Saturday, June 30, 2012

Bothell point guard Zach LaVine commits to UCLA

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June 20, 2012 at 9:03 PM
The Seattle Times
Zach LaVine.jpgSeattle Times photo by Jim Bates

Zach LaVine

Bothell point guard Zach LaVine, the state's top prospect in the Class of 2013, gave a verbal commitment to UCLA Wednesday.

"It just seemed like the best fit," LaVine said. "It's a home away from home for me. It just seemed like the right time."

The 6-foot-3 standout, who plays AAU basketball with Friends of Hoop, is rated a four-star prospect by and was rated the 21st point guard in the country by

"It's what he's comfortable with," Cougars coach Ron Bollinger said. "It's a good decision, because he's going to be the one who goes and plays. That's his school. If he's comfortable with it, it's a good decision."

LaVine also had offers from Washington, Gonzaga, Louisville and Texas among others.

"I said I was going to make my decision in August," he said. "I guess I surprised a lot of people, but it just felt like the right time to do it."

As a junior last season, he led the Cougars to the Class 4A state playoffs, averaging more than 23 points per game.

He is the second local basketball player to commit to the Bruins over the past few years, joining former Kentwood center Joshua Smith.

"It feels really good, because this is the place I want to be at," LaVine said. "It's going to be a lot of fun."


Thanks to howlandforprez for posting this on BZ!

Zach LaVine verbally commits to UCLA


Just got off the phone with No. 17 PG Zach LaVine, who just committed to UCLA. Let's just say he was giddy. It was the Bruins' second big commitment of the day, only Jim Mora benefitted the first time, not Ben Howland, as No. 19 OLB Myles Jack committed to the football team.

Here's my interview with Lavine.

JG: So, big night for you?
Zach LaVine: "It's just been hectic. So many phone calls. I'm really excited. All my family is from UCLA. California is home away from home for me. My dad's favorite school. They've always been my favorite. I've been on a bunch of visits, they've seen me play 10, 15 times, and it seems like the right idea."

JG: Right now, Russell Westbrook is in the NBA Finals, you've got Darren Collison and Jrue Holiday and Jordan Farmar...
LaVine (cutting me off): "The list goes on man! I just want to be just like them. My dream is to play in the NBA, but I'm gpoing to play step by step and go in with the mentality that I want to be the best I can be and help UCLA as a program."

JG: When you think of these guys as not only your heroes, but now they're going to be fellow alumni, brethren, you're playing against them at UCLA during the offseason, talk about what it means to not just have them as heroes but to have them available?
ZL: "It's going to be a great resource. Up in Washington, I work out with Tony Wroten, Jamal Crawford, Brandon Roy, Will Conroy, a lot of those guys, and when I play against them, I have the mentality that I'm the best on the court. Every time I step on the court I think I'm better than everyone, and that's not to talk in a cocky way, but that's just my mentality to get it going. So it's going to be so much fun playing with those guys and trying to get better and learn from them."

JG: You talk to Jerime Anderson, Zeek Jones, and it's almost like they learn more during the offseason playing against all those guys then against the other Pac-12 teams. What do you hope to learn around those stars, like you are now?
ZL "Down at UCLA, all the pros go there. I was there last summer, not playing. I might be playing this summer. Blake, Arron Afflalo, Deandre Jordan, just to name a couple, and it was incredible. I hope to learn point guard skills, off-guard skills, defensive skills. I want to be the best I can. I hope my game grows exponentially. Hopefully I can get to where they are now."

JG: UCLA has struggled recently and the Sports Illustrated story and everything, why did you stick with them even when things looked shaky.
ZL "Look, they have the No. 1 recruiting class in the country right now, and I'm just hoping I can make things a little bit better. The SI story, I really didn't pay attention to it. Everyone gets a bad article every once in a while. Coaches can talk you up as much as they can, but once you commit, that's their domain. That's how every coach is. Every coach wants to win so they're going to be hard on you, they're going to push you. I talked to Coach Howland about it, and that was just a bad article. I know he's nothing like that at all. He's a great guy, and hopefully I can do my best for him."

