AP Photo/Timothy J. Gonzalez

Pac-12 all-star team to tour Australia in July

Leave a comment

While the majority of summer tours in college basketball consist of teams making the trek overseas (or to Canada) together, there are all all-star teams put together to represent a conference or some other entity. The Pac-12 has put together an all-star team of sorts in recent years, and on Tuesday they announced the 12-member squad that will visit Australia to play three games in early July.

Two of those games will be played against the Australian men’s national team, which will be preparing for the Summer Olympics to be played in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in August.

The coaching staff will be led by Mike Montgomery, who led the programs at both Stanford and California before retiring in 2014, with former Stanford head coach Trent Johnson and former Stanford players Casey Jacobsen and Brevin Knight serving as his assistants. Ten of the conference’s 12 teams will be represented on the roster, with Oregon (which has some players hoping to reach the Olympics for other countries) and UCLA being the teams without a player making the trip.

Also of note for Oregon is the fact that they’ll be taking a summer trip to Spain in August, so their players are already set up for a busy summer.

Arizona and Oregon State will each have two players on the roster, with Kadeem Allen and Chance Comanche making the trip representing Sean Miller’s program and Drew Eubanks and Stephen Thompson Jr. doing so for Wayne Tinkle’s program. Of the 12 players two earned honorable mention all-conference honors (USC’s Jordan McLaughlin and Washington State’s Josh Hawkinson), and Colorado’s Wesley Gordon was a Pac-12 All-Defensive Team selection.

Below is the full roster, and the team is scheduled to depart for Australia from Los Angeles July 7.

G Kadeem Allen (Arizona)
C Chance Comanche (Arizona)
G Tra Holder (Arizona State)
G Stephen Domingo (California)
F Wesley Gordon (Colorado)
F Drew Eubanks (Oregon State)
F Stephen Thompson Jr. (Oregon State)
G/F Dorian Pickens (Stanford)
G Jordan McLaughlin (USC)
G Lorenzo Bonam (Utah)
F Matisse Thybulle (Washington)
F Josh Hawkinson (Washington State)

Pac-12 Conference Tournament Preview and Postseason Awards

AP Photo/Danny Moloshok
Leave a comment

The expectation entering the season was that there were at least five teams capable of winning the Pac-12. Sure enough many of the expected contenders remained a factor for a significant portion of the season, with Oregon eventually rising as the class of the conference. Dana Altman’s Ducks went undefeated at home in Pac-12 play and finished above .500 on the road, which is generally a good formula to at the very least contend for a conference title. The play of Dillon Brooks, Elgin Cook and company may make Oregon the favorites in Las Vegas, but they’ll have plenty of challengers as well.

Utah has the conference’s Player of the Year in sophomore center Jakob Poeltl, Arizona and California both have talented rotations and teams such as Colorado, Oregon State, USC and Washington are all capable of making a run as well. As of right now the Pac-12 could be a seven-bid league depending upon not only what happens in Las Vegas but also in other conference tournaments across the country. This much is certain: given how balanced and talented the league is, whoever cuts down the nets Saturday night will have been pushed to their limit.

The Bracket

Screen Shot 2016-03-08 at 12.29.16 PM

 

When: March 9-12

Where: MGM Grand Garden Arena, Las Vegas

Final: March 12, 10:00 p.m. (FS1)

Favorite: Oregon

The Ducks may have just a seven-man rotation, but it’s the versatility within that group that makes them so difficult to deal with. Dillon Brooks, Elgin Cook and Dwayne Benjamin are three forwards who can play just about anywhere on the floor. Freshman Tyler Dorsey can play either guard spot, and big man Chris Boucher is a 6-foot-10 senior who can score in the paint and also on the perimeter.

Both Boucher and Jordan Bell run the floor like gazelles and are incredibly active defensively, and point guard Casey Benson’s improved throughout the course of the season. They’ll score points thanks to the talent and Dana Altman’s offensive schemes. But if Oregon can make things happen defensively and get out in transition, they’re an incredibly tough team to beat.

And if they lose?: Utah

Utah’s rise from team that appeared to be headed towards the NCAA tournament bubble to second place in the Pac-12 is due in large part to the development of their perimeter rotation. Brandon Taylor’s embraced the facilitator role down the stretch, and Lorenzo Bonam’s made strides as well. The Runnin’ Utes can surround elite big man Jakob Poeltl with shooters, thus keeping the spacing that ultimately produces quality shots on a regular basis. Utah ranked second in the conference in field goal percentage defense and fourth in three-point percentage defense, and even with the occasional offensive issues they’ve been solid defensively.

