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Dane Miller’s 2022-23 Pac-12 Men’s Hoops Season Wrap-up

The 2022-23 campaign ended in disappointment after every team bowed out prior to the Elite 8

Posted on April 6, 2023

  By Dane Miller, SuperWest Sports

The Conference of Champions’ season ended in disappointment after all of its teams bowed out prior to the Elite 8.

Arizona’s First Round loss to Princeton was particularly damaging, but USC once again floundered in the Big Dance while Arizona State let one slip against TCU.

I wrap up the year here and give my early thoughts on the 2023-24 season at the bottom.

Injury Problems
UCLA’s Jaylen Clark injured his Achilles | Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
The league’s lack of success in the NCAA Tournament is contextualized by the injury issues that its top teams were dealing with.

UCLA was without Adem Bona and Jaylen Clark in its Sweet 16 matchup with Gonzaga, while David Singleton was still recovering from an ankle injury sustained against Northwestern in the Second Round.

Arizona’s seven-man rotation was hindered by Oumar Ballo’s broken hand and Kerr Kriisa’s lingering shoulder injury, both of which were sustained in the Pac-12 Tournament.

It doesn’t change the result or make up for the defeats. However, the health issues for some of the top players in the Pac-12 undoubtedly contributed to the underwhelming postseason results.

Troubles in Eugene
Duck head coach Dana Altman | Sean Meagher/The Oregonian
Oregon missed the NCAA Tournament for the second-straight year and has played in just two since the start of the 2017-18 season.

After losing to Wisconsin in the Quarterfinal of the NIT, Dana Altman snapped in his postgame press conference.

The future Hall of Fame coach railed against the lack of fan support and candidly attacked his own coaching performance.

At one point he called the low attendance “embarrassing” and stated he would go back to junior college to coach because those players love to be in the gym.

It was an unusual set of statements for a coach that took the Ducks to the Final Four in 2017. But diving beneath the surface, the recruiting in Eugene hasn’t been up to par over the last few years.

Based on the 247 Sports rankings, UO had the No. 33 overall class in 2022, No. 57 overall class in 2021, and No. 51 overall class in 2020. That’s not going to get it done in the Pac-12 against the likes of UCLA, USC, and Arizona.

Still, Altman has the No. 10 overall class for 2023 including two McDonald’s All-Americans.

If Oregon doesn’t get back to the NCAA Tournament and advance to the second weekend with that roster, it’s fair to start questioning whether or not Altman has lost it.

Biggest Surprise
ASU landed in the First Four of the tourney | The San Diego Union-Tribune
There were two surprising storylines in the Conference of Champions during the 2022-23 year: Arizona State’s birth in the NCAA Tournament and Utah’s turnaround in Year Two of Craig Smith.

Bobby Hurley engineered a roster that played well together with strong defense.

Hurley made the bold decision to push Marcus Bagley out of the door early in the year, too, arguably doing what was needed for the betterment of the team.

The blowout victory over Nevada in the First Four matchup and the buzzer-beater against Arizona in McKale Center were the highlights of the year.

Not many expected ASU to achieve the heights it rose to this season. Now, it’s all about maintaining that success and building it further.

Similarly impressive, Smith turned Utah around almost overnight. The Utes stumbled towards the end of the year, but the second season under Smith’s leadership was thoroughly unexpected.

The upset victory over Arizona in Salt Lake City was historic and sets the groundwork for a strong third year.

Biggest Disappointment
Stanford head coach Jerod Haase | David Becker/AP
Without a doubt, Stanford’s underperformance was the biggest disappointment of the year. Jerod Haase had a roster that was loaded with talent but once again fell dramatically short of expectations.

The Cardinal were one of the tallest teams in the nation and had depth across the board. Despite that, the Tree missed the NCAA Tournament for the sixth-straight season under Haase.

Year after year, Haase has recruited well to Palo Alto and consistently failed to deliver results. Yet, he still pulls in highly rated recruits.

It’s a testament to his recruiting prowess, but a painful indication of his on-court coaching flaws.

Coaching Hot Seat
UW’s Mike Hopkins may have the hottest seat | The Seattle Times
Apart from the obvious hot seat that Haase is dealing with, the temperature is fairly high on Washington’s Mike Hopkins.

Ever since his mismanagement of Jaden McDaniels during the 2019-20 season, Hopkins has been on a downward spiral.

Removing a clear one-and-done, five-star prospect from the starting lineup—and a hometown hero from Seattle no less—had consequences on the recruiting trail.

High-level talent isn’t willing to risk getting benched by Hopkins and the result has been a substantial downturn in recruiting.

The recruiting momentum has picked back up over the last year or so, but the 2023-24 season is surely a make-or-break year for Hopkins.

San Diego State’s Success
SDSU had a magical run in the NCAA Tournament | Al Diaz/Miami Herald
Although a formal invitation hasn’t been publically accepted, the writing appears to be on the wall for San Diego State to join the Pac-12.

The Aztecs’ success in the NCAA Tournament has been highly beneficial for the Conference as it seeks to repair the hole UCLA is leaving.

The run to the National Championship game will only help the Pac-12’s image, if and when SDSU formally joins the league.

The Gloves are Off
The 2023-24 season is the last year that USC and UCLA will be a part of the league.

The Bruins Athletic Department mismanaged their finances for several years and abandoned their historic ties to chase money and clout.

Broke and with embarrassing low fan attendance, UCLA gave the rest of the Conference the bird and jetted for the Big Ten.

The result has shattered the Pac-12, with its remaining teams scrambling to secure their futures.

Arizona and Colorado have been consistently linked to the Big 12, while Oregon and Washington won’t hesitate to jump to the Big Ten at the first offer.

The decision to forgo more than 50 years of tradition has left teams such as California, Oregon State, and Washington State in the dust.

George Kliavkoff won’t do it, but the Conference should leave both UCLA and USC out of its various Media Day events in the upcoming athletics year.

Pac-12 Conference

And, although it will never happen, the league’s higher-ups should be in the ear of its officials all season reminding them that the Bruins and Trojans have essentially killed the Pac-12 for their own financial benefit.

Perhaps it only reveals itself in a pivotal call in the Pac-12 Football Championship Game or the Pac-12 Tournament Championship, but there’s no reason any favoritism should be shown to the L.A. schools on their way out of the door.

As for the product on the basketball court, it’s still early in the transfer portal season. Until the deadline to withdraw from the NBA Draft on June 12th passes, the roster compositions of each team will remain in flux.

Any prognostications on next year’s season will have to wait until then.

—More from Dane Miller—