The PAC 12 basketball conference season starts for most teams tonight. This year the conference has a much different feel than recent years. Arizona is the #1 team in the nation and #10 Oregon is the number one scoring team in the nation. The conference is fourth in the nation in RPI. In a nutshell this is probably the best the conference has been since the last Howland final four.
That said, as we mentioned previously and the PAC 12 media agrees, UCLA should be the second best team in the conference. UCLA also has the conference's easiest schedule only playing #1 Arizona and ASU once at home this season. If Arizona should falter or even if it doesn't, it is quite reasonable to expect UCLA to make a run at the title.
This brings us to the annual Bruins Nation predictions. Not surprisingly the team that the moderators disagree the most on is UCLA. Three picks were unanimous. Below with comments on each team.
1. Arizona (Unanimous.)
Arizona is loaded and should win the conference. This pick is a no-brainer. However, as long as Sean Miller is the basketball coach at Arizona, there is a decent chance they will falter at some point. Miller's teams have a habit of losing steam late in the season after hot starts. While Miller has proven himself the conference's top recruiter, the jury is still out on Miller as a game coach. But the bottom line is this team is so good that Miller may not be able to screw it up.
A coach whose chops are not in question is Dana Altman. Altman reloaded after losing a number of big men with among others ex-bruin Mike Moser. Oregon is undefeated and a scoring machine, not only scoring the most points per game in the nation but shooting over 51% for third in the nation.
3. Colorado (unanimous)
#20 in the nation Colorado was a unanimous pick for third place in the conference by the BN front pagers. Colorado is led by Spencer Dinwiddie who although likely to be overlooked, may be the conference best all-around player as he just as good on defense as he is on offense. Dinwiddie has also continued to improve his shooting and shows why it is good to stay in school.
For this post we will just say UCLA was picked as high as second and as low as sixth. As we have said from the start this is a very talented team but it is a unique team. One thing is for sure if Brad Stevens was coaching UCLA would be picked higher.
I don't follow ASU closely enough to figure out why Jahaii Carson came back to college. Jahaii is the fastest player in the conference and a future NBA point guard. He is joined by Center Jordan Bachynski who is rebounding well and leading the nation in blocked shots. UCLA got a huge break in the schedule only having to play these two only once at home.
Mike Montgomery is a great coach who is getting long in the tooth. It also seems like Cal is always an injury away from disaster. And that disaster may have happen with both Ricky Kreklow and Jabari Bird getting hurt. Kreklow will be out for a while.
Stanford lost Arron Bright but may be better off without him. Which is Stanford's problem, Coach Johnny Dawkins has talent but there are questions of his ability to take advantage of it.
Like UCLA, Utah is a radically changed team with a new offense first approach. Now a scoring machine, they have plowed through a cupcake schedule. Sound familiar? However, there are concerns that there record looks better than they actually are.
9 Just SC
Who are these guys? They have a better win then UCLA on the road at Dayton but lost to a Long Beach State team that had only won one game right before that. Their coach is desperate for attention so it seems likely they will be a good candidate for an upset win and some bad losses.
For years UW Coach Lorenzo Romar recruited so well his decencies as a bench coach were overlooked. Now that the recruits aren't there, the bottom fell out. UCLA should be starting a new winning streak at Hecht Ed.
11. Oregon State
I figure Coach Robinson will be fired the same time his brother in law President Obama leaves office. That has to be the only reason they have kept this awful coach this long.
How did we lose to them last year? Bad team.
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