Pac-12 preview: Oregon, Arizona could be Final Four contenders

Oregon and Arizona—assuming their stars are healthy and eligible—appear to be the two of the top West Coast teams again this year.
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Sports Illustrated’s 2016–17 preview is guided by data from our College Basketball Projection System, a collaboration between economist Dan Hanner and SI’s Luke Winn and Jeremy Fuchs. We project teams on a player-by-player, lineup-based level and then simulate the season 10,000 times to generate our 1–351 national rankings and conference forecasts.

These are the model’s projections for the Pac-12, including individual awards, the teams’ order of finish and (advanced and raw) stats for the top seven players in each school’s rotation.

Find more about how our projection system works here, and read all of our 2016–17 preview content here.

The Big Picture

The Pac-12 hasn’t produced a Final Four team other than UCLA since 2001, and Oregon and Arizona are both candidates to end that drought this season. At the very least, they’ll start ‘16–17 ranked in the top 10, while UCLA and Cal have enough talent to crack the top 25. The league drops off precipitously after that, and there’s a chance it’ll only get four teams in to the 2017 NCAA tournament.

Josh Hart, Grayson Allen lead SI's player of the year projections

Player of the Year: Ivan Rabb, Cal

Rabb projects to average 18.3 points and 9.7 boards—making him the major-conference big man closest to 20-and-10—with a 119.7 offensive rating. He was an efficient role player last season while Jaylen Brown and Jordan Mathews dominated the offense, and there’s a chance Cal’s scoring attack could be better off with Rabb as its centerpiece. He’s hardly a lock for Pac-12 POY, though: Oregon’s Dillon Brooks, if he’s not slowed by a foot injury, will provide stiff competition, as will the guy who’s projected to win the next award. . . .

Newcomer of the Year: Markelle Fultz, Washington

Fultz averaged a stunning 21.8 points, 6.3 rebounds and 4.8 assists on the Huskies’ exhibition tour of Australia in August, and we project his freshman-year stat line to be in that range: 18.2 points, 6.0 rebounds, and 5.2 assists. Washington’s fast pace will inflate his numbers a bit, but Fultz is also a transcendent talent who’s the favorite to go No. 1 overall in the 2017 NBA draft. The biggest thing holding him back in awards races is the fact that the Huskies aren’t likely to be an NCAA tournament team.

All-Conference Team & Sixth Man

PG: Markelle Fultz, Washington
SG: Allonzo Trier, Arizonar
SF: Dillon Brooks, Oregon
PF: Chris Boucher, Oregon
PF: Ivan Rabb, Cal

6th man: SG: Isaac Hamilton, UCLA

Washington's Markelle Fultz, Duke's Jayson Tatum lead top projected freshmen scorers

Projected Order of Finish

(Projected conference record in parentheses. The tiebreaker for teams with identical records is their standing in SI’s 1–351 national rankings, which will be revealed in early November.)

Conference Rank

Team

Proj. Conf. Record

’15-16 Conf. Record

1

Oregon

14–4

14–4

2

Arizona

13–5

12–6

3

UCLA

11–7

6–12

4

California

11–7

12–6

5

USC

9–9

9–9

6

Utah

9–9

13–5

7

Colorado

8–10

10–8

8

Washington

8–10

9–9

9

Oregon State

7–11

9–9

10

Stanford

7–11

8–10

11

Arizona State

7–11

5–13

12

Washington State

4–14

1–17

The Skinny on Each Team

1. Oregon (14–4)

As long as Brooks is healthy, this Oregon team should be even stronger than the one that went 31–7 and reached the Elite Eight last season. There’s quality depth at point guard, with Villanova transfer Dylan Ennis and last year’s starter, Casey Benson, likely to share the position. Beanpole big man Chris Boucher, who was by far the nation’s best juco transfer last season, is so efficient as a floor-spacing and floor-running scorer and so valuable as a rim protector that he could join Brooks on the All-Pac-12 team.

Name

Class

Pos.

