and the conference as a whole is a bit of a disaster area.
UCLA fell off the radar faster than a speeding bullet. Arizona was an up and down proposition. And after Cal got axed by Mizzou, they fell off of the rankings too.
The tragic tale also includes an Arizona State team with hopes to progress after a tought 12-19 campaign. But, as Chinua Achebe would say, Things Fall Apart. Carson was ineligible, King is out, he and other players got suspended, Carrick Felix missed games, and Trent Lockett had a busted ankle. The non conference season was underwhelming, and ended up with a 6-12 record in conference.
But in the tournament, anything is possible. Take Georgia a couple of years ago, who had a stinky regular season, but won the SEC tourney to reach the NCAAs. So to prepare you for this event, I've given a brief preview of each team after the jump
Washington is the crown jewel of the inaugural Pac 12, with a 14-4 record, one game ahead of Cal. They will be playing against the winner of Oregon St. and Wazzu. UDub has phenomenal athletes who can score from deep. Tony Wroten is a slashing PG who finishes inside and dishes to others. CJ Cox and Terrence Roos are great shooters, with the latter another good slasher to the hole. Working with Wroten is steady hand point guard Abdul Gaddy. Aziz N'Diaye is a dominant low post presence defensively and Darnell Gant is a stretch 4. As a style, the Huskies love the get out in transition and offensive rebound to get easy chippies. However, they have improved defensively to make them a legit two way threat.
Washington State is a one man wrecking crew with Brock Motum as Faisal Aden is out for the year, although Devonte Lacy has come along to be a great sidekick. Offensively Ken Bone's strategies allow Wazzu to convert at a very high percentage and takes advantage of Motum's versatility inside and out. However, the Cougar defense is laughable, whether it's failing to close out or rebounding.
Oregon State is an intriguing unit with great talent that doesn't mesh together all that well. Craig Robinson's vow to turn the speed dial to warp has worked but has shown mixed results. OSU is one of the highest scoring teams in the country but has also given up a ton of points as well, regardless of a new man-to-man or trapping zones (ie. 1-3-1). The strength is clearly the backcourt, with high-flying Jared Cunningham manning the wing and Ahmad Starks manning the point, then Roberto Nelson (hopefully) providing more scoring punch. The frontcourt is erratic beyond Devon Collier, as Joe Burton is a great passer and Brandt can really shoot it. However, the latter two are very inconsistent.
Arizona (grrr...) will face the winner of the LA schools: UCLA and USC. The Wildcats fielded a young outfit with some talent but have mixed results. This is a team that will fling it from 3 because of their many shooters like Solomon Hill and Kyle Fogg. Jesse Perry is their main inside player while Nick Johnson and Josiah Turner provide more perimeter scoring punch. Oh yeah, and Sean Miller is coaching that team.
Despite the negative press surrounding UCLA, they are just fine, thank you. Howland's team is stacked inside, with studs like David Wear, Travis Wear and Josh Smith. They have very good senior guards in Zeke Jones and Jerime Anderson. Wing Tyler Lamb is the X factor, as his emergence can give the Bruins another scoring punch.
USC has a terrible year, with 3 key players out with season ending injuries and a young freshmen core struggling to replace them. Maurice Jones is clearly the top (if overworked) dog, with wing Byron Wesley as the only other legit scoring threat. Everyone else is terrible scoring the ball, but expect KO's team to muck it up and attempt to get the game into the 50s if not lower.
We then move onto another bracket that includes the rest of the team. Cal will be player against the winner of Arizona State and Stanford. The Golden Bears field on of the best starting 5, led by POY/DPOY Jorge Gutierrez. Along with him are sharpshooters Allen Crabbe and Justin Cobbs. Harper Kamp is a solid face up 4 and David Kravish had a great freshman year as a fronrcourt piece. The one question about this team is lack of depth in the bench. The Bears are a great two-way team and have a very seasoned coach in Mike Montgomery.
Stanford made huge strides to the middle of the pack after several disappointing seasons. They have a great frontcourt captain in Josh Powell, along with guards Aaron Bright, Chasson Randle and Anthony Brown. As a team the Cardinal are at their best on the boards, outrebounding their opponents on a nightly basis.
Arizona State (that's us), like USC, struggled due to illnesses (Carrick Felix), injuries (Trent Lockett) and suspensions (Keala King, Chris Colvin, Kyle Cain). However, save for King, everyone is back for the tourney. ASU has only one proven cornerstone in Lockett and the rest are question marks, capable of going off or disappearing entirely. As a team, ASU uses a matchup zone and shoots the lights out. What is keeping them back though are the monstrous turnover numbers.
The last leg includes Oregon, who will take on the winner of Colorado and Utah. The Ducks are an explosive offensive team, led by Devoe Joseph, EJ Singler, Olu Ashaolu and Garrett Sim. They also have a bona-fide shot swatter in Tony Woods. Let's also not forget that they are led by Dana Altman, a coach who overachieved with a ragtag squad last year, and will certainly be one of the better coaches in most matchups.
Colorado, despite losing major firepower last year, stayed above .500 in conference play due in large part to their dominance at home. Carlon Brown is the go to guy while Andre Roberson handling the inside and the boards. Spencer Dinwiddie is on the Pac 12 all freshman team. Like Stanford, the Buffs do a lot of damage on the boards and are above average defensively.
Utah has struggled in Larry Krystkowiak's first go around. They are abysmal in virutally every category. Jason Washburn is their best player, a tall dude with a soft touch near the goal. And although players like Dijon Farr, Kareem Storey and Chris Hines are doing their best being core players, they are clearly outmanned in almost every situation.
There you have it; a brief summation of all the Pac 12 teams. May the best team win! Go Sun Devils!