Other Contenders:

  • Arizona: The Wildcats are still formidable, even with the end of their streak of two straight Pac-12 regular season titles. Gabe York’s been on fire of late, and with Ryan Anderson and Allonzo Trier leading the way Sean Miller’s team doesn’t lack for talent either.
  • California: The Golden Bears were the team many were waiting for to get going, and down the stretch they did. The return of Tyrone Wallace helped, and they’ve got two of the nation’s top freshmen Jaylen Brown and Ivan Rabb. But they’ve had their issues away from Berkeley, so we’ll see what they can do in Las Vegas.

Sleeper: USC

The Trojans have struggled a bit down the stretch, losing six of their final eight games of the regular season. That being said, USC’s offensive balance and tempo could lend itself to a run in Las Vegas. Jordan McLaughlin and Julian Jacobs make up a very good point guard duo, and the Trojans have capable scoring options both in the front court and on the perimeter (six players averaging double figures). They’ll need to keep the turnovers to a minimum, but Andy Enfield’s team is one to keep an eye on.

The Bubble Dwellers:

  • Colorado: The Buffs are in the field. But a loss to a bad Washington State team could make the wait more nerve-wracking than it should be.
  • Oregon State: The Beavers may have been overlooked by some when it comes to their NCAA tournament hopes. Beat Arizona State, and that should be enough.
  • USC: The Trojans arrive in Las Vegas in solid shape to land a bid. Avoiding a bad loss against UCLA in their tournament opener should be enough to make them feel comfortable.

Pac-12 Player of the Year: Jakob Poeltl, Utah

Poeltl was the preseason pick for the award, and despite Utah’s occasional issues on the perimeter he’s been very consistent for Larry Krystkowiak’s team. In conference play Poeltl averaged 17.3 points and 8.7 rebounds per game, shooting a Pac-12 best 62.4 percent from the field.

Pac-12 Coach of the Year: Dana Altman, Oregon

Three times in the last four seasons Altman’s won this honor, with this most recent award being for leading the Ducks to a regular season Pac-12 title. Oregon navigated injuries early in the season, most notably the loss of the player expected to run the point in Dylan Ennis, and found their groove in conference play when all healthy pieces were back in the fold. And in a season in which road teams had an incredibly hard time picking up wins on a consistent basis, Oregon was one of two teams to sweep two Pac-12 road trips this season (Utah being the other).

First-Team All Pac-12:

  • Jakob Poeltl, Utah(POY)
  • Andrew Andrews, Washington: Andrews has been the unquestioned leader for a very young squad, and in conference games he averaged 22.3 points (first in Pac-12) and 5.1 assists (third) per game.
  • Gary Payton II, Oregon State: Payton’s was named the league’s best defender for a second straight year, and there’s also his versatility. The senior ranked in the top ten in the league in rebounding (ninth), assists (first), steals (first) and assist-to-turnover ratio (third), and 11th in scoring.
  • Dillon Brooks, Oregon: As good as Brooks was as a freshman, he was even better this season. Averaging 17.1 points per game in Pac-12 play, Brooks was a serious contender for Pac-12 Player of the Year.
  • Ryan Anderson, Arizona: In his lone season on the court for Arizona, the Boston College transfer averaged 16.0 points and 10.2 rebounds per contest. He was one of two Pac-12 players to average a double-double in conference play (Washington State’s Josh Hawkinson).

Second Team All Pac-12:

  • Jaylen Brown, California
  • Rosco Allen, Stanford
  • Dejounte Murray, Washington
  • Elgin Cook, Oregon
  • Josh Scott, Colorado

Defining moment of the season: Oregon ends Arizona’s 49-game home win streak

CBT Prediction: Oregon’s the pick here, but it would not be a surprise if any of the top four teams left Vegas with the crown.

Anderson leads No. 23 Arizona to 79-64 win over Cougars

AP Photo/Rick Scuteri
Leave a comment

PULLMAN, Wash. (AP) Ryan Anderson scored a career-high 31 points and grabbed 12 rebounds to lead No. 23 Arizona to a 79-64 victory over Washington State on Wednesday night.

Gabe York added 14 points and Mark Tollefsen had 12 for the Wildcats (18-5, 6-4 Pac-12).

Ike Iroegbu led Washington State (9-13, 1-9) with 20 points. Josh Hawkinson added 14 points and 17 rebounds for the last-place Cougars, who have lost eight straight.

