(Photo: Zac Pacleb/WCSN)
The Pac-12 is wide-open, and that means every team not from Tucson has a shot to be a contender. Some are calling this season a subpar year in the conference with no truly elite talent other than Arizona, but nonetheless, the Pac-12 is the Pac-12, and that still holds some sort of value.
With that being said, WCSN’s preview of every Pac-12 team continues with the middle-four teams, Nos. 5-8 according to the Pac-12 media.
– Stanford: (21-12, 10-8 in 2013-14)
Offseason Report: Although the Cardinal lost six seniors, their biggest losses come at the two forward positions. They lost power forward Dwight Powell and small forward Josh Heustis to graduation, and also to the NBA draft. To replace their scoring and rebounding, head coach Johnny Dawkins brought in an impressive recruiting class, attracting four players in the top-25 of their respective positions.
Outlook: Dawkins brings back two of his top three scorers in senior guards Chasson Randle and Anthony Brown. With a talented freshman class, the new-look Cardinal will be tested early with big non-conference games against the Texas Longhorns and the BYU Cougars.
Key Stat: 18.7 – Randle earned First-team All-Pac-12 while averaging a career-high points per game during his junior campaign. If the Cardinal want to escalate their success from last season, Randle will need to at least match his scoring output due to the big loss of Powell and Heustis.
Best-Case: Randle leads a young team with a lot of potential, and if the team with plenty of new faces that will see the court can mold well together, Stanford will be hard to stop with their All-Pac-12 point guard at the helm.
Worst-Case: You never really know with freshmen, and with a guy who loves to shoot the ball like Randle, teams may begin to key in on Randle because they may end up with not many other scoring options.
Bold Prediction: Chasson Randle will win all-Pac-12 player of the year.
– Washington: (17-15, 9-9 in 2013-14)
Offseason report: The Huskies lost C.J. Wilcox (their leading scorer), Perris Blackwell (their leading rebounder), and Desmond Simmons. Although the scoring load can be replaced by sophomore guard Nigel WIlliams-Goss and redshirt junior Andrew Andrews, they lost two key pieces down low. This year’s recruiting class is also quite underachieving for the Lorenzo Romar-coached Huskies.
Outlook: The Huskies lose their only consistent scorer, and their best rebounder. With a team that lacks experienced height other than Shawn Kemp Jr., they are going to have to rely a lot on the backcourt to rebound more than usual. Expect the scoring to be led by Williams-Goss and Andrews as well as Jernard Jerreau if he can recover from the brutal knee injury he suffered in the beginning of last season.
Key Stat: 3 – The Huskies struggled mightily on the road last season. If Washington wants to fit into the middle of the competitive Pac-12, they will need to win at least half of their road conference games, and counting on that they can play as well as they did at home last season.
Best-Case: Williams-Goss proves himself to be one of the best NBA prospects in the Pac-12 and carries his team into the top-half of the Pac-12 with his explosive backcourt play.
Worst Case: Teams may begin to key in on Williams-Goss and Andrews, forcing their thin group of big men to produce.
Bold Prediction: Williams-Goss and Andrews both find themselves in the top-five scorers of the Pac-12.
– California: (19-13, 10-8 in 2013-14)
Offseason Report: The Golden Bears lost Justin Cobbs and Jeff Powers. They signed head coach Cuonzo Martin from Tennessee to replace Mike Montgomery and managed to pull in sign the No. 54 overall center Kingsley Okoroh.
Outlook: The Bears lost 15 points per game due to the graduation Cobbs, but they return three guys that averaged 11 or more points. Richard Solomon averaged 11 points per contest to go with 10.2 rebounds per game, and he should get more opportunities on the offensive end. Tough nonconference tests present themselves to the Golden Bears against Syracuse and Wisconsin before Pac-12 play starts.
Key Stat: 65.8 – The Golden Bears free throw percentage (excluding Cobbs) was low last year, which would have put them in last in the Pac-12. With one of the taller rosters in the Pac-12 this season, Cal should find themselves getting to the free-throw line quite frequently, and free throws could become the difference between a win and a loss in conference play.
Best-Case: Cal could surprise everyone. They only lose one player out of their main rotation, and they bring back three players that averaged double-digit scoring.
Worst-case: The shoes left to fill by \ Cobbs are too big for a point guard who spent a lot of the time on the bench last season watching Cobbs play 34.4 minutes per game, which ranked 7th in the Pac-12. With a lot of dynamic scorers on the wing and in the post, lack of a sturdy point guard presence can be their own poison.
Bold Prediction: Cal makes the NCAA tournament in a down year for the Pac-12.
– Oregon: (23-9, 10-8 in 2013-14)
Offseason Report: The Ducks managed to sign three talented point guards, and the No. 12 overall small forward in the 2014 class. Although they bring back Joseph Young, who was the second highest scorer in Pac-12 last year, they also lost six seniors.
Outlook: Although they return their leading scorer from a year ago, they lost half of their scoring from a due to graduation. Not only that, but they also lost guard Dominic Artis who transferred to a junior college, and their 5-star point guard recruit is still waiting on whether or not he will be admitted into the university.
Key Stat: 150 – Oregon ranked second in the conference in shots made beyond the arc. However, over half of the three-pointers made last year were credited to players who will not be returning. With three-pointers being such a crucial aspect of the explosive Oregon offense last year, head coach Dana Altman may have to alter the style of play from last year.
Best-Case: Oregon finds a way to stay in the middle of the Pac-12 after losing a lot of production. Young, with solid play from the freshmen in the backcourt, will keep the fast pace Oregon loves and hopefully ignore their lack of height with explosive guard play and high-volume scoring.
Worst-Case: They could crash and burn. Of all the teams in the Pac-12 it seems that Oregon has taken the biggest hit. Although the brought in a good recruiting class, they lose not only lost a lot of experience, but the large majority of their scoring production as well.
Bold Prediction: Young breaks Eddie House’s Pac-12 record for points per game in a season, averaging over 23 points per game.
You can reach Zane Hopen on Twitter @zdubhops