Looking Forward: Catching up on the Pac-12’s offseason

It’s been a fruitful offseason for Cal (AP Photo)

With the early entry process over and with just about every elite recruit having picked a school, we now have a pretty good idea of what college basketball will look like in 2015-16. Over the next three weeks, we’ll be taking an early look at next season.

Yesterday we took a look at the ACC and the Big 12. Today, we’ll look at the Pac-12.

READ MOREThe NBCSports.com preseason top 25 | Coaches on the hot seat


1. California gets hot on the recruiting trail – and may not be done yet either: This has been the biggest change for the Pac-12, which over the last two seasons has been dominated by Arizona. California’s managed to reel in two of the best recruits in the country in power forward Ivan Rabb and small forward Jaylen Brown, with wing Tyson Jolly completing what would be a really good triumvirate. But Cuonzo Martin and his staff aren’t done, as former Michigan State commit Caleb Swanigan still has Cal on his list. The infusion of talent, along with the return of a perimeter trio led by Tyrone Wallace, should make Cal a player both within the Pac-12 and nationally.

2. Significant roster turnover in Seattle ahead of what will be a big year for Lorenzo Romar: When you haven’t been to the NCAA tournament since 2011, the fan base tends to get a bit frustrated. That’s the case in Seattle, and the Huskies’ many roster changes haven’t helped matters. While Romar and his staff did put together a highly regarded recruiting class led by Dejounte Murray, there won’t be many experienced options around to show them the ropes in 2015-16. Among the departures was point guard Nigel Williams-Goss, a two-year starter who transferred to Gonzaga. Given the NCAA tournament drought this is a big year for Washington, and they’ll need the newcomers to grow up in a hurry.

3. Arizona State looking for a boost as Bobby Hurley takes over: There was just one head coaching change in the Pac-12 this spring, as Arizona State athletic director Ray Anderson replaced Herb Sendek with former Buffalo head coach Bobby Hurley. The Sun Devils retain most of their rotation from last season’s 18-16 squad, and they add a talented guard in junior college transfer Andre Spight. Hurley won’t be working with a bare cupboard, and his experience leading Buffalo to 19 wins in his first season there (2013-14) could come in handy when it comes to working with this group.

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  • Jaylen Brown and Ivan Rabb, California: They’re the two highest rated prospects joining the Pac-12, and they’ll be key players for a Golden Bear squad looking to make a splash nationally. Brown provides versatility on both ends of the floor for Cal, as he can play on or off the ball and has the size and athleticism to play multiple spots defensively as well. As for Rabb, he’s at his best playing a power forward role and has the skill set needed to be one of the Pac-12’s best interior players immediately.
  • Allonzo Trier and Ryan Anderson, Arizona: A case can be made for Trier being the best scorer in the Class of 2015, as he can score from all three levels (three-point, mid-range and in the paint). He’ll be a valuable asset for an Arizona team that has to account for the loss of four starters from a team that won 34 games last season. As for Anderson, this is his lone season to play after spending three at Boston College. He’ll slide into the role left open by the departure of Brandon Ashley alongside senior center Kaleb Tarczewski.
  • Dylan Ennis, Oregon: With Joseph Young out of eligibility the Ducks were going to be young on the perimeter, with Casey Benson and Ahmaad Rorie being the most experienced players as sophomores. Then they managed to land Ennis, who arrives as a graduate student after playing one year at Rice and the last two at Villanova. He can be a distributor or scorer for Oregon, and that versatility will be key for the Ducks as they look to make a run at a Pac-12 title.


  • Nigel Williams-Goss, Washington: Arizona losing three starters with eligibility remaining to the NBA Draft was pretty much expected. What wasn’t expected was Washington losing its starting point guard in Williams-Goss, who transferred to Gonzaga after averaging 15.6 points, 4.7 rebounds and 5.9 assists per game last season. Without him Andrew Andrews and incoming freshman David Crisp will handle the primary ball-handling duties.

PRESEASON ALL-CONFERENCE PREDICTIONS (the conference annually picks ten players; we can’t do that)

  • Tyrone Wallace, California (Player of the Year)
  • Gary Payton II, Oregon State
  • Allonzo Trier, Arizona
  • Ivan Rabb, California
  • Jakob Poeltl, Utah


1. Arizona: The combination of some experienced returnees, a very good freshman class and impact transfers makes Arizona the team to beat.

2. California: Cal will definitely be talented, with the freshmen joining Ty Wallace and company, but how will they deal with the increased expectations?

3. Utah: Jakob Poeltl’s decision to return to school is a big deal for the Runnin’ Utes, who lost Delon Wright from last year’s Sweet 16 team.

