2017-18 Pac-12 Big “Ifs”

Posted by RJ Abeytia on November 10th, 2017

The Pac-12 has had a starring role in the extracurricular tomfoolery brought to life by the FBI this offseason. Certainly this story has no expiration date on the horizon, but the games are coming and there will be no shortage of intrigue this year in the Conference of Champions. Here are 12 Big Ifs separating each team from its best-case scenario this season.

Is This Finally the Year For Arizona (USA Today Images)?

  1. Arizona: There is just nowhere else to look when sizing up the Pac-12 favorites. Once Allonzo Trier and Rawle Alkins’ returns were secure, the combination of those two plus the arrival of heralded freshman DeAndre Ayton is just too much top shelf talent, buttressed by an outstanding roster that also includes returning glue guys Dusan Ristic and Parker Jackson-Cartwright along with Ayton’s freshman co-stars Brandon Randolph, Emmanuel Akot and Alex Borcello.  If this roster remains intact come March and the FBI distractions don’t do just that, Miller has his best shot at breaking through that Final Four barrier that has stonewalled him to this point in Tucson.
  2. USC: The Trojans are bringing back 98 percent of their scoring and 96 percent of their rebounding to a team that won two NCAA Tournament games last season. Bennie Boatwright, De’Anthony Melton, Chimezie Metu, Jordan McLaughlin and Alijah Stewart form the only returning starting quintet in the league. Can they improve upon a defense that finished a middling seventh in the Pac-12 in efficiency last season?
  3. Oregon:  The Ducks return the least amount of points, rebounds and blocks of any team in the conference and yet they return the most important piece of their success: head coach Dana Altman. Oregon has top recruits Troy Brown and Victor Bailey, Jr., joining three transfers this season: Paul White (Georgetown), Elijah Brown (New Mexico), and MiKyle McIntosh (Illinois State). If Altman works not just well but quickly then Oregon could be ready in time for Pac-12 contention.
  4. Stanford: The Cardinal owned the 10th-rated offense in Pac-12 play last year, largely from scoring only 23.5 percent of their points from three-point range last year, a number that makes consistent offense virtually impossible. If Stanford can ascend to just the national average on three-point production this time around, it should be an NCAA Tournament team.
  5. UCLA: Steve Alford had planes advocating for his removal flying over Pauley Pavilion before Lonzo Ball arrived. There is too much talent in Westwood for the Bruins to slip too far, but can Thomas Welsh and Aaron Holiday really provide enough leadership and production to push this team past its high-profile distractions and into contention?
  6. Arizona State: Who will perform inside for the Sun Devils this season? Even with star guards Tra Holder, Shannon Evans II and Kodi Justice returning, the Sun Devils lose nearly 45 percent of their scoring from last year as well as nearly 60 percent of their rebounding. Arizona State’s ability to fill the void in the paint is the known unknown for the Sun Devils at this point.
  7. Utah: If lone starter David Collette and his teammates can replace Kyle Kuzma’s contributions by committee, the Utes should be another competitive group. Kuzma’s void is large however, making this a really big ‘if.’
  8. Colorado: Tad Boyle has a whopping nine newcomers on his roster this season, eight of which are freshmen. If George King can maintain the 52 percent he shot from two and the 39 percent he shot from three as he inevitably becomes the focal point of opposing defenses, Colorado’s streak of seven straight postseason appearances should continue.
  9. Oregon State: If Tres Tinkle can make it through his third season completely healthy (he’s 0-for-2 so far), this year’s Beavers should be far more indicative of what head coach Wayne Tinkle is building in Corvallis. The Beavers return all five starters and almost have to be better than their abysmal 5-27 mark from last season.
  10. Washington: Early returns on Mike Hopkins’ recruiting (Michael Carter III and Jaylen Nowell arrive this year) and his retention of David Crisp and Matisse Thuybulle sets up the same old storyline. Can the Huskies organize and gel their talent such that it finally gets maximized?  Maybe, but it’s not happening this year.
  11. California: Lone returning starter Kingsley Okoroh gets some front line reinforcement with the eligibility of Marcus Lee, who sat out a season after playing three others at Kentucky. If these two can produce stretches of Twin Tower dominance and can function together offensively, Cal will be a nightly threat to upset some teams in conference.
  12. Washington State: The next Klay Thompson doesn’t seem to be lurking on this roster, but nobody knew Thompson would become what he has either. If Malachi Flynn can provide stability despite his youth, Washington State might get a decent look at the core Ernie Kent has built and be able to decide if these struggles are building towards something better on The Palouse.
Richard Abeytia (41 Posts)

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One response to “2017-18 Pac-12 Big “Ifs””

  1. Dad says:

    Is this your website Pal?

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