It’s finally here. Gameday. Enough guessing and predicting and preseason-ing. Let’s get some real answers. Once and for all, its time for our Pac-12 experts to put their picks on the line and defend their choice for the conference champion. We asked our panel of experts:
Who is your pick to win the regular season title and why? And is that team that team you expect to be the last Pac-12 team standing in March?
Bennet Hayes: Cal’s upside is tantalizing, but I still don’t trust Cuonzo Martin enough to maximize all that talent. Arizona is my pick to finish second in the conference, but the roster overhaul scares me a little, even though the new crop of Wildcats is a talented bunch. So with all that in mind, I like Utah’s consistency to carry the Utes to the regular season crown. They lost just once at home all of last season (to Arizona) and all but one of their road defeats (at Washington) came to a team that won at least one game in the NCAA Tournament. What’s more, their lone match-up with Arizona comes in Salt Lake City. Larry Krystkowiak has also seemed to figure things out a little more each season; I trust him to get the most out of a disciplined group of players. But when it comes to the postseason, I’m swapping one and two. Recent Elite Eight exits aside, Sean Miller has proven himself a capable NCAA Tournament coach at both Xavier and Arizona. There’s still a lot of talent in Tucson, and reduced expectations might actually prove beneficial come March.
Adam Butler: I’m picking Arizona to win this conference (and could make arguments for Oregon and Utah for similar reasons to the Wildcats). In this case, my greatest argument wears a suit. Sean Miller is Arizona’s coach and he has enough talent to win this thing. The first starting lineup he rolled out (an exhibition against CSU-Chico) included a fourth-year junior, three seniors (including a four-year starter) and a fifth-year senior. I’m not sure you could find a more “experienced” lineup in the country. For a team that lost three players to NBA rosters and Brandon Ashley, that’s the sort of leadership (at least in years) he’ll need.