By: Ben Krakow
The PAC-12 enters the 2016-’17 season trying to build off a record-setting year that saw 7 teams make the NCAA Tournament in 2016. Oregon went the furthest of anyone in the PAC-12, reaching the Elite Eight before losing to Buddy Hield and Oklahoma. Here’s a look at the upcoming season.
Player to Watch: Dillon Brooks, Oregon
The junior from Canada became a national name thanks to his performance in the NCAA Tournament last season. He had 25 points against St. Joe’s in the second round and followed that up with a terrific performance in a win against Duke in the Sweet Sixteen. He thought about declaring for the NBA draft, but he ultimately decided to return to Eugene for a third season. This is very clearly his team now after the graduation of a couple of other wing players. He may not be ready for the start of the season due to offseason foot surgery, but should be cleared to play in plenty of time for the conference season. Brooks should have a big year and be one of the top players in all of college basketball.
Coach to Watch: Steve Alford, UCLA
Alford took UCLA to the Sweet Sixteen in each of his first two years at the helm. Last year, his team struggled and finished with a 15-17 record, 10th in the PAC-12. His son, Bryce Alford is back along with Issac Hamilton to form one of the best backcourts in the whole country. Highly touted freshman Lonzo Ball joins the Bruins this season and should be an immediate contributor. UCLA had no trouble scoring the ball last season averaging 77.5 points per game, but struggled defensively giving up 76.7 points per game. The pressure is squarely on Alford to lead the Bruins to a bounce back season. If UCLA struggles once again, this could be Alford’s last season in Westwood.
Sleeper Team: Washington
Washington comes into the season as a bit underrated with all of their roster turnover. Leading scorer Andrew Andrews is gone along with freshman phenoms Marquese Chriss and Dejounte Murray. Chriss and Murray are both now in the NBA. Another highly touted freshman comes to Seattle this year in Markelle Fultz. Fultz has been getting a lot of preseason hype from those who have seen him play. It remains to be seen whether he along with some other young talent on the roster can lead the Huskies to success after a disappointing 8th place finish in the PAC-12 a year ago. If the young talent comes together, this team could surprise.
- Arizona State
- Oregon State
- Washington State