Five Things That Scare Us About the Pac-12

Posted by Mike Lemaire on October 30th, 2015

Nothing says Halloween like a hastily constructed list replete with a truly cringe-worthy title…or something. The kickoff to the college basketball season is rapidly approaching and one can never have enough preseason analysis. So without further ado and in honor of everyone’s favorite pseudo-holiday, here are the five scariest things happening in the PAC 12 as we head into the season.

With Lorenzo Romar starting from square one, things could get scary. (USA TODAY Sports)

With Lorenzo Romar starting from square one, things could get scary. (USA TODAY Sports)

Lorenzo Romar’s Job Security

The head coach of the Huskies since 2002, Romar is far and away the longest-tenured coach in the Pac-12 and with pretty good reason. The Huskies won 20 games just once under predecessor Bob Bender. Since Romar took over, the Huskies have won 20 games six times and Romar has been the conference Coach of the Year three times. Unfortunately for Romar, the good times have mostly rolled to a halt in Seattle. The Huskies have barely broken .500 in each of the last three seasons and the team’s best player, Nigel Williams-Goss, transferred in the off-season due to concerns about the direction of the program. To his credit, Romar continues to be an excellent recruiter and has brought in another new crop of talent ready to contribute immediately. Still, even with help from the newcomers, the Huskies figure to finish in the bottom third of the conference standings. If (when?) that happens, Romar’s goodwill may have finally run out.

Watching USC Try To Score

In fairness to the Trojans, almost everyone expects the team’s offense to make a major jump this season. But the flip side of that coin is that making the jump offensively shouldn’t be difficult because of how staggeringly bad the team was on that end last season. In the Pac 12, only Oregon State was less efficient offensively than the Trojans last season. USC also managed to rank near the bottom of the country in every meaningful shooting category (63.4 percent from the free-throw line!). The futility was understandable considering the team was almost exclusively underclassmen, but with a mostly unchanged roster returning, points are likely to still be at a premium. If Jordan McLaughlin is healthy, his shooting should improve, but his shot selection needs a lot of work too. The same can be said for Katin Reinhardt, the team’s most gifted offensive player but also its most trigger-happy. Coach Andy Enfield likes his teams to play with tempo. Last season that led to a lot of running and bricking. Everyone who plans to watch the Trojans this season has their fingers crossed that things will be different this time around.

Jakob Poeltl’s Upside

Somewhat overshadowed by the presence of do-everything guard Delon Wright, Austrian freshman Jakob Poeltl was quietly one of the best freshman in the country and emerged as a very legitimate NBA prospect. Blessed with sneaky athleticism, a soft touch and a seven-foot frame, Poeltl was a revelation for the Utes last season in averaging 9.1 points, 6.8 rebounds and 1.85 blocks in just 23.3 minutes per game. He also shot almost 70 percent from the floor — 4th best in the country. Poeltl passed up a chance to be a lottery pick by returning to the Utes this season. Given all the risk associated with the decison, many questioned the move, but another year in college could establish Poeltl as a household name. With an off-season to fill out his frame, refine his post moves and improve his numbers from the free-throw line (just 44 percent last season), 2015-2016 could be the year when Poeltl blossoms into the best two-way player in the conference.

Jakob Poeltl Could Be A Nightmare For Opponents (Godofredo Vasquez, USA Today)

Jakob Poeltl Could Be A Nightmare For Opponents This Season (Godofredo Vasquez, USA Today)

Cal’s Athletes

It’s a shame that we can’t ask Andy Enfield to coach the Bears this season (he must agree) so we could see what this team could do in a transition-based offense. The Bears have the athletes to make it worthwhile. Jabari Bird and Tyrone Wallace are two of the most athletic high-flyers in the conference; Jordan Mathews is more shooter than slasher,but the 6’4″ combo guard still attacks the rim with abandon. And don’t forget that head coach Cuonzo Martin secured commitments from two of the best recruits in the country in Jaylen Brown and Ivan Rabb. A 6’7″, 220 pound heat-seeking missile, Brown is going to throw down his fair share of impressive dunks this season. He is also on everybody’s short list for best NBA prospect in the conference. Rabb doesn’t have the same human highlight reel potential that Brown does, but is a silky smooth, versatile 6’10” forward who won’t have a problem keeping up in transition. He moves incredibly well for a player his size. The only thing keeping the viewing public from witnessing all this firepower in its most dynamic form is Martin’s preference for a more deliberate offensive pace. Here’s to hoping that Martin recognizes the tools at his disposal and loosens up the reins a little bit. It is anyone’s guess as to how all these players will mesh, but it will definitely be fun to watch.

Defending Bryce Alford

After his performance in the NCAA Tournament, can we finally stop pretending that Alford is the beneficiary of being the coach’s son and start admitting that he is a pretty good basketball player? He is a limited defender and doesn’t scare too many opponents by getting to the rim, but he is a willing passer and one of the most dangerous shooters in the country. Alford averaged 15.4 points per game a season ago, chipping in 3.2 assists per game and shooting almost 40 percent on 238 attempts from downtown. If anything, that kind of conscience-less bombing should only increase as Alford improves. The only conference foes who hoisted more three-pointers than Alford last season were Joseph Young and Chasson Randle, both of whom sported usage rates far larger than Alford’s. He will be the unquestioned leader and focal point of the Bruins’ offense this year, which should only increase the frequency of defenders’ nightmares about close-outs and chasing him around screens. He should (and deserves to) have the green light whenever he has the ball. Alford also isn’t the only option for UCLA, which should allow him at least a little space to operate. As SMU learned last March, Steve’s son doesn’t need a whole lot of room to do his thing.

mlemaire (324 Posts)

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