Monday, June 5, 2023

Pac-12 Basketball: Updated estimates for 2022-23 conference races after NBA draft decisions and transfer moves

Hotline’s late-spring evaluation of the Pac-12 basketball roster for the 2022-23 season confirmed our suspicions that the conference is positioned to improve its performance from last season, when only three teams advanced to the NCAA Tournament.

But the process also revealed potential trouble from within. The biggest threat to the top of the standings could come from those at the bottom.

Just as quality wins strengthen a team’s search for the NCAA, bad losses undermine that pursuit.

This is the prop-up/drag-down nature of the selection process.

Given the ominous outlook for many teams — notably, Cal and Oregon State — there could be a huge number of pits for NCAA Tournament candidates.

As for the projections after spring…

(Note: Each team’s position is included in our early-April rankings.)

1. UCLA (Previous: 1): The Bruins aren’t exactly the clear favorite they were after the season, not after the Bolts for the NBA of Johnny Juzang, Jules Bernard, and Peyton Watson. There are two five-star recruits on their way, but no impact transfer, meaning the returning corps (Jaime Jacques Jr., Tiger Campbell and Jaylen Clark) will have to bear the load. We ran 10,000 simulations of the conference race through Hotline’s supercomputer, and the Bruins finished first—but less than 50 percent of the time—than any other team.

(Update: There’s no supercomputer. We just threw some darts.)

2. Oregon (3): With the return of guard Will Richardson and the arrival of Jermaine Cuisnard (South Carolina) and Keshavan Barthélemy (Colorado), the outlook for the Ducks, especially on the periphery, has become quite bright. Neither team has oversized size, but it is either unproven or often injured size. If former five-star recruit N’Faly Dante becomes more consistent (and stays healthy), Oregon will have a dominant big man to balance the veteran background and score a run on the regular-season title.

3. Arizona (2): The attrition was significant as Benedict Mathurin, Christian Coloco, and Dylan Terry all moved to the NBA, but there is enough comeback and up-and-coming talent for the Wildcats to avoid a major backslide. Our trajectory improved last week when multi-year Texas starter Courtney Remy picked Arizona, but the rotation remains flawed. The Wildcats shouldn’t have trouble scoring, but we’re skeptical of their ability to defend the perimeter without Mathurin and Terry, especially as March approaches.

4. USC (4): Our position at the start of April is: “Except at an unexpectedly high crash, we see the Trojans finishing in a small group of teams below the top two but above the pack.” Last-minute draft reversals by guard Boogie Ellis and wing Drew Peterson ensured that USC would combine a solid returning corps with one of the best recruiting classes in the country. We’re not ready to put the Trojans at the top level, but their roster is good enough to fight for an opening-round bye in the conference tournament.

5. Colorado (5): Few teams were hit harder than CU, which lost star Jabari Walker to the NBA and placed Eliza Parquet and Keishon Barthélemy on the transfer portal. That said, Tad Boyle has a well-earned reputation for developing players, and we look forward to seasons of success from point guard KJ Simpson and forward Tristan da Silva. Buffaloes push for the top tier or fade to the pack depending on the remaining pieces, including two transfers from the Ivy League.

6. Stanford (10): The stable Cardinal received rare good news at the end of May when star forward Harrison Ingram withdrew from the draft. He’ll be joined by Spencer Jones to give Stanford a genius tandem—and a fighting chance at becoming relevant. There are generally legitimate questions about the backcourt, specifically 3-point shooting and Stanford’s ability to succeed in the second half of league play. But if Ingram takes his game to the next level, the Cardinal will follow suit.

7. Arizona State (7): Another off-season of roster turmoil for the Sun Devils, losing key players to the transfer portal and grabbing the Impact players from the transfer portal. At the top of that list is Desmond Cambridge, who averaged 15+ points per game for four consecutive seasons at Nevada. (Their brother, Devan, is coming from Auburn.) We kept the Sun Devils for the bottom half of the conference, but acknowledged their potential for an upside surprise. Meanwhile, downside risk is limited from here.

8. Washington (8): Huskies once again turned to the portal to salvation, and it delivered. The trio of center Frank Kepnung (Oregon), wing Noah Williams (Washington State) and forward Keon Brooks (Kentucky) should prevent UW from falling into the bottom tier. However, the ceiling is limited until coach Mike Hopkins upgrades the perimeter with another relocation (or developing his returning players). Because anyone who encounters a currently built Husky must zone them out all day and all night.

9. Washington State (6): Our outlook for the cougar has deteriorated substantially after a spring exodus. The list of late players includes Williams (transfer), guards Tyrell Roberts (transfer) and Michael Flowers (eligibility) and big man Efe Abogidi (G League). They combined for 43 points per game – more than half the team’s average. It could have been much worse, but the big man, Mohamed Guay, opted to return. If point guard Justin Powell (from Tennessee) qualifies, he’ll help out immediately.

World Nation News Desk
World Nation News Desk
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