The Pac-12 men’s basketball media poll will be released Thursday when the press gathers at conference headquarters in San Francisco for media day.
I’m probably going to be on an island again with my pick for Washington to win the title.
I’ve gone against the grain each of the past two years and come out OK.
Two years ago, Oregon received 23 first-place votes and I was one of four who picked Arizona. The Ducks and Wildcats finished tied for first at 16-2.
Last season, 22 reporters picked Arizona and I was the lone vote for USC, which finished second, two games back of the Wildcats.
The conference seems pretty wide open this year, but I expect Oregon to be tabbed as the favorite. I think the vote will be much closer this year with more than two teams getting first-place votes.
You can make a case for the Huskies, Ducks, Wildcats, Trojans and maybe even Sun Devils.
I’m headed down to SF for media day and will have reports Wednesday from the women, where Oregon could be a unanimous favorite, and Thursday from the men’s event.
Here’s my preseason poll with a few thoughts on each team.
1. Washington: After Mike Hopkins was hired to replace Lorenzo Romar, he immediately lost top recruit Michael Porter and inherited a team that went 2-16 the previous year in conference play. Hopkins took the Huskies to a 10-8 mark in the Pac-12 and returns his top seven scorers from last season led by Jaylen Nowell, Noah Dickerson, David Crisp and Matisse Thybulle. Maybe I put too much weight on returnees, but the Huskies should start ahead of the rest of the conference.
2. Oregon: The uncertainty surrounding Louis King is the reason I kept the Ducks out of the top spot. I think Oregon was counting on him to carry a heavy load as a freshman and just not sure at this point how much he will be able to provide this season. Depth is a concern as long as King is out of the lineup.
3. Arizona: Top returning scorer is Dylan Smith, who averaged 4.3 points per game last year. Getting point guard Brandon Williams to re-commit was big for Sean Miller, who also gets Duke transfer Chase Jeter and two graduate transfers to fill some holes.
4. Arizona State: Top three scorers last year were seniors, but Romeo White, De’Quon Lake and Mickey Mitchell are back in the front court with Remy Martin at guard. Kimani Lawrence was a top recruit who battled injuries last year while two high-profile transfers join the mix.
5. USC: Bennie Boatwright was a surprise to return while Jonah Matthews, Nick Rakocevic and Shaqquan Aaron add experience. Duke transfer Derryck Thornton should replace Jordan McLaughlin at the point while a top-20 recruiting class adds depth.
6. UCLA: Kris Wilkes, Jaylen Hands and Prince Ali are the only real veterans in the lineup, but a top recruiting class took a hit when Shareef O’Neal was ruled out for the season due to a heart ailment.
7. Colorado: Four returning starters are led by McKinley Wright IV as the Buffs return nearly two-thirds of their scoring from last season.
8. Oregon State: OSU could have been a contender for the top of the conference if Drew Eubanks returned, but Tres Tinkle, Stephen Thompson Jr. and Ethan Thompson give the Beavs a talented trio.
9. Stanford: Losing Reid Travis as a grad transfer to Kentucky was a killer, but Daejon Davis, KZ Okpala, Isaac White and Oscar Da Silva were all key contributors as freshmen for a team with only one senior.
10. Utah: Sedrick Barefield is the lone returning starter for a team that returns about 30 points per game from last season.
11. Washington State: Ernie Kent was given a nice surprise when Robert Franks returned rather than turning pro, but point guard Malachi Flynn’s decision to transfer after two years left a big hole for the Cougars.
12. California: Three starters are back, but leading scorer Don Coleman transferred to South Alabama.