Anderson, a senior transfer from Boston College, was 10 of 16 from the field and 11 of 17 from the free throw line. Anderson helped limit Washington State to 34.9 percent shooting from the field. The Cougars came into the game shooting 47.9 percent.

Arizona led 39-30 at halftime. The Wildcats missed 12 of their first 15 shots before hitting 12 of 19 the remainder of the opening half.

The Wildcats held a 29-28 lead before outscoring the Cougars 10-2 over the final 3:17 of the first half. Tollefsen made two 3-pointers during Arizona’s late run.

Arizona built a 59-42 lead before the Cougars briefly pulled within eight by making an 11-2 run midway through the second half.

TIP-INS

Arizona: Sophomore point guard Parker Jackson-Cartwright made his first college start when regular starter Kadeem Allen became ill. Allen played 7 minutes and fouled out after scoring two points. Standout freshman guard Allonzo Trier missed a seventh game with a hand fracture. The Wildcats hope Trier can play Saturday against Washington in his hometown of Seattle.

Washington State: Wednesday’s loss assured the Cougars of a non-winning record in conference play for the 19th time in 21 years. The stretch began with a 9-9 mark in 1995-96. The current streak of eight non-winning conference seasons includes a 9-9 showing in 2010-11. Washington State has not finished above .500 overall since a six-year run of winning seasons ended in 2011-12.

UP NEXT

Arizona visits Washington on Saturday.

Washington State hosts Arizona State on Saturday.

SUNDAY’S SNACKS: Washington pulls off a stunning comeback

Associated Press
Leave a comment

GAME OF THE DAY: Washington 87, USC 85

With 14:18 remaining in the game, USC led 66-44 and appeared poised to complete a road sweep of the Washington schools on the first weekend of Pac-12 play. Obviously things didn’t go as planned for the Trojans, who without Julian Jacobs (left the game early in the second half with a left foot injury) unraveled against Washington’s defensive pressure.

Dejounte Murray led Washington with 29 points, and an Andrew Andrews layup gave the Huskies an 86-85 lead with 25 seconds remaining. Jacobs, Jordan McLaughlin and Bennie Boatwright scored 15 apiece for the Trojans in defeat, as 12 second-half turnovers opened the door for a Husky comeback.

IMPORTANT OUTCOMES

No. 8 Arizona 94, Arizona State 82: This game turned about halfway through the second half as Gabe York knocked down three huge three-pointers, resulting in the Wildcats winning in Tempe for the first time in three years. Also of note in this one: Arizona State head coach Bobby Hurley was ejected in the game’s final minute.

Ohio State 75, Illinois 73: Marc Loving scored 27 points and grabbed seven rebounds as the Buckeyes held off the shorthanded Fighting Illini in Columbus. The difference came at the foul line, where Ohio State outscored the visitors 28-9. Illinois attempted 32 three-pointers, making 12, but they were unable to make up for the free throw disparity or the fact that Ohio State scored ten more points in the paint (30-20).

Oregon State 70, Oregon 57: Wayne Tinkle’s Beavers controlled the game from start to finish as they beat the rival Ducks in Corvallis. Playing in his first conference game Tres Tinkle led five Beavers in double figures with 19 points to go along with six rebounds. Tinkle and fellow frosh Stephen Thompson Jr. combined to score 29 points off the bench, and defensively Oregon State kept Oregon from getting out in transition. Oregon didn’t score a single fast break point and shot just 35.8 percent from the field.

STARRED

Marshall’s James Kelly: Kelly accounted for 27 points and 11 rebounds in the Thundering Herd’s win over Western Kentucky.

Washington’s Dejounte Murray: The freshman scored 29 points and grabbed five rebounds in a stunning comeback win over USC.

George Washington’s Tyler Cavanaugh: Cavanaugh accounted for 21 points, ten rebounds and three assists in the Colonials’ 69-63 win over Fordham.

STRUGGLED

Hampton’s Akim Mitchell: Mitchell missed all seven of his shots from the field, scoring four points in the Pirates’ 30-point home loss to Princeton.

Bradley’s Ronnie Suggs: He had a hard time against the Wichita State backcourt Sunday afternoon, shooting 2-for-10 from the field and committing three turnovers on the 85-58 defeat.

USC’s Jordan McLaughlin: McLaughlin had a rough go of it in the second half of USC’s loss at Washington, committing seven of their 12 second-half turnovers.

Oregon’s Dwayne Benjamin: Benjamin scored just three points in a loss at Oregon State, shooting 1-for-10 from the field.

