The Bruins Nation writers have made their annual picks of the Pac-12 regular season finish and all agree it is an Arizona kind of year. However, there is disagreement over which Arizona school will finish first. No one picked either Arizona or Arizona State lower than third and the two teams split the first place votes. UCLA, meanwhile, was no higher than fourth and no lower than sixth. On to the predictions....
First Place: Arizona State Sun Devils (4 first place votes, 11 points[lower scores better, a point is given for each prediction starting with one for first and twelve for last)
Arizona State is undefeated with a win over Kansas, ranked number three in the nation, scoring 92 points a game, and shooting over 50%. They have added some serious inside strength in Romello White who is shooting 70% from the field, averaging 8.5 rebounds and has almost as many free throw attempts as field goal attempts. He is going to be a match up nightmare inside in the Pac-12 at ASU. White joins senior guard Tra Holder and gives ASU a true complete offense.
Second Place: Arizona Wildcats (3 first place votes, 12 points)
Arizona had a disastrous Battle for Atlantis where they lost three games in three days. It was ugly. But since then Arizona has won seven in a row and by KemPom is the Pac-12’s best team ranked 14. Surprisingly for a Sean Miller team, this one is, at least right now, better on offense than defense. Miller has always been a defense first coach so this could be a scary sign for opponents as the defense will likely improve.
Third Place: Oregon Ducks (24 points, Highest finish second, lowest fifth)
Oregon Coach Dana Altman is not exactly known for being a master of ethics. Currently, the basketball program is admitting NCAA violations but contesting the severity and the penalty is not known. What is known is Altman can coach. Throwing out his first season, Altman has finished first the last two years and second four out of five years before that (with the other being a third place finish). This is not an Oregon team with stars but Altman seems to always find a way to win.
Fourth Place: Southern Cal Trojans (26 points, highest finish second, lowest finish sixth)
Southern Cal is tied for the highest spread in predicted finishes. Andy Enfield has most of the players returning from a talented team and was ranked #10 preseason. The problem is Enfield can recruit (with some illegal help) but can’t coach. Southern Cal has no quality wins so far this year and even lost to a 7-7 Princeton team at home. The Trojans have the talent to compete with anyone in the conference, but, with Enfield as coach, they also could lose to any team.
Fifth Place: UCLA Bruins (34 points, high vote fourth low vote sixth)
Personally, I feel UCLA has the talent to win the PAC 12 but there is not a lot of faith at Bruins Nation in the coaching. The interesting question here is: “Would fifth be good enough to make the NCAA tourney?” Before last week’s win at Kentucky, I would say “no way” as the Pac-12 is down. But, depending on how Kentucky does this year, UCLA could skate into the big dance again without being a top Pac-12 team on the strength of that neutral court win.
Sixth Place: Utah Utes (40 points, high fifth, low sixth)
The most agreement for any team was Utah. Everyone seemed to agree Utah was a middling Pac-12 team. Under Coach Larry Krystkowiak, Utah plays hard and is well disciplined but the talent is the question or the limitation on Utah going forward.
Seven Place: Colorado Buffaloes (53 points high seventh, low ninth)
Colorado is a good example on how the Pac-12 is down. They are ranked 117 by KenPom (lower than UCLA opponent South Dakota) and 140 in BPI. They lost at home to the University of San Diego. A loss to the teams on the rest of this list by UCLA, even on the road, would likely constitute a bad loss.
Eighth Place: Washington Huskies (58 points, high of seventh, low of tenth)
For years under Lorenzo Romar, Washington had some of the best talent and worst coaching. Now, without Romar, the coaching is a question but the talent is not the same.
Ninth Place: Oregon State Beavers (62 points, high of eighth low of eleventh)
The good news for the Beavers is they have Tres Trinkle back. The bad news is they still don’t have much else. Trinkle is the coach’s son and leads the Beavers in rebounding, free throw percentage and scoring. He is legit as is junior guard Stephen Thompson. After that, well, there is a reason why OSU is 140 in Kenpom.
Tenth Place: Stanford Cardinal (71 points, high of ninth, low of eleventh)
Stanford has seven losses including to 5-8 Eastern Washington. You know it is bad when you are losing to teams you don’t even know the nickname for. Stanford is 6-7 right now and unlikely to end the year with a winning record.
Eleventh Place: Washington State Cougars (77 points, high of tenth, low of twelfth)
Personally, I appreciate Washington State for hiring Ernie Kent, one of the worst announcers on the Pac-12 Networks. Maybe, after he is fired this season, they can hire Steve Lavin.
Last: UC Berkeley Golden Bears (78 points, high of eighth, low of twelfth)
One guy here believed in UC Berkeley. Why I am not sure as KenPom ranks them 182. But, that is better than their BPI 251. At least in their RPI they are top 175 at 174. Bad team.
It is worth noting that the Pac-12 writers picked Arizona, Southern Cal, and UCLA to be the top three before the season.
What do you think? In the comments, please reply with where you think UCLA will finish and any other thoughts you have on the conference regular season.