JG: I talk to some kids, and they talk about playing time or they're opportunity and the team, but you sound really excited about UCLA. What does this mean to you, now that you can finally say the process is done?
ZL: "It means a tremendous amount to me right now. Me and my dad, going through the hardest process. I feel like not many kids have had the process my dad and I have had over the last couple years, staying up late, shooting in the rain, running in the rain, 1,000 shots, 600 shots, 500 shots, working on core flexibility, plyometrics. It's been a long process. Im glad to get it over with. It's monkey off my back. It's an accomplishment for my family. It's a compliment to go to UCLA. It's an honor."

Saturday, June 9, 2012

UCLA Releases 2012-13 Men's Basketball Schedule

olskool-BZ/--You Tube

UCLA Releases 2012-13 Men's Basketball Schedule

UCLA Men's Basketball website

May 31, 2012

LOS ANGELES - UCLA's 2012-13 men's basketball schedule is highlighted by non-conference contests in the Legends Classic at Brooklyn's brand new Barclays Center (Nov. 19-20); in the John R. Wooden Classic vs. San Diego State in Honda Center (Dec. 1); a road game vs. Texas in Houston's Reliant Stadium (Dec. 8); and home games against NCAA Tournament teams Long Beach State (Dec. 18) and Missouri (Dec. 28).

The Bruins will open play in New Pauley Pavilion on Friday, November 9 against Indiana State, which posted an 18-15 record and played in the CIT postseason tournament in 2011-12. The matchup with the Sycamores is significant as Indiana State was the only other college institution that legendary UCLA Head Coach John Wooden called home as a head coach, posting a 44-15 in two seasons in Terre Haute (1946-47/1947-48) before departing for UCLA.

The $136-million Pauley Pavilion renovation will feature many new amenities that will enhance the fan experience. These include, but are not limited to, a new concourse which incorporates the entire facility and that will feature displays showcasing UCLA's Athletics history, new concessions stands and restrooms, all new seats, a state-of-the-art center-hung scoreboard, and 30-inch LED ribbon boards encircling the interior of the arena. In addition, there will be facilities dedicated to the student-athletes, including new locker rooms, lounges, a video room and a strength and conditioning facility.

"We are elated to be returning home to Pauley Pavilion and are very excited about the re-opening of our legendary facility," UCLA Head Coach Ben Howland said. "I think this is going to be a very fun and successful season."

While the field for the 12-team Legends Classic (Nov. 11-20) has not been announced, the UCLA Bruins will host the Los Angeles Regional (Nov. 13 and 15). The Bruins will host two games in the Regional round and then will advance to the Semifinals in Brooklyn at Barclays Center on Nov. 19 where they will face one of the other three regional host teams (Indiana, Georgetown, Georgia). Indiana and Georgetown both made the NCAA Tournament last season.

The Bruins will also play in the 19th annual Wooden Classic on Saturday, Dec. 1 at Honda Center in Anaheim against another NCAA Tournament team in San Diego State. This will be UCLA's 10th-consecutive Wooden Classic appearance and 16th overall (11-4 in prior contests).

Other non-conference highlights include playing against three more NCAA Tournament teams in Texas (at Houston's Reliant Stadium on Dec. 8) and hosting Long Beach State (Dec. 18) and Missouri (Dec. 28).

The Bruins also host five other non-conference teams (Cal Poly/Nov. 25; Cal State Northridge/Nov. 28; Prairie View A&M/Dec. 15; and Fresno State/Dec. 22) before beginning Pac-12 play.

"With a total of six non-conference teams on this year's schedule that made the NCAA Tournament a year ago, I believe this is one of the most competitive schedules we have had in my tenure," Howland said. "I'm really looking forward to this season and very excited about the level of competition."

UCLA opens conference play on Jan. 3, 2013 with a home bout against California, followed by Stanford on Jan. 5. This year's home conference slate also welcomes Oregon State (Jan. 17), Oregon (Jan. 19), USC (Feb. 2), Washington (Feb. 7), Washington State (Feb. 9), Arizona State (Feb. 28) and Arizona (Mar. 2). The 2013 Pac-12 Tournament, featuring all 12 teams, will be held for the first time at MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas (March 13-16).

