The Pac-12 contender pool is a mixed bag of tournament programs, NIT hopefuls, and basement schools. Where do the Trojans sit in the pack? First, let’s drain the swamp of could-be’s and tangible contenders and assign a baseline conference ranking.
1.) UCLA: The Bruins get the top nod, but with this caveat. Steve Alford’s self-destructive tendencies have made success elusive, let Kris Wilkes, Moses Brown, and Jaylen Hands control the team’s destiny.
2.) Oregon: One and two are relatively interchangeable. Bol Bol is a generational talent, and Payton Pritchard is an all-conference player.
3.) Washington: Noah Dickerson, David Crisp, and Matisse Thybulle are returning as touted seniors. With a roster built on defensive sticklers, the Huskies have deep-run potential in March.
4.) Colorado: The loss of George King hurts, but as the leading scorer as a freshman last season, McKinley Wright is a star in the making and a bright light for this roster.
5.) USC: Elijah Weaver and Bennie Boatwright are sidelined with uncertain timetables. Once they return, though, USC is a fringe tournament contender.
6.) Oregon State: Tres Tinkle and the Thompson brothers return for 2019 and the future is looking brighter. Expect Ethan Thompson to be one of the conference’s breakout players, and for the Beavers to make a play for the tournament.
7.) Arizona State: Freshman Luguentz Dort turned heads with 28 points in their debut, and Remy Martian and Romello White looked good in limited minutes. But you can’t ignore the loss of Tra Holder. A subplot to the Devils season though is their recruiting troubles, as two five-stars in Michael Foster and Kyree Walker decommitted this offseason.
8.) Stanford: The loss of Reid Travis was inevitable, but his replacement unknown. Luckily, budding guard Daejon Davis is returning, and KZ Okpala put up a team-high 29 points in Stanford’s season debut.
9.) Arizona: Arizona is bleeding. The college hoops trail set their roster and future recruiting classes ablaze. With more charges still pending, it’s unlikely Arizona regains their recruiting monopoly.
10.) Utah: The program lost it’s top two scorers and their national rank along with it. Expect a rebuilding year for the Utes.
11.) Cal: The cupboard is bare, and the Golden Bears are chasing mediocrity.
12.) Washington State: Robert Franks returned surprisingly, but the Cougars boast no offensive firepower and have little to look forward to as a program.