Skip to main content

Pac-12 Basketball Preview: UCLA Is NOT Our Favorite to Win the Title

The 20-game conference schedule begins in earnest Wednesday and Thursday

Pac-12 play in men’s basketball begins in earnest Wednesday, and we dare to challenge the assumption that UCLA is the favorite.

Transfers and early departures to the NBA have scrambled nearly every Pac-12 team except UCLA, which returns every important piece from the team that reached last season’s Final Four, where it lost to Gonzaga in a thriller.

A lot of questions surround the conference’s other teams because coaches are trying to fit new, albeit talented, personnel into their systems.

Only one Pac-12 game – Colorado’s victory over Stanford – has been played so far, but the fact that Pac-12 teams are playing 20 conference games has forced a few games to be played in early December before Pac-12 play restarts in January.

We provide an outline of what each Pac-12 team has done so far, presenting the teams in predicted order of finish:

.

1. Oregon

Coach: Dana Altman

Record: 4-3 (0-0 Pac-12)

Next Pac-12 game: Arizona State, Sunday, Dec. 5

Last season’s record: 21-7 (14-4 Pac-12), lost to USC in NCAA tournament Sweet 16

Current AP ranking: Not ranked

Preseason poll predicted finish: 2nd

Best win this season: SMU

Worst loss this season: Saint Mary’s

Top Returners (with 2021-22 stats):

Will Richardson (10.6 points)

Eric Williams Jr. (11.7 points, 5.3 rebounds)

N’Faly Dante (6.4 points)

Top newcomers (with 2021-22 stats)

Jacob Young, transfer from Rutgers (10.4 points)

De’Vion Harmon, transfer from Oklahoma (8.6 points)

Quincy Guerrier, transfer from Syracuse (6.5 points)

Rivaldo Soares, transfer from South Plaines (Junior) College (5.6 points)

Top players lost from 2020-21 (with last season’s stats)

Eugene Omoruyi, with NBA’s Dallas Mavericks (17.1 points)

Chris Duarte, with NBA’s Indiana Pacers (17.1 points)

LJ Figueroa, with G League Santa Cruz Warriors (12.3 points, 6.1 rebounds)

Comment: Yes, picking a team with three losses seems insane. But the Ducks have played a difficult nonconference schedule and they have been trying to integrate a lot of new pieces while trying to replace players now in the NBA. But no Pac-12 team benefited more from the transfer portal than Oregon, and Dana Altman always seems to get his players playing their best basketball in February and March.

.

2. UCLA

Coach: Mick Cronin

Record: 6-1 (0-0 Pac-12)

Next Pac-12 game: Colorado, Wednesday, Dec. 1

Last season’s record: 22-10 (13-6 Pac-12), lost to Gonzaga in NCAA tournament semifinals

Current AP ranking: 5

Preseason poll predicted finish: 1st

Best win this season: Villanova

Worst loss this season: Gonzaga

Top Returners (with 2021-22 stats):

Johnny Juzang (17.4 points)

Jaime Jaquez Jr. (15.6 points, 6.7 rebounds)

Jules Bernard (14.6 points)

Tyger Campbell (11.4 points)

Cody Riley (injured 4 minutes into first game and has not played since)

Top newcomers (with 2021-22 stats):

Peyton Watson, freshman (14.9 points)

Myles Johnson, transfer from Rutgers (4.6 points, 13 blocks)

Top players lost from 2020-21 (with last season’s stats)

None

Comment: This team is already a finished product, so the room for improvement is limited. All five starters from last season's Final Four team are back, although Cody Riley has missed the past six games with a knee injury. He is expected back soon. We tend to forget that this team only finished fourth in the Pac-12 last season, losing six conference games. I would not be shocked if UCLA finishes third or fourth this season.

.

3. USC

Coach: Andy Enfield

Record: 6-0

Next Pac-12 game: Utah, Wednesday, Dec. 1

Last season’s record: 25-8 (15-5 Pac-12), lost to Gonzaga in NCAA tournament Elite Eight

Current AP ranking: 20

Preseason poll predicted finish: 3rd

Best win this season: San Diego State

Worst loss this season: None

Top Returners (with 2021-22 stats):

Chevez Goodwin (13.2 points, 7.5 rebounds)

Isaiah Mosley (12.2 points, 9.2 points)

Drew Peterson (9.2 points)

Ethan Anderson (7.2 points)

Top newcomers (with 2021-22 stats):

Boogie Ellis, transfer from Memphis (14.5 points)

Top players lost from 2020-21 (with last season’s stats)

Evan Mobley, with NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers (16.4 points, 8.7 rebounds, 2.9 blocks)

Tahj Eaddy, attempted pro career (13.6 points)

Comment: Boogie Ellis is having a bigger impact than expected, but the loss of the Pac-12 player of the year (Evan Mobley) will be difficult to overcome. He made up for so many shortcomings elsewhere. Chevez Goodwin has gone from a role player to major contributor this season.

