Pac-12 Burning Questions: So… About Those Preseason Predictions?Posted by AMurawa on December 31st, 2012
With non-conference play all but wrapped up, we start to turn our attention to conference play this week. But, before we do we want to take a look back and see what we talked about prior to the season.
“We made a lot of predictions and bold statements prior to the season. Which prognostication did you nail and which did you completely whiff on?”
Adam Butler: I wish I’d had the stones to say things like “Jordan Adams will be UCLA’s best player” or “Josh Smith will leave the Bruins” or “USC will utterly flop.” No, on each of those insights I was sightless. I was the cool kid picking USC to overachieve and who was gobbling up Shabazz hyperbole like flavored vodka at a sorority house. I went out on the limb to say Arizona and Colorado would be good. I have said Spencer Dinwiddie would be All-Conference and, to date, he’s held up his side of that bargain, and I still love his game when he shows up (although, zero points vs. Fresno?). The one thing I’ve nailed but I don’t think it’s been terribly bold has been that Mark Lyons, no matter what he did numbers-wise, was going to have an overwhelming effect on this Wildcats team. I think it’s safe to say that he’s been a lightning rod of attention and criticism and handled it all in stride, strides that have taken him straight to winning buckets against Florida and SDSU. Lyons brings a dynamic to Tucson that was sorely needed and he has not let them down. As for whiffs? I figured Washington would be better and that Oregon would be worse. I thought Jio Fontan would hover around conference POY talk and that Dewayne Dedmon would be a big surprise: fails. There’s still time to play out but it’s hard to say that any of those thoughts will right themselves in my predictive favor. And in that remaining time, I’m excited to see just what UCLA will do and how Arizona’s freshmen bigs will develop within the routine of Pac-12 play. Moving forward, a few additional thoughts: Can Herb’s team keep up their pace? No. Is Solomon Hill going to win the conference POY award? No (but he may be the MVP). Can Colorado be the second best team in the Pac? Yes. Will Stanford be better then their 8-4 record? Yes. Alas, predictions are meaningless but oh-so-fun.
Connor Pelton: Looking back on it, I made some interesting (to say the least) picks back in October. But I did nail a few of those, starting with the pick of Arsalan Kazemi as an All-Pac-12 performer. I was the only one to include the Rice transfer on my 15-player ballot, and he has answered by averaging 9.2 PPG, 10.4 RPG, and 3.1 SPG so far. In fact, if he had not had been so tentative shooting the ball at the beginning of the season, it is not a stretch to say he would not only be leading the team in rebounds but points as well. Another pick I am liking was that of Jonathan Gilling as an all-conference three-point shooter. Kevin and I were the only ones to include the sophomore on our lists, and he has proved us right by knocking down 30 triples, second highest in the conference. But the pick I am most proud of is selecting USC at 10th in the conference, while everyone else here had the Trojans sixth or seventh. The thing that made me so skeptical about USC at the beginning of the season was the question, “Where do the points come from behind Jio Fontan?” Some said senior forward Aaron Fuller, who’s averaging a stellar 2.9 PPG. Case closed.
Now, onto the whiffs. While Chasson Randle hasn’t had a great season, there is no question he should be second team All-Pac-12 right now. I did not even include him on my list of 15, opting instead for guys like Ricky Kreklow and Kaleb Tarczewski. Whoops. It is easy to look bad when projecting an all-newcomer team, and boy have I done that. I did not include Mark Lyons on my team, or Jahii Carson, or Josh Scott. Those guys are averaging 13.4, 17.9, and 12.5 PPG, respectively. As we move into conference play, the picks that are on the fence of good and bad will begin to clear up. Are the Buffaloes an NCAA Tournament team? I said yes in October, and I still think they are now. Can Washington rebound from an awful start and make the NIT? No. Can California win a big game? It has to happen eventually, right?
Time will answer everything, and before we know it, we will be filling out brackets and talking about surprises and snubs on Selection Sunday.
Parker Baruh: October was a time when I could make a prediction and there was that sliver of hope that I would be right. However, I had some bad calls putting too much faith in the Los Angeles teams. I picked USC to finish seventh in the conference and thought that UCLA would not resemble anything from the team they had last year and would be competing with Arizona at the top, but instead Ben Howland lost to Cal Poly at Pauley Pavilion and also saw the departures of Tyler Lamb and Josh Smith. I fell for the Shabazz Muhammad hype, thinking he would come in right away and be arguably the most outstanding player in the conference, but he showed up overweight and inattentive. I put too much faith in Johnny Dawkins, believing that he could finally put it together at Stanford by projecting them at third in the conference, but they seem destined for the NIT once again.
Although I wasn’t sharp on my standings predictions, I did pretty well on player predictions. I was right about Josh Scott, being the only one to put him on my all-newcomer team and he has impressed averaging 12.5 points and 5.5 rebounds per game so far. I also thought Spencer Dinwiddie would be a top 15 player in the conference along with Adam, and I’d say he has proven that so far. I picked Nick Johnson to be the most improved player and without his strong performance against Florida and game-saving block against San Diego State, the Wildcats wouldn’t be undefeated heading into conference play. Going forward, I’d say that Colorado will be an NCAA Tournament team; UCLA will be the same inconsistent team we’ve already seen in conference play; and, Stanford will continue to be a disappointment.
Andrew Murawa: I’m always one to dwell on what I miss, and I missed plenty. Right out of the gate, I put myself on the spot, not only as the lone RTC Pac-12 prognosticator to pick UCLA to win the conference, but in putting them as my #3 team nationally in the preseason. While I’m not entirely ready to give up on the upside of that Bruins team (especially after this past weekend), I just don’t see a way where this team can be consistent enough on a nightly basis to take home the Pac-12 title. They’re good enough to bring it on one night and knock off, say, Arizona at McKale, but I can’t imagine this team being consistent enough, especially on the defensive end, to contend for a conference title, much less become the third-best team in the land. But, if they continue to improve and catch a few breaks, there’s still a chance for a deep run into March and, dare I say, even April? So, count that one as a miss, with a asterisk and a TBD attached. However, I’ll cop to one glaring overestimation in the case of Kyle Anderson. He is good. He is real good. But I picked him as my second-best player in the conference (and a third-team All-American). He is clearly not that, at least this year. There were also some serious whiffs where I was swinging for the seats and fell flat on my ass: Aaron Fuller as a third-team all-conference guy? Bo Barnes as the third-best three-point shooter in the Pac? Yeah, uh, my bad. Chasson Randle ain’t doing me any favors, either. Oh, and I bought into the idea of addition-by-subtraction for Washington, pegging them as fifth in the conference. Now I’m picking them 10th – setting up another whiff for me.
As for what I think I got right, I was the only guy to vote for Jahii Carson among the top 15 players in the conference. I put him on my third team, although I think I’d put him on my first team now, so count that as a hit, with another asterisk and a TBD. I also picked an all-breakout team of Roberto Nelson, DaVonte Lacy, Richard Solomon, Jordan Bachynski and Nick Johnson. Maybe just sub in Dwight Powell for Solomon or Lacy and I’m feeling pretty darn good about that. One other: I picked Cal as a middle of the Pac team, putting them seventh in the conference, lower than anybody else. I’m not about to write off Mike Montgomery, but I’m thinking I nailed the Golden Bears just about right.