THE REST OF THE TOP 25

  • Freshman Donovan Mitchell had his best game as a Cardinal, scoring 18 points and grabbing eight rebounds, as No. 18 Louisville outlasted Wake Forest, 65-57. Chinanu Onuaku (15 rebounds) and Damion Lee added 12 points each, while Devin Thomas and Bryant Crawford scored 14 apiece for the Demon Deacons.
  • No. 21 Utah dropped to 0-2 in Pac-12 play with a 71-58 loss at California. The Golden Bears are now 2-0 in league play, and freshman Ivan Rabb scored 17 of his 19 points in the second half to go along with ten rebounds to lead the way. Cal’s now won eight of their last nine games, so how have they managed to turn things around after a bad trip to Las Vegas during Thanksgiving?
  • Also off to an 0-2 start in Pac-12 play is No. 25 UCLA, which lost 85-78 at Washington State. The Bruins have lost their last three games in Pullman, and Sunday night they allowed the Cougars to shoot 55 percent from the field. Josh Hawkinson (ten rebounds) led five Cougars in double figures with 20 points, with UCLA’s Isaac Hamilton scoring a game-high 27.

OTHER NOTABLE RESULTS

  • James Kelly scored 27 points and grabbed 11 rebounds in Marshall’s 94-76 win over Western Kentucky. The Thundering Herd shot 52.1 percent from the field and forced 19 Hilltopper turnovers.
  • Vermont picked up a nice road win, as they beat Harvard 65-62 at Lavietes Pavilion. Ethan O’Day led the Catamounts with 16 points and Ernie Duncan added 14.
  • Wichita State scored 48 first-half points, beating Bradley 85-58 on the road. Markis McDuffie scored 14 points and grabbed six rebounds, and Fred VanVleet added 13 and five assists.
  • South Dakota State moved to 14-3 on the year with a 63-59 win over Western Illinois. The Jackrabbits shot just 33.3 percent from the field but still managed to win, with George Marshall scoring 18 points, Mike Daum 17 and Deondre Parks 16.
  • In a matchup of two of Conference USA’s better teams, UAB erased a 12-point halftime deficit to beat Middle Tennessee 78-67. Robert Brown and Nick Norton scored 14 apiece to lead the way for the Blazers.
  • Hooper Vint posted a double-double with 20 points and 12 rebounds as UTEP beat North Texas 84-75 in El Paso.
  • Seth Berger and Donte Clark scored 15 points apiece to lead UMass to a 74-67 win at La Salle in the Atlantic 10 opener for both. Jordan Price led all scorers with 23 points, but the Explorers shot 7-for-25 from three.
  • Tyler Cavanaugh scored 21 points and grabbed ten rebounds and Patricio Garino added 12 and nine as George Washington held off Fordham, 69-63.
  • Colorado survived in Palo Alto, beating Stanford 56-55 in a game they led by as many as 16 points. Josh Scott finished with 14 points and 14 rebounds to lead the Buffaloes, with Stanford’s Michael Humphrey leading all scorers with 19 points.

POSTERIZED: USC’s Elijah Stewart catches defender under the rim

Associated Press
Leave a comment

Entering their Pac-12 opener at Washington State tonight, USC was 1-20 in their last 21 conference road games with the lone win coming in Pullman in 2014. Andy Enfield’s Trojans have been the conference’s biggest surprise to this point in the season, having won 11 of their first 13 games, and they’re well on their way to continuing that run on the Palouse.

One of the highlights of the first half: Elijah Stewart making Washington State’s Josh Hawkinson pay dearly for turning the ball over. Stewart picked off the pass just in front of the half-court line and then attacked the basket, dunking on Hawkinson with two hands and getting fouled as well.

This was the first of three straight possessions for USC that ended with a dunk, as they had little trouble finding quality looks against the Cougar defense (they shot nearly 58 percent from the field in the first half).

PAC-12 CONFERENCE RESET: League balance should make for fun race

Associated Press
1 Comment

College basketball’s non-conference season is coming to a close, and to help you shake off post-holiday haze and the hangover of losing in your fantasy football playoffs, we’ll be providing you with some midseason primers to get you caught up on all the nation’s most important conferences.

Today, we’re taking a look at the Pac-12.

PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Jakob Poeltl, Utah

Poeltl made the decision to return to Salt Lake City for his sophomore season, and the strides he’s made in his skill set have been highly impressive. Poeltl’s currently averaging 17.8 points, 9.7 rebounds and 2.2 blocks per contest for the Runnin’ Utes, shooting 71.2 percent from the field. His post moves have more polish, and he’s raised his foul shooting some 20 percentage points from a season ago (64.6 from 44.4 last season).