4. Oregon: No more Joseph Young, but the addition of Dylan Ennis gives Dana Altman valuable experience and Elgin Cook could be a league POY candidate.

5. UCLA: The Bruins lost some key pieces, but the return of Bryce Alford and Isaac Hamilton and the additions of Jonah Bolden and Aaron Holiday will help matters.

6. Oregon State: The Beavers surprised in Wayne Tinkle’s debut as head coach, and they’ll have improved depth thanks to a solid freshman class.

7. Arizona State: A new era begins in Tempe, but the return of some key pieces including point guard Tra Holder should benefit Bobby Hurley.

8. Stanford: The Cardinal will be much younger than they were a season ago, but options such as Reid Travis and Rosco Allen return to Palo Alto.

9. Colorado: Looking to rebound from a disappointing 2014-15, with vets Xavier Johnson and Josh Scott and sophomore PG Dominique Collier being key players.

10. Washington: The lack of experience means that the newcomers need to hit the ground running for the Huskies, who haven’t danced since 2011.

11. USC: Bennie Boatwright and Chimezie Metu certainly help matters, but the Trojans need Jordan McLaughlin to remain healthy as well.

12. Washington State: The league’s most improved player in Josh Hawkinson returns, but losing DaVonté Lacy is a big deal.

Biden celebrates LSU women’s and UConn men’s basketball teams at separate White House events


WASHINGTON – All of the past drama and sore feelings associated with Louisiana State’s invitation to the White House were seemingly forgotten or set aside Friday as President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden welcomed the championship women’s basketball team to the mansion with smiles, hugs and lavish praise all around.

The visit had once appeared in jeopardy after Jill Biden suggested that the losing Iowa team be invited, too. But none of that was mentioned as both Bidens heralded the players for their performance and the way they have helped advance women’s sports.

“Folks, we witnessed history,” the president said. “In this team, we saw hope, we saw pride and we saw purpose. It matters.”

The ceremony was halted for about 10 minutes after forward Sa’Myah Smith appeared to collapse as she and her teammates stood behind Biden. A wheelchair was brought in and coach Kim Mulkey assured the audience that Smith was fine.

LSU said in a statement that Smith felt overheated, nauseous and thought she might faint. She was evaluated by LSU and White House medical staff and was later able to rejoin the team. “She is feeling well, in good spirits, and will undergo further evaluation once back in Baton Rouge,” the LSU statement said.

Since the passage of Title IX in 1972, Biden said, more than half of all college students are women, and there are now 10 times more female athletes in college and high school. He said most sports stories are still about men, and that that needs to change.

Title IX prohibits discrimination based on sex in federally funded education programs and activities.

“Folks, we need to support women sports, not just during the championship run but during the entire year,” President Biden said.

After the Tigers beat Iowa for the NCAA title in April in a game the first lady attended, she caused an uproar by suggesting that the Hawkeyes also come to the White House.

LSU star Angel Reese called the idea “A JOKE” and said she would prefer to visit with former President Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, instead. The LSU team largely is Black, while Iowa’s top player, Caitlin Clark, is white, as are most of her teammates.

Nothing came of Jill Biden’s idea and the White House only invited the Tigers. Reese ultimately said she would not skip the White House visit. She and co-captain Emily Ward presented team jerseys bearing the number “46” to Biden and the first lady. Hugs were exchanged.

Jill Biden also lavished praise on the team, saying the players showed “what it means to be a champion.”

“In this room, I see the absolute best of the best,” she said, adding that watching them play was “pure magic.”

“Every basket was pure joy and I kept thinking about how far women’s sports have come,” the first lady added, noting that she grew up before Title IX was passed. “We’ve made so much progress and we still have so much more work to do.”

The president added that “the way in which women’s sports has come along is just incredible. It’s really neat to see, since I’ve got four granddaughters.”

After Smith was helped to a wheelchair, Mulkey told the audience the player was OK.

“As you can see, we leave our mark where we go,” Mulkey joked. “Sa’Myah is fine. She’s kind of, right now, embarrassed.”

A few members of Congress and Biden aides past and present with Louisiana roots dropped what they were doing to attend the East Room event, including White House budget director Shalanda Young. Young is in the thick of negotiations with House Republicans to reach a deal by the middle of next week to stave off what would be a globally calamitous U.S. financial default if the U.S. can no longer borrow the money it needs to pay its bills.

The president, who wore a necktie in the shade of LSU’s purple, said Young, who grew up in Baton Rouge, told him, “I’m leaving the talks to be here.” Rep. Garret Graves, one of the House GOP negotiators, also attended.

Biden closed sports Friday by changing to a blue tie and welcoming the UConn’s men’s championship team for its own celebration. The Huskies won their fifth national title by defeating San Diego State, 76-59, in April.