PPG

RPG

APG

ORtg

Volume

Mins

Dillon Brooks

Jr

SF

17.2

5.7

2.9

117.0

26%

82%

Tyler Dorsey

So

SG

12.9

3.9

1.9

117.6

21%

70%

Chris Boucher

Sr

PF

12.5

7.0

0.6

129.1

20%

66%

Dylan Ennis

Sr

PG

9.8

3.0

2.7

113.6

21%

65%

Jordan Bell

Jr

PF

8.3

5.8

1.4

114.1

19%

57%

Kavell Bigby-Williams

Jr

PF

6.9

4.3

0.5

107.6

20%

43%

Casey Benson

Jr

PG

5.7

2.2

2.7

126.1

12%

60%

2. Arizona (13–5)

This projection is based on a full-strength Wildcats team, but there have been rumors—fueled by his recent removal from a scheduled appearance at Pac-12 media day—that sophomore guard Allonzo Trier’s eligibility is in question. If he’s available, he’s their clear offensive leader and a darkhorse All-America candidate. If Trier is out, SI would drop Arizona to 12–6 in the league, and project talented freshmen Rawle Alkins and Lauri Markkanen to be 1–2 on the team in scoring.

Name

Class

Pos.

PPG

RPG

APG

ORtg

Volume

Mins

Allonzo Trier

So

SG

17.3

4.4

1.6

116.6

23%

80%

Lauri Markkanen

Fr

PF

9.8

6.0

0.8

109.8

21%

60%

Dusan Ristic

Jr

C

9.6

5.6

0.9

113.3

21%

55%

Rawle Alkins

Fr

GF

8.5

3.8

1.2

105.5

19%

58%

Kadeem Allen

Sr

PG

7.8

3.0

3.1

106.8

20%

58%

Ray Smith

Fr

SF

7.1

3.4

0.9

110.5

20%

44%

Parker Jackson-Cartwright

Jr

PG

6.2

2.0

3.6

116.2

17%

54%

3. UCLA (11–7)

This could be the most entertaining team in the Pac-12, even if it’s not the best. Freshman Lonzo Ball is a playmaker extraordinaire who should make things easier for scoring guards Isaac Hamilton and Bryce Alford, and by swapping the more agile T.J. Leaf into the starting lineup in place of departed giant Tony Parker, the Bruins are expected to play at a higher tempo.

Name

Class

Pos.

PPG

RPG

APG

ORtg

Volume

Mins

Isaac Hamilton

Sr

SG

16.5

4.5

3.3

115.4

22%

85%

Bryce Alford

Sr

PG/SG

14.7

3.5

4.5

116.5

22%

80%

Lonzo Ball

Fr

PG

13.8

6.0

4.6

116.9

22%

77%

Thomas Welsh

Jr

C

11.8

8.8

0.7

126.5

17%

70%

T.J. Leaf

Fr

PF

10.5

6.9

0.9

111.5

20%

63%

Aaron Holiday

So

PG/SG

8.0

2.3

2.4

105.6

20%

56%

Ike Anigbogu

Fr

C

3.7

2.7

0.3

107.1

18%

25%

4. California (11–7)

Grant Mullins could be one of the nation’s most valuable graduate transfers. He left Columbia, where he was an efficient, pass-first point guard and 44.1% long-range shooter, to help fill the role vacated by Tyrone Wallace’s graduation. Cal’s interior defense is its biggest strength, as a front line of the 6' 11" Rabb, 7-foot Kameron Rooks and 7' 1" Kingsley Okoroh should provide plenty of rim protection.

Name

Class

Pos.

PPG

RPG

APG

ORtg

Volume

Mins

Ivan Rabb

So

PF

18.3

9.7

1.1

119.7

26%

83%

Jabari Bird

Sr

SG

16.1

4.6

1.6

118.8

22%

79%

Grant Mullins

Sr

PG

10.8

3.1

2.7

111.7

22%

63%

Charlie Moore

Fr

PG

6.7

0.6

2.4

104.7

21%

46%

Kameron Rooks

Jr

C

5.7

5.9

0.6

116.3

16%

53%

Don Coleman

So

PG

5.4

2.3

1.6

99.9

20%

41%

Sam Singer

Sr

PG

4.5

2.5

2.6

99.4

18%

47%

5. USC (9–9)

The Trojans went 9–9 in the Pac-12 last year and made the NCAA tournament on the strength of some quality, nonconference wins; we see them finishing the same league record this time around, but on the outside of the tourney bubble. That could change if big men Bennie Boatwright and Chimezie Metu make bigger-than-expected impacts as in expanded roles as sophomores.