.

4. Arizona

Coach: Tommy Lloyd

Record: 6-0 (0-0 Pac-12)

Next Pac-12 game: Washington, Thursday, Dec. 2

Last season’s record: 17-9 (11-9 Pac-12)

Current AP ranking: 11

Preseason poll predicted 2021-22 finish: tied for 4th

Best win this season: Michigan

Worst loss this season: None

Top Returners (with 2021-22 stats):

Azoulas Tunelis (16.5 points, 6.5 rebounds)

Christian Koloko (16.2 points, 7.5 rebounds)

Bennedict Mathurin (13.8 points, 6.2 rebounds)

Kerr Kriisa (10.0 points)

Top newcomers (with 2021-22 stats):

Omar Ballo, transfer from Gonzaga (7.0 points, 6.0 rebounds)

Justin Kier, transfer from Georgia (7.7 points)

Pelle Larsson , transfer from Utah (6.3 point)

Top players lost from 2020-21 (with last season’s stats)

James Akinjo, transfer to Baylor (15.6 points)

Jermarl Baker, transfer to Fresno State (12.0 points)

Jordan Brown, transfer to Louisiana (9.4 points)

Terrell Brown Jr., transfer to Washington (7.3 points)

Comment: First-year coach Tommy Lloyd is off to an impressive start and is getting better-than-expected play from Christian Koloko, who averaged 5.3 points last season. The loss of James Akinjo does not seem to be affecting the Wildcats in their first season without Sean Miller at the helm. It seems like we are underestimating Arizona by picking it fourth.

.

5. Washington State

Coach: Kyle Smith

Record: 5-1 (0-0 Pac-12)

Next Pac-12 game: Arizona State, Wednesday, Dec. 1

Last season’s record: 14-13 (7-12 Pac-12)

Current AP ranking: Not ranked

Preseason poll predicted finish: 8th

Best win this season: UC Santa Barbara

Worst loss this season: Eastern Washington

Top Returners (with 2021-22 stats):

Noah Williams (13.8 points)

TJ Bamba (8.4 point)

Efe Abogidi (8.0 points, 5.0 rebounds, 13 blocks)

D.J. Rodman (4.5 points)

Top newcomers (with 2021-22 stats):

Tyrell Roberts, transfer from UC San Diego (14.0 points)

Michael Flowers, transfer from South Alabama (13.7 points)

Mouhamed Gueye, freshman (7.2 points)

Top players lost from 2020-21 (with last season’s stats)

Isaac Bonton, playing professionally in Lithuania (17.7 points)

Comment: Kyle Smith continues to elevate the Cougars’ program and he added some pieces via transfers that will help. That home loss to a mediocre Eastern Washington team on Saturday is troubling, though. Picking WSU this high is a stretch, but you know some team is going to exceed expectations. Why not the Cougars?

.

6. Colorado

Coach: Tad Boyle

Record: 6-1 (1-0 Pac-12)

Next Pac-12 game: UCLA, Wednesday, Dec. 1

Last season’s record: 23-9 (14-6 Pac-12), lost in second round of NCAA tournament to Florida State

Current AP ranking: not ranked

Preseason poll predicted finish: 6th

Best win this season: Stanford

Worst loss this season: Southern Illinois

Top Returners (with 2021-22 stats):

Evan Battey (14.9 points, 4.6 rebounds)

Jabari Walker (13.9 points, 9.3 rebounds)

Keeshawn Barthelemy (14.6 points)

Elijah Parquet (7.4 points)

Tristan da Silva (8.9 points)

Top newcomers (with 2021-22 stats):

K.J. Simpson, freshman (7.3 points)

Top players lost from 2020-21 (with last season’s stats)

McKinley Wright IV, with NBA’s Minnesota Timberwolves (15.2 points, 5.7 assists)

Jeriah Horne, transferred to Tulsa (10.8 points, 5.3 rebounds)

D’Shawn Schwartz, transferred to George Mason (9.3 points)

Dallas Walton, transferred to Wake Forest (6.5 points)

Comment: There’s no replacement for McKinley Wright IV and replacing three of the top four scorers from last year makes things difficult for Tad Boyle. But Keeshawn Barthelemy has become a major contributor after being a virtual non-factor last year, and Boyle will have the team playing tough defense by the end of the season.