In 2011-12, UCLA finished with a 19-14 overall record and in a tie for a fifth-place finish in the Pac-12 Conference (11-7). The Bruins return three starters in junior forwards David and Travis Wear and junior guard Tyler Lamb and welcome the nation's No. 1-ranked recruiting class, featuring Top five recruits Shabazz Muhammad and Kyle Anderson.

Season tickets for the 2012-13 UCLA Men's Basketball campaign are still on sale. For more information or to purchase season tickets, click here or call 310-UCLA-WIN.

The schedule is tentative and subject to change due to television.

Tentative 2012-13 UCLA Men's Basketball Schedule
(All Dates Tentative Due To Television)

Fri, Nov. 9, Indiana State - Pauley Pavilion Opener
Tue., Nov. 13, Legends Classic Game 1
Thu., Nov. 15, Legends Classic Game 2
Mon., Nov. 19 ,Legends Classic Semifinals (@Barclays Center, Brooklyn, NY - Georgia, Indiana, Georgetown)
Tue., Nov. 20, Legends Classic Finals (@Barclays Center, Brooklyn, NY - Georgia, Indiana, Georgetown)
Sun., Nov. 25, Cal Poly
Wed., Nov. 28, Cal State Northridge
Sat., Dec. 1, San Diego State - Wooden Classic @Honda Center
Tue., Dec. 4, Exhibition Game (TBA)
Sat., Dec. 8, Texas @ Houston
Sat., Dec. 15, Prairie View A&M
Tue., Dec. 18, Long Beach State
Sat., Dec. 22, Fresno State
Fri., Dec. 28, Missouri
Thu., Jan. 3, California
Sat., Jan. 5, Stanford
Thu., Jan. 10, @ Utah
Sat., Jan. 12, @ Colorado
Thu., Jan. 17, Oregon State
Sat., Jan. 19, Oregon
Thu., Jan. 24, @ Arizona
Sat., Jan. 26, @ Arizona State
Sat., Feb. 2, USC
Thu., Feb. 7, Washington
Sat., Feb. 9, Washington State
Thu., Feb. 14, @ Stanford
Sat., Feb. 16, @ California
Sat., Feb. 23, @ USC
Thu., Feb. 28, Arizona State
Sat., Mar. 2, Arizona
Thu., Mar. 7, @Washington State
Sat., Mar. 9, @ Washington
Mar. 13-16, Pac-12 Tournament @ MGM Grand Garden Arena, Las Vegas, NV
Mar. 19-20, NCAA First Round
Mar. 21-24, NCAA Second and Third Round
Mar. 28-31, NCAA Regional
Apr. 6 & Apr. 8, NCAA Final Four

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Mike Miller: PAC-12 2012-13 Season Preview

Thanks to Mike Miller for posting this preview on BZ recently and for allowing me to re-post it here. 

12. Arizona State Sun Devils

I think this is Herb Sendek's last season in Tempe. Although he brings in some talented players, he simply doesn't have enough talent and there could be some potential chemistry issues as well.

Both factors stop and start with Jahii Carson, the 5-11 FR PG who sat out last season getting eligible. Carson has all Pac-12 ability as a FR and could leave early for the NBA draft, he has that much talent, but his game isn't really suited for the slow-down approach that Sendek typically takes. It will be interesting if this scoring lead guard can be comfortable within the structure of the offense and how well he'll play with others.

The other guards for ASU will come from Bo Barnes, a 6-4 SO transfer from Hawaii, Evan Gordon, a 6-1 JR transfer from Liberty, and Caelan Robinson, a 6-2 FR. Barnes, who played h.s. ball in Arizona, averaged 6.8 PPG and shot over 38% from 3 as a FR.

Gordon led Liberty in scoring at 14.4 PPG and is a scoring guard rather than a point with his size. Robinson drew a lot of raves in h.s. and is regarded as an outstanding scorer who might replace Carson at the lead guard spot after Carson leaves. All 3 players will compete for a starting spot. Neither Barnes nor Gordon have mid-range games and both shot under 40% overall playing in lesser conferences than the Pac-12.