Name

Class

Pos.

PPG

RPG

APG

ORtg

Volume

Mins

Jordan McLaughlin

Jr

PG

15.8

4.2

5.2

115.2

23%

88%

Elijah Stewart

Jr

SG

13.3

5.0

1.5

116.7

18%

81%

Bennie Boatwright

So

PF

12.4

6.1

1.0

110.4

23%

63%

Chimezie Metu

So

PF

9.5

5.7

0.8

108.6

21%

59%

Shaqquan Aaron

So

SG

7.6

4.4

0.8

97.1

21%

54%

Jonah Mathews

Fr

SG

7.2

1.0

0.8

105.6

19%

47%

De'Anthony Melton

Fr

SG

5.1

1.9

0.8

103.6

16%

42%

kyle-kuzma-utah-1300-pac-12-preview.jpg

6. Utah (9–9)

It’s Kyle Kuzma’s time to become Utah’s offensive leader: The 6' 9" junior spent his first two seasons complementing eventual first-round draft picks Jakob Poeltl and Delon Wright, but he’s ready to score at a higher level. The Utes are getting an impact transfer in forward David Collette, who was Utah State’s most effective scorer two seasons ago and is capable of translating that performance to the Pac-12 when he gets eligible in December.

Name

Class

Pos.

PPG

RPG

APG

ORtg

Volume

Mins

Kyle Kuzma

Jr

PF

14.6

7.7

2.0

107.6

25%

78%

Lorenzo Bonam

Sr

PG/SG

13.9

4.4

3.9

115.1

21%

86%

David Collette

Jr

PF

10.4

5.1

0.7

112.1

22%

33%

JoJo Zamora

Jr

SG

8.2

3.1

1.5

101.6

19%

61%

Tyler Rawson

Jr

PF

7.5

5.1

0.7

103.1

21%

50%

Gabe Bealer

Sr

SG/SF

6.6

3.2

0.7

106.5

20%

44%

Jayce Johnson

Fr

PF/C

6.0

4.1

0.5

103.7

18%

46%

7. Colorado (8–10)

Our projection model did not see George King coming last season. The 6' 6" wing had an awful freshman season in ‘13–14, voluntarily took the following year off as a redshirt . . . and remade himself into an elite three-point shooter and the Buffaloes’ best perimeter scorer. He’s likely to lead them in points per game now that Josh Scott has moved on to the pros.

Name

Class

Pos.

PPG

RPG

APG

ORtg

Volume

Mins

George King

Jr

SG/SF

14.7

5.8

1.0

109.3

24%

70%

Xavier Johnson

Sr

SF

13.6

6.1

1.0

109.9

23%

71%

Josh Fortune

Sr

SG

11.0

4.1

2.3

103.8

22%

65%

Wesley Gordon

Sr

PF

8.1

8.2

1.6

115.1

16%

74%

Dominique Collier

Jr

PG

7.7

2.2

2.5

104.8

19%

56%

Derrick White

Sr

SG

7.6

3.7

1.2

104.5

19%

52%

Tory Miller

Jr

PF/C

6.2

4.8

0.3

104.7

20%

43%

8. Washington (8–10)

Fultz can’t do everything on offense for the Huskies, and sophomore wing Dominic Green might be the breakout scorer they need to complement their blue-chip freshman. Green got off to a slow start at Washington in ‘15–16, and was mostly buried on the bench of for the first few months, but he averaged 10.3 points on their tour of Australia and should earn enough minutes to get close to double-digits this season.

Name

Class

Pos.

PPG

RPG

APG

ORtg

Volume

Mins

Markelle Fultz

Fr

PG/SG

18.2

6.0

5.2

114.6

27%

81%

David Crisp

So

PG/SG

10.4

2.7

2.4

103.0

20%

67%

Dominic Green

So

SF

9.7

3.6

0.7

102.8

21%

55%

Noah Dickerson

So

PF

9.7

5.6

0.5

105.1

20%

60%

Malik Dime

Sr

PF

9.3

6.2

0.4

123.4

16%

62%

Matisse Thybulle

So

SF

7.8

3.5

1.5

108.1

16%

61%

Matthew Atewe

Jr

PF

6.1

4.7

0.5

97.7

17%

47%

9. Oregon State (7–11)

With ball-dominating guard Gary Payton II now competing for a roster spot with the Rockets, Stevie Thompson is set for a huge scoring increase from the 10.6 ppg he averaged as a freshman. The 6' 4" sophomore guard is a rising star and could be a multi-year all-conference performer for the Beavers.