ALL PAC-12 FIRST TEAM

  • Jakob Poeltl, Utah
  • Gary Payton II, Oregon State
  • Bryce Alford, UCLA
  • Ryan Anderson, Arizona
  • Josh Scott, Colorado

WHAT WE’VE LEARNED

  1. There may not be a dominant team, but the Pac-12 doesn’t lack for depth either: In each of the last two seasons Arizona has been the clear class of the conference, winning the regular season title by three games both years. Sean Miller’s team remains the favorite heading into conference play this week, but the gap is much smaller with multiple teams harboring hopes of grabbing the top spot. Oregon is finally approaching full strength health-wise, Utah has the conference’s best player to this point in Poeltl, and neither UCLA nor California lacks for talent. Add in solid starts from teams such as Colorado, Arizona State and Oregon State, and an early surprise in USC, and there’s a lot to choose from in the Pac-12.
  2. California needed time to figure out its rotation: With the return of Tyrone Wallace and the additions of Jaylen Brown and Ivan Rabb, it was assumed by many that the Golden Bears would simply hit the ground running and take the Pac-12 by storm. But there was the need for a change in the rotation, as Jabari Bird moved into the sixth man role as Kameron Rooks shook off the rust that came from missing all of last season with a torn ACL. While this may not be the “best five” lineup many envisioned for Cal, with Brown playing the four, the pieces seem to fit better with this setup. Heading into conference play on the heels of their most impressive win of the season, Cal is a team to keep an eye on in the Pac-12 race.
  3. UCLA is at its best when their improved big men see consistent touches: With five players averaging double figures, Steve Alford doesn’t lack for scoring options in Westwood. But at times his guards can get a bit shot happy, thus neglecting to get the ball inside, where UCLA has an advantage over most teams. That hasn’t occurred as often this season, and senior Tony Parker and Thomas Welsh have taken advantage. Parker’s (13.8 ppg, 10.3 rpg) raised his scoring average by two points from a season ago but his rebounding average is up by more than three boards per game. Welsh (12.8 ppg, 7.8 rpg) has built upon a summer spent winning gold with the United States U19 team at the FIBA World Championships. When the ball goes inside things tend to open up offensively for the Bruins, who have also received improved play from Isaac Hamilton.

KEY STORY LINES IN LEAGUE PLAY

  1. Can Utah get consistent play from the point guard position: The loss of Delon Wright was expected to be a big one; you don’t lose a player of his caliber and not feel some sort of impact. That being said, the guard play for the Runnin’ Utes has been inconsistent thus far. Junior college transfer Lorenzo Bonam is getting a little more comfortable in Larry Krystkowiak’s system, but there are still some strides to be made if he’s to lead this group to the top of the Pac-12. What’s of even greater importance is that they get Brandon Taylor, who has struggled from a consistency standpoint and is shooting just 35.9 percent from the field, back on track.
  2. Will the Kadeem Allen/Parker Jackson-Cartwright PG tandem hold up for Arizona: To this point in the season the two-headed attack has worked, with the notable exception of their loss to Providence at the DirecTV Wooden Legacy (Kris Dunn’s pretty doggone good). Allen’s been the more productive of the two scoring-wise and as a defender, but Jackson-Cartwright has done a better job of taking care of the basketball. Neither will fully replace T.J. McConnell because of what he gave the Wildcats from a leadership standpoint, but that’s OK given some of Arizona’s veterans at other positions. How well this two-man rotation works will have a major impact on Arizona’s Pac-12 title hopes.
  3. How long with it take Oregon to mesh its pieces together once healthy: The Ducks have been navigating injury issues since the season began, with Jordan Bell and Dylan Ennis missing the most time. Now that Ennis is back in the fold Oregon can begin to evaluate certain lineups in hopes of finding the best possible lineups to put on the floor. Casey Benson’s taken care of the ball at the point in Ennis’ absence, but the former Villanova guard gives the Ducks a point guard capable of either scoring or distributing the basketball.

BETTER THAN THEIR RECORD: UCLA has a 9-4 record, due in part to their lack of consistency. But the Bruins do have a win over Kentucky to their credit, and they’re no shame in losing to the likes of Kansas and North Carolina either. And the losses to Monmouth and Wake Forest aren’t crippling defeats either. Steve Alford’s team gets three of its first five Pac-12 games at home, and the two on the road (the Washington schools this week) are manageable.

