An Early Look at Next Season’s Pac-12

Posted by Mike Lemaire on April 13th, 2016

It is never too early to predict how the Pac-12 will look heading into next season. Let’s not waste words and just get into a look at each team by projected order of finish.

1. Oregon

Assuming Brooks Returns, Oregon Will Be The Class of the PAC-12 Again. (Craig Strobeck)

Assuming Brooks Returns, Oregon Will Be The Class of the Pac-12 Again. (Craig Strobeck)

  • Who’s back: Dillon Brooks, Tyler Dorsey, Casey Benson, Chris Boucher, Jordan Bell, Dylan Ennis
  • Who’s new: M.J. Cage, Keith Smith, Payton Pritchard
  • The skinny: Assuming Brooks returns to school and Ennis is eligible and healthy enough to play a full season, the Ducks will run almost two-deep at every position. Boucher’s extra year of eligibility is also huge because it again gives Oregon two of the best rim-protectors in the country while allowing Dana Altman to space the floor. Don’t sleep on the Ducks’ recruiting class, either; there aren’t any stars here, but Cage and Pritchard will both contribute early.

2. Arizona

  • Who’s back: Allonzo Trier, Ray Smith, Parker Jackson-Cartwright, Dusan Ristic, Kadeem Allen, Chance Comanche
  • Who’s new: Rawle Alkins, Kobi Simmons, Lauri Markkanen
  • The skinny: Simmons is the key here. If the point guard is as good as everyone seems to think he is, the Wildcats have the athletes elsewhere to be above-average offensively and elite defensively. Trier could be a Pac-12 Player of the Year contender and some believe that Smith, now healthy after missing all of last season, is the better player in that recruiting class. Sean Miller has reportedly been sniffing around the graduate transfer market as well — if the Wildcats can land an extra big man, that would help shore up a frontcourt that right now consists of Ristic and maybe Comanche.

3. USC

Andy Enfield Will Boast A Loaded Roster at USC Next Season (AP)

Andy Enfield And The Trojans Should Be Stocked For A Conference Title Run Next Season (AP)

  • Who’s back: Jordan McLaughlin, Bennie Boatright, Elijah Stewart, Chimezie Metu, Nikola Jovanovic
  • Who’s new: Shaqquan Aaron, Jonah Mathews, De’Anthony Melton, Harrison Henderson
  • The skinny: There is a decent chance that sparkplug Julian Jacobs returns to school, and the Trojans probably deserve the slot above Arizona if he does. Metu and Boatright should be much better with an offseason spent getting stronger. Surrounding them with shooters like Stewart and McLaughlin will also make the team especially dangerous on the offensive end. Assuming Aaron and one of the freshmen step up, the Trojans could be ready to challenge for the conference crown.


  • Who’s back: Bryce Alford, Thomas Welsh, Isaac Hamilton, Aaron Holiday, Jonah Bolden, Prince Ali
  • Who’s new: Ike Anigbogu, Lonzo Ball, Kobe Paras, T.J. Leaf
  • The skinny: Count us among the believers in the powers of Lonzo Ball. The Bruins, assuming Ali doesn’t transfer, have elite athletes, shooting, depth, some size and most importantly, Ball at the center of it all. His playmaking abilities turn the Bruins into a potentially elite offensive team. We still believe that Tony Parker’s departure is some form of addition by subtraction, but unless Jonah Bolden finally breaks out, the team will miss the big man’s bulk and rebounding.

5. Colorado

  • Who’s back: George King, Tory Miller, Dominique Collier, Wesley Gordon, Josh Fortune, Thomas Akyazili, Xavier Johnson
  • Who’s new: Derrick White, Bryce Peters, Dallas Walton, Deleon Brown
  • The skinny: Don’t look now but the Buffaloes could be really good next season. Josh Scott is borderline irreplaceable, but the return of versatile forward Xavier Johnson softens the blow of his departure. The presence of Gordon and Miller also means the team won’t lack for size. King, Fortune and Collier are an exciting backcourt trio to build around, and transfer Derrick White has received rave reviews from his new teammates. This recruiting class won’t make headlines, but Peters is a name to watch down the line.

6. Utah

No Coach Will Have To Deal With More Turnover Than Utah's Larry Krystowiak (Ethan Miller)

No Coach Will Have To Deal With More Turnover Than Larry Krystowiak (Ethan Miller)

  • Who’s back: Kyle Kuzma, Lorenzo Bonam, Brekkott Chapman
  • Who’s new: Parker Van Dyke, David Collette, Tyler Rawson, Sedrick Barefield, Jojo Zamora, Jayce Johnson, Makol Mawien, Devon Daniels
  • The skinny: The Utes will have a very different look next season and not just because Jakob Poeltl is gone. Utah isn’t bringing in your typical newcomers, so don’t count this team out just yet. Van Dyke is back from his LDS mission, Collette and Barefield are both experienced transfers with proven track records, and Johnson, Mawien, and Rawson are all fundamental big men with potential. Don’t forget about returnees Bonam and Kuzma, either — both have all-conference potential.