Name

Class

Pos.

PPG

RPG

APG

ORtg

Volume

Mins

Stevie Thompson

So

SG

17.3

3.5

1.7

110.9

24%

86%

Tres Tinkle

So

SF

15.9

6.2

1.5

114.0

23%

83%

Drew Eubanks

So

PF

10.7

5.9

0.7

111.0

19%

69%

JaQuori McLaughlin

Fr

PG

7.0

3.0

2.5

103.6

19%

55%

Keondre Dew

Jr

SF

6.5

4.1

0.8

89.4

20%

50%

Ronnie Stacy

Jr

PG

6.5

2.8

1.9

101.5

20%

49%

Ben Kone

Fr

PF

4.9

3.3

0.4

99.4

18%

38%

10. Stanford (7–11)

Jerrod Haase left UAB to take over a Cardinal team that was anemic on offense in ‘15–16, but has a lot of yet-to-be-maximized talent. There are five former top-100 RSCI recruits on the roster, including power forward Reid Travis, who only played eight games last season due to a stress reaction in his left leg. When fully healthy, he’s their best rebounder and best overall player.

Name

Class

Pos.

PPG

RPG

APG

ORtg

Volume

Mins

Reid Travis

Jr

PF

13.1

7.1

0.8

103.2

23%

75%

Dorian Pickens

Jr

SG/SF

13.0

3.9

2.0

113.3

22%

72%

Michael Humphrey

Jr

PF

12.3

6.8

1.0

106.9

24%

64%

Marcus Allen

Sr

SG

11.0

3.7

1.7

105.9

21%

68%

Marcus Sheffield

So

SG /SF

7.5

2.8

1.0

101.0

23%

45%

Robert Cartwright

So

PG

6.0

2.7

2.0

107.3

15%

57%

Josh Sharma

So

C

3.8

3.0

0.3

103.3

16%

31%

11. Arizona State (7–11)

How valuable is junior point guard Shannon Evans to coach Bobby Hurley? Two seasons ago, Evans led Hurley’s Buffalo team to the NCAA tournament and helped the coach land the Arizona State job. Evans then transferred to ASU, where he projects to start in their backcourt and be their second-leading scorer.

Name

Class

Pos.

PPG

RPG

APG

ORtg

Volume

Mins

Tra Holder

Jr

PG

14.3

3.3

3.9

104.7

25%

79%

Shannon Evans

Jr

PG

12.1

3.0

3.4

109.9

20%

78%

Obinna Oleka

Sr

SF/PF

10.2

6.0

1.0

104.3

21%

65%

Sam Cunliffe

Fr

SG

8.3

3.5

1.5

106.5

19%

57%

Torian Graham

Sr

SG

7.7

3.2

1.2

108.7

20%

50%

Jethro Tshisumpa

Fr

C

7.4

4.9

0.6

103.8

18%

55%

Kodi Justice

Jr

SG

7.0

2.4

2.1

110.7

18%

51%

12. Washington State (4–14)

The Cougars went 1–17 in the Pac-12 last year, so this is an improvement, but the overall outlook is bleak. There just isn’t enough talent around 6' 10" power forward Josh Hawkinson, who projects to average a double-double for the second straight season, for them to get out of the cellar.

Name

Class

Pos.

PPG

RPG

APG

ORtg

Volume

Mins

Josh Hawkinson

Sr

PF

15.4

10.8

1.5

114.5

22%

82%

Ike Iroegbu

Sr

PG

13.1

3.3

3.8

104.3

24%

77%

Conor Clifford

Sr

C

8.6

3.5

0.5

107.3

21%

47%

Charles Callison

Sr

PG

8.1

1.9

3.0

99.7

20%

63%

Derrien King

Jr

SF

6.4

3.1

1.0

96.3

19%

49%

Milan Acquaah

Fr

PG

6.0

0.8

1.8

99.0

18%

49%

K.J. Langston

So

SG

5.8

2.4

1.0

100.0

19%

42%