Read More

.

7. Utah

Coach: Craig Smith

Record: 5-1 (0-0 Pac-12)

Next Pac-12 game: USC, Wednesday, Dec. 1

Last season’s record: 12-13 (8-11 Pac-12)

Current AP ranking: Not ranked

Preseason poll predicted finish: 10th

Best win this season: Tulsa

Worst loss this season: BYU

Top Returners (with 2021-22 stats):

Branden Carlson (15.7 points, 7.0 rebounds)

Lazar Stefanovic (7.7 points)

Riley Battin (5.5 points, 5.7 rebounds)

Top newcomers (with 2021-22 stats):

David Jenkins Jr., transfer from UNLV (13.7 points)

Rollie Worster, transfer from Utah State (9.8 points)

Marco Anthony, transfer from Utah State (6.4 points, 8.8 rebounds)

Both Gach, transfer from Minnesota (8.8 points)

Top players lost from 2020-21 (with last season’s stats)

Timmy Allen, transferred to Texas (17.2 points)

Alfonso Plummer, transferred to Illinois (13.6 points)

Rylan Jones, transferred to Utah State (4.4 points, 4.0 assists)

Ian Martinez, transferred to Maryland (5.2 points)

Pelle Larsson, transferred to Arizona (8.2 points)

Mikael Jantunen, playing professionally in Finland (8.9 points)

Comment: First-year Utah coach Craig Smith finished no worse than second in the Mountain West in his three seasons at Utah State, taking the Aggies to two NCAA tournaments. But Utah had nine players transfer out after Larry Krystkowiak was fired after last season, and three players who transferred in are starters this year. This may take some time. Utah’s schedule so far has been soft.

.

8. Stanford

Coach: Jerod Haase

Record: 4-3 (0-1 Pac-12)

Next Pac-12 game: Oregon, Sunday, Dec. 12

Last season’s record: 14-13 (10-10 Pac-12)

Current AP ranking: Not ranked

Preseason poll predicted finish: 9th

Best win this season: Valparaiso

Worst loss this season: Santa Clara

Top Returners (with 2021-22 stats):

Jaiden Delaire (10.1 points)

Spencer Jones (7.7 points)

Michael O’Connor (6.1 points, 3.6 assists)

Top newcomers (with 2021-22 stats):

Harrison Ingram, freshman (12.0 points, 6.7 rebounds)

Maxime Raynaud, freshman from France (7.3 points, 5.3 rebounds)

Top players lost from 2020-21 (with last season’s stats)

Oscar da Silva, playing professionally in Germany (18.5 points, 6.7 rebounds)

Ziaire Williams, with NBA’s Memphis Grizzlies (10.7 points, 4.6 rebounds)

Daejon Davis, transferred to Washington (10.3 points)Bryce Wills, with G League’s Capital City Go-Go (7.5 points)

Comment: Cardinal depending heavily on their highly touted freshmen, and Ingram was just 3-for-13 for eight points and two rebounds in the loss to Colorado and averaged 7.0 points over the last four games. This team should get better as the season goes on.

.

9. Oregon State

Coach: Wayne Tinkle

Record: 1-6 (0-0 Pac-12)

Next Pac-12 game: Cal, Thursday, Dec. 2

Last season’s record: 20-13 (10-10 Pac-12), lost to Houston in NCAA tournament Elite Eight

Current AP ranking: Not ranked

Preseason poll predicted finish: tied for 4th

Best win this season: Portland State

Worst loss this season: Samford

Top Returners (with 2021-22 stats):

Warith Alatishe (10.9 points, 7.0 rebounds)

Jarod Lucas (10.4 points)

Maurice Calloo (8.5 points)

Roman Silva (1.3 points)

Top newcomers (with 2021-22 stats):

Dexter Akanno, transfer from Marquette (4.0 points)

Tre’ Williams, transfer from Minnesota (5.7 points)

Dashawn Davis, transfer from Trinity Valley Community College (6.5 points)

Top players lost from 2020-21 (with last season’s stats)

Ethan Thompson, with G League Windy City Bulls (15.7 points)

Zach Reichle, retired from basketball (7.2 points)

Comment: The amazing NCAA tournament run obscured the fact that this was a .500 team in conference play. The loss of Ethan Thompson may be the most significant personnel loss in the Pac-12 this year because he did so much for the Beavers, who enter Pac-12 play on a six-game losing streak.

