Def Pen’s 2019-20 NCAA Preview series continues on with an overall preview of the Pac-12. A new season is on the horizon for the schools in the Pac-12 following a forgettable 2018-19 campaign. Last year saw just three teams from the league make the NCAA Tournament; a surprisingly low number for a power conference. Commissioner Larry Scott will be banking on an improvement, as the conference has been slipping in terms of stature in recent years.
The Pac-12 is in somewhat of a transition year, with a number of schools in pivotal program years. It seems like the top spot is up for grabs this time around. 5-star freshmen will meet experienced veterans in what will be, quite literally, the wild west. There are some serious spaces to watch within the conference, from head coaches under a microscope for one reason or another to teams trying to rebuild on the fly.
Projected All Pac-12 First-Team
- Nico Mannion
- Payton Pritchard
- Jaden McDaniels
- Tres Tinkle
- Isaiah Stewart
The first team is dominated by freshmen, with top 10 recruits Nico Mannion, Jaden McDaniels, and Isaiah Stewart taking up three of the five available spots. Mannion was ranked as Def Pen’s top player in the Pac 12, someone who should put up significant scoring numbers on a solid Arizona team. McDaniels and Stewart will share Washington’s frontcourt and wreak havoc on opposing teams. The remaining two players are the conference’s top two seniors. Tres Tinkle is the leading returning scorer in the Pac-12 and will do his best to keep Oregon State afloat in the league while putting up big numbers. Payton Pritchard, meanwhile, will operate as the engine of an Oregon team that is projected to finish atop the Pac-12 this season.
Projected Pac-12 Player of the Year
As mentioned above, Nico Mannion is the top dog in the Pac-12. Mannion should light the conference ablaze with his complete offensive profile. The freshman figures to be the top playmaker in the league. He displays a dazzling arsenal of passes from his hip, behind the back, on the move, against his body, and any other way you can think of. What makes his passing even more of a threat is the way he uses it in conjunction with his 3-level scoring abilities. A player that is built to produce, on a team that is in need of their go-to guy figures to be a reassuring mixture. With Arizona likely near the top of the conference this year, Mannion will be a PAC-12 Player of the Year favorite.
Projected Pac-12 Conference Standings
- Arizona State
- Oregon State
- Washington State
This is a big year for the PAC-12. Oregon and Arizona, the conference’s powerhouses in recent years, are projected to finish at the top. Simply put, they have the most talent, as well as the two best coaches in the conference. USC is a team that is flying below the radar just a little bit. The Trojans have an interesting group of returners and a good injection of freshmen talent led by 5-star Isaiah Mobley. Washington and Colorado will be looking to prove they can compete with the top 3- albeit through different avenues. Colorado’s dynamic duo is a pair of experienced returners. For Washington, its a pair of 5-star freshmen.
Arizona State, UCLA, and Oregon State all seem firmly middle of the pack. The teams have bits of high-level talent, but it doesn’t appear that any of these teams has the overall team depth to truly compete. This part of the conference will find itself on or around the bubble come NCAA Tournament time. The bottom third of the conference features programs that are just trying to get it together. It is hard to imagine any of these teams surprising us, though players such as Timmy Allen and CJ Elleby for Utah and Washington State are as talented as any in the conference.