Pac-12 Media Day: Team Capsules Filled With Evidence

Posted by Adam Butler on October 12th, 2018

A great focus of Thursday’s Pac-12 Basketball Media Day was “evidence.” It came up as both a recommendation from the Pac-12 as well as an implemented rule that the NCAA can use third-party investigations (evidence? information?) to enact punishment. Further, in defending the conference and an allusion to wide-spread corruption (half of the conference’s teams have been mentioned in a federal court in Lower Manhattan this week), commissioner Larry Scott referred to last November’s NCAA charter that all schools conduct internal investigations regarding their compliance. In doing such, the Pac-12’s member institutions found no EVIDENCE of wrongdoing.

All Hands on Deck Yesterday in SF (credit: UCLA Athletics)

Alas, this was a basketball Media Day with the presumed burden of evidence on coaches and players. The EVIDENCE (and media voting suggests) that Oregon will win the conference. But in evaluating what we have for basketball evidence, we find ourselves with very little to know. Players in attendance at Media Day (two per school) averaged just 19 starts last year. Five players started zero games (or weren’t Pac-12 players at all last year). Of course, this trend among the 24 players in attendance is a microcosm of the sport: roster fluidity, consistently new names, etc. It makes evidence difficult. Despite that, however, I’d like to present the most optimistic team-by-team 2018-19 BASKETBALL evidence:

  • Arizona – Sean Miller went out of his way, unprompted, to mention his star freshman, Brandon Williams. When he committed to the Wildcats for the second time, Miller had secured the top point guard recruit of his Arizona tenure. Further, Miller has managed to bring in some intriguing graduates (Justin Coleman, Ryan Luther) to help stabilize an unproven roster — and, in fact, naming Coleman a team captain.
  • Arizona State – Remy Martin showed flashes of scoring brilliance and an ability to slash and shoot, suggesting little drop off from the Tra Holder era. Beyond that, the Devils introduce Zylan Cheatham (SDSU transfer), Luguentz Dort (5-star recruit) and Taeshon Cherry (4-star recruit) to an already intriguing set of athletic forwards (Mickey Mitchell, Romello White) with the hope of improving on a porous defense. Bob Hurley spoke – almost to a man – about defensive prowess and ability.

  • Colorado – Many from the Centennial State will have you know the name McKinley Wright. Colloquially known as “Kin,” the Buffs’ sophomore is a couple of three-point makes away from being the conference POY (he shot just 30 percent from distance as a freshman).
  • Utah – The Utes welcome Charles Jones, Jr. to their team, the reigning JuCo Player of the Year. A reminder of recent Pac-12 JuCo transfers: Kadeem Allen (current: New York Knicks), Chris Boucher (current: Toronto Raptors), and Delon Wright (current: Toronto Raptors).
  • UCLA – Talent. Obvious when it comes to teams wearing these colors and as such the Bruins should be among the best teams in the conference. Expect Kris Wilkes (35%), Jaylen Hands (37%) and Prince Ali (36%) to continue to shoot well from distance as 5-star center Moses Brown converts in the paint. Look for Wilkes to contend for the conference POY award.
  • USC – Last year, USC’s defense forced the LONGEST average possession length (APL) in college basketball. Consequently, they had the league’s second-best defense. The extended APL has been relatively consistent for USC; the next step, of course, is converting those long possessions into stops. Who’s responsible? Jonah Matthews, Shaqquan Aaron and Derryck Thornton in the backcourt return with a wealth of experience while Nick Rakocevic has the opportunity to fill Chimezie Metu’s rim-protecting role. Bennie Boatwright, the versatile senior big, may be the focal point.
  • Cal – UP! Winning just eight games in 2017-18, Wyking Jones’ squad would project to improve on that. Despite losing two of their top players, they’ll introduce Paris Austin (Boise State transfer, distributing and slashing guard) while also seeking critical improvement from Justice Sueing.
  • Stanford – Returning a hearty (and hopefully healthy) 51 percent of its minutes from last season, the Cardinal project to be far more competitive than a year ago. The unfortunate miss from this group is Reid Travis, who took his nearly 1,200 2017-18 minutes to Kentucky as a graduate transfer. A loss Jerod Haase noted would take some adjusting to; however, Haase also shared, “well, everybody moved on quickly.”
  • Oregon – The Ducks are the favorite with the conference’s top recruiting class incoming. Dana Altman has done it with new rosters on multiple occasions and he’s often leaned on experienced, competent guards. He’ll have Payton Pritchard – once again – to guide this young, very talented group. A focus of Altman’s time on stage yeseterday was prized center Bol Bol:”In your coaching career you don’t get many guys 7’2″ that can shoot a three and run the floor like that.”
  • Oregon State – Tres Tinkle is one of just two returning First Team All-Conference performers and Stephen Thompson Jr. is among the finest guards in the league. We know them at this point. Wayne Tinkle noted a feeling he had about last year: “We feel like we could have been 20- 12 easily.” He may be right. Oregon State ranked 339th in luck, suggesting that, with 67 percent of its minutes returning, there are indeed a few more wins to be had.
  • Washington – The Huskies, in coach Mike Hopkins’ first season out west, overachieved, and in doing such, reinvigorated a dormant fan base. With expectations now high, the Huskies return a confident lot while adding a solid – and deep – recruiting class. Matisse Thybulle is the reigning Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year while Noah Dickerson is a returning First Teamer.
  • Washington State – The Cougars are averaging just 4.5 conference wins per year under Ernie Kent. They’ve also now been voted to finish last in the conference, suggesting little confidence they’ll improve on that average. Alas, Robie Franks was the conference’s most improved player a season ago, and he now has his eyes set on the conference’s coveted POY award. Kent on that matter: “Give him the ball and let him shoot it any time he wants to.”
Adam Butler (47 Posts)

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