.

10. Washington

Coach: Mike Hopkins

Record: 4-4 (0-0 Pac-12)

Next Pac-12 game: Arizona, Thursday, Dec. 2

Last season’s record: 5-21 (4-16 Pac-12)

Current AP ranking: Not ranked

Preseason poll predicted finish: 11th

Best win this season: South Dakota State

Worst loss this season: Northern Illinois

Top Returners (with 2021-22 stats):

Jamal Bey (10.0 point, 4.8 rebounds)

Nate Roberts (3.6 points, 7.0 rebounds)

Top newcomers (with 2021-22 stats):

Terrell Brown, transfer from Arizona (21.9 points)

Emmitt Matthews Jr., transfer from West Virginia (10.3 points, 4.9 rebounds)

P.J. Fuller, transfer from TCU (10.1 points)

Daejon Davis, transfer from Stanford (9.5 points)

Top players lost from 2020-21 (with last season’s stats)

Quade Green, with G League’s Maine Celtics (15.4 points)

Marcus Tsohonis, transferred to VCU (10.4 points)

Erik Stevenson, transferred to South Carolina (9.3 points)

Hameir Wright, transferred to North Texas (6.2 points)

Comment: Washington improved its overall talent through transfers, and Terrell Brown is the top scorer in the Pac-12 at the moment. However, the Huskies may not be able to win enough games to save Mike Hopkins’ job.

.

11. Arizona State

Coach: Bobby Hurley

Record: 2-5 (0-0 Pac-12)

Next Pac-12 game: Washington State, Wednesday, Dec. 1

Last season’s record: 11-14 (7-10 Pac-12)

Current AP ranking: Not ranked

Preseason poll predicted finish: 7th

Best win this season: North Florida

Worst loss this season: UC Riverside

Top Returners (with 2021-22 stats):

Marcus Bagley (10.0 points, 4.0 rebounds)

Kimani Lawrence (11.6 points, 8.9 rebounds)

Top newcomers (with 2021-22 stats):

D.J. Horne, transfer from Illinois State (11.9 points)

Luther Muhammad, transfer from Ohio State (9.7 points)

Marreon Jackson, transfer from Toledo (9.6 points)

Jay Heath, transfer from Boston College (8.8 points)

Top players lost from 2020-21 season (with last season’s stats):

Remy Martin, transferred to Kansas (19.1 points)

Josh Christopher, with NBA’s Houston Rockers (14.3 points)

Alonzo Verge, transferred to Nebraska (14.0 points)

Jaelen House, transferred to New Mexico (5.3 points)

Comment: Marcus Bagley, probably ASU’s best player, has missed the past three games with a knee injury and may miss a few more. Bobby Hurley has a struggle on his hands with all the new faces and not having floor leader Remy Martin anymore.

.

12. Cal

Coach: Mark Fox

Record: 3-4 (0-0 Pac-12)

Next Pac-12 game: Oregon State, Thursday, Dec. 2

Last season’s record: 9-20 (3-17 Pac-12)

Current AP ranking: Not ranked

Preseason poll predicted finish: 12th

Best win this season: Fresno State

Worst loss this season: UC San Diego

Top Returners (with 2021-22 stats):

Andre Kelly (16.1 points, 9.1 rebounds)

Grant Anticevich (11.6 points)

Joel Brown (7.0 points, 3.0 assists)

Top newcomers (with 2021-22 stats):

Jordan Shepherd, transfer from Charlotte (13.1 points)

Sam Alajiki, freshman (2.1 points, 2.1 rebounds)

Top players lost from 2020-21 (with last season’s stats)

Matt Bradley, transferred to San Diego State (18.0 points)

Ryan Betley, retired from basketball (8.5 points)

Comment: Cal’s season was probably doomed when Matt Bradley opted to transfer to San Diego State. Andre Kelly has been a surprisingly productive inside player, but the Bears may not have enough shooters to keep the defensive pressure off him. If Cal finishes out of the basement, the season will be a success.

.

Cover photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea, USA TODAY Sports

.

Follow Jake Curtis of Cal Sports Report on Twitter: @jakecurtis53

Find Cal Sports Report on Facebook by searching: @si.calsportsreport or going to https://www.facebook.com/si.calsportsreport