7. Oregon State

  • Who’s back: Tres Tinkle, Drew Eubanks, Malcolm Duvivier, Derrick Bruce, Stephen Thompson Jr.
  • Who’s new: Keondre Dew, JaQuori McLaughlin, Ben Kone
  • The skinny: There is no sugarcoating the loss of Gary Payton II. He led the team in pretty much every statistical category and had the potential to be the best player on the floor on any given night. The other graduating seniors were no slouches, either, but let’s not forget that the Beavers are still just a year removed from their best recruiting class ever and all four members will be back. Bruce’s late-season emergence should ease the loss of Payton in the backcourt and McLaughlin will get plenty of early chances to make a big impact. Dew and Duvivier will be the x-factors for this team. If Duvivier can rebound from a bad junior season and Dew can become an immediate contributor in the frontcourt, the Beavers may be even better than they were last season.

8. Washington

  • Who’s back: Malik Dime, David Crisp, Noah Dickerson, Matisse Thybulle, Dominic Green, Donaven Dorsey, Devenir Duruisseau
  • Who’s new: Markelle Fultz, Samuel Timmins
  • The skinny: Throw Dejounte Murray and Marquese Chriss back in the mix and this team might have been a conference title contender. Even without them, though, the cupboard is far from bare in Seattle. Crisp, Dime, Thybulle and Dickerson form a solid core to build around, and if Fultz is as good as advertised, he could be the conference newcomer of the year. The assumption is that all the underclassmen that saw minutes this season will be markedly better. It’s no guarantee and Huskies’ fans may pine at points for Murray and Chriss, but Lorenzo Romar still has his program on the upswing.

9. California

  • Who’s back: Jabari Bird, Jordan Mathews, Sam Singer, Stephen Domingo, Kameron Rooks, Kingsley Okoroh
  • Who’s new: Dontae Coleman
  • The skinny: If you are one of the rare few who scours the wire for graduate transfer news, you’ve probably seen Cal’s name come up more than once. It’s no secret that the Golden Bears need another weapon if they are going to compete again next season. Cuonzo Martin should be very happy Bird and Mathews are back, because without them the rotation would look downright unsightly. Singer, Domingo and an improved Rooks are all worthwhile pieces who could fill important roles on a Sweet Sixteen-type team, but the offense needs more firepower to ever get to that point. Martin will continue to seek help, but right now his reinforcements are non-existent.

10. Arizona State

  • Who’s back: Tra Holder, Obinna Oleka, Kodi Justice
  • Who’s new: Shannon Evans, Sam Cunliffe, Jethro Tshisumpa, Vitaliy Shabel
  • The skinny: The bad news is that graduation and transfers leave the Sun Devils with just three returnees with any experience. The good news is that those returnees were the team’s best players who should also be better next season. Evans was a stud for Bobby Hurley at Buffalo and he will become eligible, but can he fit in alongside Holder? It seems likely that Hurley will look to add at least one more players to the roster before the offseason is over, but the Sun Devils are still trying to build from the ground up and it takes more than two years to do that. Look for the Sun Devils to be competitive, but the NCAA Tournament is likely another year away.

11. Stanford

  • Who’s back: Dorian Pickens, Robert Cartwright, Reid Travis, Malcom Allen, Michael Humphrey, Marcus Sheffield, Marcus Allen, Cameron Walker
  • Who’s new: Kodye Pugh, Trevor Stanback
  • The skinny: Say what you want about Johnny Dawkins as a coach, but he certainly left plenty of talent for new coach Jerod Haase to work with. Cartwright’s return from injury gives the Cardinal a true point guard again. Dorian Pickens, Marcus Sheffield and Marcus Allen form a trio of experienced and talented wings. If Travis can stay healthy and both Pugh and Stanback are on the roster next season, the frontcourt has potential too. There is enough talent here to make us look silly for having the Cardinal this low in next season’s rankings.

12. Washington State

  • Who’s back: Ike Iroegbu, Josh Hawkinson, Que Johnson, Charles Callison, Conor Clifford, Derrien King
  • Who’s new: Milan Acquaah, Jeff Pollard, Malachi Flynn
  • The skinny: Ernie Kent has already churned through more than a dozen new players in his first two years on campus and signs of progress are so far minimal. The Cougars will be competitive next year, but that will in large part be due to a sneaky good group of seniors that includes Hawkinson, Iroegbu and Johnson. It would go a long way towards reassuring Cougars’ fans if King and fellow sophomore Robert Franks develop into legitimate rotation players next season.
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