“Congratulations to the whole UConn nation,” he said.

Marquette’s Prosper says he will stay in draft rather than returning to school

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

MILWAUKEE — Olivier-Maxence Prosper announced he is keeping his name under NBA draft consideration rather than returning to Marquette.

The 6-foot-8 forward announced his decision.

“Thank you Marquette nation, my coaches, my teammates and support staff for embracing me from day one,” Prosper said in an Instagram post. “My time at Marquette has been incredible. With that being said, I will remain in the 2023 NBA Draft. I’m excited for what comes next. On to the next chapter…”

Prosper had announced last month he was entering the draft. He still could have returned to school and maintained his college eligibility by withdrawing from the draft by May 31. Prosper’s announcement indicates he instead is going ahead with his plans to turn pro.

Prosper averaged 12.5 points and 4.7 rebounds last season while helping Marquette go 29-7 and win the Big East’s regular-season and tournament titles. Marquette’s season ended with a 69-60 loss to Michigan State in the NCAA Tournament’s round of 32.

He played two seasons at Marquette after transferring from Clemson, where he spent one season.

Kansas’ Kevin McCullar Jr. returning for last season of eligibility

kansas mccullar
Jeffrey Becker/USA TODAY Sports

Kevin McCullar Jr. said that he will return to Kansas for his final year of eligibility, likely rounding out a roster that could make the Jayhawks the preseason No. 1 next season.

McCullar transferred from Texas Tech to Kansas for last season, when he started 33 of 34 games and averaged 10.7 points and 7.0 rebounds. He was also among the nation’s leaders in steals, and along with being selected to the Big 12’s all-defensive team, the 6-foot-6 forward was a semifinalist for the Naismith Defensive Player of the Year award.

“To be able to play in front of the best fans in the country; to play for the best coach in the nation, I truly believe we have the pieces to hang another banner in the Phog,” McCullar said in announcing his return.

Along with McCullar, the Jayhawks return starters Dajuan Harris Jr. and K.J. Adams from a team that went 28–8, won the Big 12 regular-season title and was a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, where it lost to Arkansas in the second round.

Perhaps more importantly, the Jayhawks landed Michigan transfer Hunter Dickinson, widely considered the best player in the portal, to anchor a lineup that was missing a true big man. They also grabbed former five-star prospect Arterio Morris, who left Texas, and Towson’s Nick Timberlake, who emerged last season as one of the best 3-point shooters in the country.

The Jayhawks also have an elite recruiting class arriving that is headlined by five-star recruit Elmarko Jackson.

McCullar declared for the draft but, after getting feedback from scouts, decided to return. He was a redshirt senior last season, but he has another year of eligibility because part of his career was played during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This is a big day for Kansas basketball,” Jayhawks coach Bill Self said. “Kevin is not only a terrific player but a terrific teammate. He fit in so well in year one and we’re excited about what he’ll do with our program from a leadership standpoint.”

Clemson leading scorer Hall withdraws from NBA draft, returns to Tigers

clemson pj hall
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CLEMSON, S.C. — Clemson leading scorer PJ Hall is returning to college after withdrawing from the NBA draft on Thursday.

The 6-foot-10 forward took part in the NBA combine and posted his decision to put off the pros on social media.

Hall led the Tigers with 15.3 points per game this past season. He also led the Tigers with 37 blocks, along with 5.7 rebounds. Hall helped Clemson finish third in the Atlantic Coast Conference while posting a program-record 14 league wins.

Clemson coach Brad Brownell said Hall gained experience from going through the NBA’s combine that will help the team next season. “I’m counting on him and others to help lead a very talented group,” he said.

Hall was named to the all-ACC third team last season as the Tigers went 23-10.

George Washington adopts new name ‘Revolutionaries’ to replace ‘Colonials’

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WASHINGTON — George Washington University’s sports teams will now be known as the Revolutionaries, the school announced.

Revolutionaries replaces Colonials, which had been GW’s name since 1926. Officials made the decision last year to drop the old name after determining it no longer unified the community.

GW said 8,000 different names were suggested and 47,000 points of feedback made during the 12-month process. Revolutionaries won out over the other final choices of Ambassadors, Blue Fog and Sentinels.

“I am very grateful for the active engagement of our community throughout the development of the new moniker,” president Mark S. Wrighton said. “This process was truly driven by our students, faculty, staff and alumni, and the result is a moniker that broadly reflects our community – and our distinguished and distinguishable GW spirit.”

George the mascot will stay and a new logo developed soon for the Revolutionaries name that takes effect for the 2023-24 school year. The university is part of the Atlantic 10 Conference.