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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Looking ahead: Who are the top contenders in the Pac-12 Conference next season?

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Jesus Barrera

Sean Miller eyes his players with confusion during Arizona’s 65-55 loss to Wichita State in the NCAA Tournament on March 17, 2016. Assistant coach Mark Phelps (left) and former assistant coach Emanuel “Book” Richardson sit on the bench in the background.

1. Oregon

The Ducks have reached the top 10 three of the last four seasons and look to build off an Elite Eight run next season. They return three of their top-four scorers including All-Pac-12 Dillon Brooks and freshman sensation Tyler Dorsey.

Coach Dana Altman also got high scoring in point guard Payton Pritchard backing up Dorsey and Casey Benson.

Their trio of Brooks, Dorsey and Chris Boucher might be the best trio in the conference, and Benson is no slouch either. The sophomore guard has an assist-to-turnover ratio of almost five-to-one and does a great job facilitating the Ducks offense.

2. Arizona

Sean Miller may be losing three starters, but he still has the return of Allonzo Trier and a top-10 class. Add in five-star recruit Ray Smith’s return to the hardwood, and you have a team that should make some noise in the conference.

The Wildcats will be looking for revenge as they were knocked off the top of the Pac-12 Conference by an Oregon team who won both matchups last year. Next season is shaping to be an arms race between Arizona and Oregon, and neither team would have it any other way.

3. USC

The Trojans return their top four scorers and almost all of their key role players from last year’s team. Jordan McLaughlin led the team with 13 points and almost five assists per game and could push for All-Pac-12 next season.

Last season’s Trojan team was in and out of the top 25, but they should become more consistent next season. A one-point loss in the tournament to Providence should also fuel this veteran-laden team and dark horse conference winner.

Look for them to start next season in the top 20 and show the nation that USC is now a basketball school.

4. UCLA

In what is Bryce Alford’s final season as a Bruin, he has a great recruiting class to help him cement his legacy. With five-star players Lonzo Ball and T.J. Leaf in the fold, UCLA should start next season in the top 20.

Steve Alford may also be on the hot seat so he better deliver a good season. Anything less than a Sweet 16 appearance could cause hell in the city of angels for a once storied program.

5. Utah

Rounding out the top five is a Utes team that is by far the most vulnerable of the bunch. They are losing Pac-12 Player of the Year Jakob Poeltl to the draft along with Jordan Loveridge and Brandon Taylor, but they do return solid role players.


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