Posted on October 10, 2023
The Pac-12 men’s Basketball season is right around the corner, which means it’s the time for preseason voting.
There are no requirements to publish your media vote as the process is meant to be anonymous to ensure objectivity.
But I have always been one to share how I think and I’m not afraid to make bold predictions, so once again I am sharing my selections and reasons.
Below is how I voted in the preseason media poll with a quick explanation for each pick.
1. ArizonaTommy Lloyd’s Wildcats are restocked and reloaded. Oumar Ballo and Pelle Larsson return as the senior leaders while sophomore Kylan Boswell is primed to explode. The Cats mined the transfer portal with success, too.
North Carolina’s Caleb Love, San Diego State’s Keshad Johnson, and Alabama’s Jaden Bradley were all brought in. Combined with the true freshman additions of KJ Lewis and Motiejus Krivas, Arizona has all the pieces for a deep run in March.
2. USCThe Trojans are stacked. Boogie Ellis returns to lead the team and has a strong shot at winning the Pac-12 Player of the Year award. True freshman point guard Isaiah Collier headlines a recruiting class that includes Bronny James.
The combination of Ellis and Collier figures to be lethal while Andy Enfield has a capable duo of bigs in Vincent Iwuchukwu and Josh Morgan. Mixed with pivotal wing players in Kobe Johnson and DJ Rodman, Enfield arguably has his most complete team of the Pac-12 era.
3. OregonDana Altman’s ability to recruit remains unscathed despite several seasons of mediocrity on the court. The Ducks brought in two McDonald’s All-Americans in Kwame Evans Jr. and Mookie Cook.
But it’s a third freshman who feels somewhat disrespected that might have the most productive season. Guard Jackson Shelstad should play with a chip on his shoulder attitude that all the best players coming out of Oregon have. Added with the return of N’Faly Dante, Keeshawn Barthelemy, and Jermaine Couisnard, UO has no excuses for underperforming.
4. ColoradoThe Buffaloes are legitimate. Tad Boyle arguably has his most talented roster since taking over in Boulder and enters the 2023-24 season with fair expectations to reach the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament.
Tristan da Silva is among the top players in the Pac-12 and true freshman Cody Williams is the No. 4 recruit in his class, per 247Sports. Boyle brought in TCU’s Eddie Lampkin, too, all while returning the services of KJ Simpson. And with a trio of upperclassmen guards, Colorado has a chance to make a run in the Big Dance.
5. UCLAMick Cronin hit the international recruiting trail hard and built his roster with risk. International players tend to take one to two years to develop before becoming game-changing contributors. Aday Mara is the most highly touted of the newcomers, slotting in as the No. 15 player in the class per 247Sports.
The other three European freshmen are four-star prospects and could require time to develop. Dylan Andrews and Adem Bona are the primary players who returned from last year’s squad, essentially making the 2023-24 Bruins a completely new team.
6. Arizona StateAnother season, another revamped roster. Continuity is not the name of the game in Tempe, but Bobby Hurley has rebuilt the dynamic of his team. With more lankier players and a greater emphasis on size, the type of basketball Arizona State plays might look slightly different this year.
Frankie Collins, Jamiya Neal, and Alonzo Gaffney all return. But newcomers Shawn Phillips Jr. and Kamari Lands figure to have ASU focusing more on scoring inside rather than the traditional guard-based offense Hurley runs.
7. CaliforniaMark Madsen is the guy. The type of basketball California plays under Madsen is going to be night and day compared to Mark Fox’s system. With an up-tempo offense that plays with efficiency and a high emphasis on elite defense, the Bears figure to jump forward by leaps and bounds.
Madsen capitalized on the transfer portal, too. California has the No. 2 transfer class in the Pac-12, including Texas Tech’s Jaylon Tyson and Memphis’s Keonte Kennedy. Plus, Devin Askew returns. All told, the Bears project to be much better this season.
8. WashingtonIt’s a make-or-break year for Mike Hopkins. The embattled coach escaped the hot seat last season, partly due to strong efforts on the recruiting trail. Four-star freshman Wesley Yates enters the program while Rutgers’ Paul Mulcahy and Kentucky’s Sahvir Wheeler were added via the portal.
Star forward Keion Brooks Jr. returns, as well, along with Braxton Meah, Franck Kepnang, and Koren Johnson. Still, Hopkins has lost the benefit of the doubt and he has to prove it on the court.
9. Washington StateKyle Smith has a roster full of new faces. Center Rueben Chinyelu and forward Isaac Jones are the highest-rated of the bunch. But Smith has no less than seven new players on his roster. Andrej Jakimovski and Jabe Mullins are the primary returners, creating a degree of uncertainty in Pullman.
Smith has proven capable of consistently exceeding expectations, yet there are many questions surrounding Wazzu entering the season. Kansas transfer Joseph Yesufu could be the difference-maker, though.
10. UtahThe Utes might be underrated. Craig Smith has the program trending in the right direction and is among the top Xs-and-Os coaches in the Pac-12. His recruiting skills might not be at the same level as other coaches in the league, and Utah’s NIL efforts seem primarily focused on football.
But there’s no denying that he can maximize his players and lift his team above expectations with the pieces he has on the roster. Branden Carlson is among the top players in the Conference while key guards Gabe Madsen and Rollie Worster return, too.
11. StanfordEvery year the expectations are high in Palo Alto and every year Jerod Haase fails to deliver. This season, the benefit of the doubt is finally gone. Despite having plenty of talent on the roster, the Tree invariably don’t get the job done. This year might be more of the same.
Spencer Jones, Maxime Raynaud, and Brandon Angel all return to form a solid core that plenty of coaches in the Pac-12 would gladly take. The X-Factors are grad transfer Jared Bynum and true freshman Andrej Stojakovic. Still, until it’s shown on the court the doubt will hold steady.
12. Oregon StateWayne Tinkle might have the top group of sophomores in the league. Jordan Pope, Michael Rataj, and Tyler Bilodeau all had respectable freshmen seasons and figure to take a jump in Year Two.
But Glenn Taylor Jr. transferred to St. John’s and nobody was brought in to replace him. That could allow Pope more leeway, but it’s never ideal to lose one of your best players over the offseason. Still, OSU figures to be a tough out in Corvallis during Conference play.
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