All Pac-12 Team
G: Allonzo Trier, Arizona
G: Jordan McLaughlin, USC
F: Reid Travis, Stanford
F: DeAndre Ayton, Arizona
C: Chimezie Metu, USC
Sean Miller often gets tagged with the label of the best coach to never quite win the big one. Multiple times the ‘Cats have lost in heartbreaking fashion in years where it seemed like they could finally reach the illustrious final four. This year, things are different. Allonzo Trier (17.2 ppg, 5.3 rpg) is back, and he could contend for national Player of the Year honors, and DeAndre Ayton is a 7’1″ giant that might be the best freshman in the country. This team has star power and depth, and for a one-and-done school they have a surprising amount of experience to go with it. Assuming no sanctions come down, this is a national title contender.
If USC is going to be a player on the national stage, this is the year to do it. Andy Enfield has gone a poor 70-64 in four years at the helm in L.A., but it has all been leading to this year. USC returns every single player that averaged more than three points per game last year, an incredible amount of experience that is practically unrivaled in power conference basketball. Chimezie Metu (14.8 ppg, 7.8 rpg) and Bennie Boatwright (15.1 ppg, 4.5 rpg) both return, Boatwright missed half of last year with an injury, but the Trojans will need him to be at full strength, with a tough non-conference schedule to kick off the year.
UCLA loses their top four scorers from last year’s 31 win team, and while they will probably take a step back in 2017, this is certainly a team to keep an eye on. Alford has recruited tremendously well, this year Alford brings in a McDonald’s All-American in Jaylen Hands, Indiana’s Mr. Basketball in Kris Wilkes, and of course, Lonzo Ball’s brother LiAngelo. 7’0″ Thomas Welsh (10.8 ppg, 8.7 rpg) is the only returning starter, and he will be the de facto captain of the team alongside last year’s sixth man Aaron Holiday (12.3 ppg, 4.4 apg). The Bruins kick off the non-con in Shanghai and have a rematch with John Calipari’s Wildcats later in the year, so Alford will need to figure out the rotation quickly.
2016-17 Oregon is like 2017-18 USC, they had been building and building for years, and it was finally their climax, and the Ducks made the most of it, reaching the final four. Problem is, now they have to deal with the fall out. The top five scorers are all gone from last year’s 33 win team, and the only returning starter is guard Payton Pritchard (7.4 ppg, 3.6 apg). I do still think this is a tournament team, and if young guys like Elijah Brown (18.9 ppg at New Mexico) can fold into the squad, they might be able to do some damage at the top of the Pac-12.