BEAT SOMEONE AND WE’LL TALK: California entered this season with expectations of winning the Pac-12, and that goal remains on the table. But a look at their résumé reveals a lack of marquee wins when it comes to the NCAA tournament selection process. The Golden Bears do have home wins over Saint Mary’s and Davidson to their credit, but losing to San Diego State and missing out on a shot at West Virginia hurt, as did blown leads in the second half and overtime that led to their loss at Virginia. They’ll be fine, but their résumé means that Cal’s margin for error is smaller when it comes to getting an at-large bid.

COACH UNDER PRESSURE: This is tough given the head coaching changes made by Pac-12 programs last spring. With that being the case the coach under pressure to get thing done in Pac-12 play may be Lorenzo Romar at Washington, even with the amount of success he’s enjoyed in Seattle. The Huskies haven’t reached the NCAA tournament since 2011, and with a roster loaded with newcomers ending that streak may prove difficult. What helps is the aforementioned roster, and the landing of an elite guard for next season in Markelle Fultz.

POWER RANKINGS, POSTSEASON PREDICTIONS

Tourney teams

  • 1. Arizona: No Kaleb Tarczewski in recent weeks due to an ankle injury, but Dusan Ristic has raised his production with more playing time. Ryan Anderson’s been excellent, and Allonzo Trier’s been a key addition for Sean Miller.
  • 2. Oregon: The Ducks’ issues boil down to one word: injuries. Dylan Ennis is back, giving Dana Altman the full rotation he expected before the season began. Dylan Brooks has improved, and the addition of Chris Boucher has been key for a team that was without Jordan Bell for a significant portion of non-conference play.
  • 3. UCLA: Isaac Hamilton enters conference play on the best stretch of his college career, which is an important development for Steve Alford’s team. The key for the Bruins will be to continue to get Tony Parker and Thomas Welsh paint touches, which in turn opens things up for Hamilton and Bryce Alford.
  • 4. Utah: Poeltl’s been outstanding to this point in the season, but the Runnin’ Utes have to solidify their perimeter rotation. Brandon Taylor’s struggled for much of the season, and Lorenzo Bonam is still working to get fully comfortable in Larry Krystkowiak’s system. Get the guards going, and Utah can be a major player in the league race.
  • 5. California: The Golden Bears may have lost three of the biggest games on their schedule to date (San Diego State, Richmond and Virginia), but that isn’t a reason to give up on Cuonzo Martin’s team. Cal put forth its best performance of the season Monday night in a win over Davidson, and they’ve got a talented roster led by senior guard Tyrone Wallace.

NIT teams

  • 6. Colorado: Tad Boyle’s Buffaloes are off to a good start despite not having the injured Xavier Johnson. Josh Scott’s healthy and playing well in the post, and redshirt sophomore George King’s been the impact player many expected him to be. The combination of talent and Boyle’s coaching chops could push CU even higher up the pecking order.
  • 7. Arizona State: Bobby Hurley was successful in his first season at Buffalo in 2013-14, and he has a group capable of duplicating that. The keys for the Sun Devils: Tra Holder’s continued development, and when leading scorer and rebounder Savon Goodman can return to the floor.
  • 8. Oregon State: The Beavers may be a year away from having expectations of ending their tournament drought, but that does senior guard Gary Payton II no good. And Payton’s good enough to lead Wayne Tinkle’s team, which has some quality freshmen, to the brink.
  • 9. USC: Andy Enfield’s Trojans appeared to be “one year away,” but their performance in non-conference play has raised the team’s confidence. Freshman Chimezie Metu and Bennie Boatwright have been solid contributors, but the biggest key has been a healthy Jordan McLaughlin.

Autobid or bust

  • 10. Stanford: Injuries have been the story for the Cardinal, who lost expected starting point guard Robert Cartwright for the season and Reid Travis being out for the time being as well. Balanced offensively, Johnny Dawkins will need Rosco Allen and Dorian Pickens to be even better than they have been of late.
  • 11. Washington: Young players such as Marquese Chriss have shown promise in non-conference play, but as expected of teams with many newcomers the consistency hasn’t been there. That’s likely to be an issue throughout conference play as well.
  • 12. Washington State: The Cougars have some talented players, most notably one of the Pac-12’s best front court players in junior Josh Hawkinson. But they’re the lone Pac-12 team outside of the top 100 in adjusted defensive efficiency, which could be an issue in conference play.