Up front, the starters will likely be returning starters Carrick Felix, 6-6 SR SF, 10.5 PPG, and Jonathan Gilling, 6-7 SO, 7.1 PPG, and Jordan Bachynski, 7-2 JR 6 PPG, 4 RPG, 1.4 BPG. Felix, the JC transfer, had a very solid first season; he can slash, has a mid-range game and should improve on his 31% from 3. Gilling, from Denmark, plays that "wing at the 4" spot that Sendek prefers. He made 41% of his 3s, but averaged less than 2 rebounds per game. Bachynski presents a load in the middle of ASU's zone along with developing offensive skills. Look for Felix and Gilling to increase their scoring numbers this season. Collectively, they need to rebound better although the zone has something to do with that.

The bench consists of Ruslan Pateev, 7-0 SR C, 4.6 PPG, 3.1 RPG, 1.0 BPG, and FR Kenny Martin, 6-10, and FR Eric Jacobsen. Pateev is a face-up C who gives ASU valuable minutes backing up Bachynski. Martin is highly-touted, known for his motor and face-up skills, but is very slender. Jacobsen is slow, but skilled and very strong for a FR at 235 in h.s. Look for Martin to see a lot of time at the 4 spot this season.

ASU was 5-13 last year in the Pac-12 and lost Trent Lockett, Kyle Cain and Chanse Creekmuir after the season along with Keala King during it. The players coming have some real talent, but as I noted the key will be whether Carson can thrive in Sendek's system. My guess is no, he'll get frustrated and transfer, and that should seal Sendek's fate.

11. Utah Utes

Utah went 3-15 in the Pac-12 in Larry Krystkowiak's inaugral season as coach and then underwent a wave of transfers. However, Coach K has brought in a group of transfers and FR who should more than make up for the difference and help move Utah up the standings.

The returning pickings are slim. There's 6-4 SR SG Cedric Martin, 7.4 PPG, 37% from 3, who's regarded as a defensive specialist; 6-6 SR SF Dijon Farr, 6.7 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 37.5% from 3, who has a good mid-range game and some handles and who should dramatically improve his scoring numbers this season, and 7-0 SR C Jason Washburn, 11.4 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 1.4 BPG, a talented big man who should be the statistical and emotional leader of the team if he can shake some off-court issues.

That about does it for returning players. But if you go 3-15 in conference, that's not a bad thing.

Newcomers in the backcourt include 5-10 JR PG Glen Dean, a transfer from Eastern Washington where he lead the Eagles in scoring with 13.2 PPG while handing out 4.2 APG and hitting 41% from 3, LSU tranfer Aaron Dotson, 6-4 205 JR SG, 6.8 PPG on 37.5% from 3, and 6-3 SR CG Jared Dubois, of Westchester High School here in LA and Loyola Marymount, 10.1 PPG, 36.1% from 3. Dean and Dotson should start, with Dubois and Martin getting a ton of time off the bench, and this represnets a steep upgrade of talent for the Utes.

FR PG Brandon Taylor, 5-9, and 6-2 FR CG Justin Seymour add to the backcourt depth. Taylor, from Pacific Hills here in So Cal, is very quick and a pest. Seymour is reported to be a true CG with good range, size and athleticism.

Up front, Washburn and Farr will be joined by Jordan Leveridge, 6-6 FR PF. Leveridge was considered one of the better prospects in the west last season. He's a short, compact, strong, highly-skilled 4 man with a great motor. If you're looking for an easy comparison, think Chane Behanan of Louisville. Leveridge should be an all Pac-12 FR.

Off the bench, the team has David Foster, 7-3 255 SR C, who sat out last season due to injury. Foster is Utah's all-time blocks leader and is a Mark Eaton-type, not very skilled on offense and not very mobile, but boy does he take up space inside on defense. His return, plus Leveridge, raise Utah's interior game to a new level. Utah also adds Brazilian import Renan Lenz, a 6-9 235 JR PF with good face-up skills and some ability to handle it. He is a starting quality player who will come off the bnech and further strengthen Utah's suddenly nascent frontcourt.

Other reserves will include FR SF Dakarai Tucker, 6-5, an athletic slasher, 6-10 235 FR C/PF Jeremy Olson, a banger with limted athleticism, and Dallin Bachynski, 6-11 230 SO C, the younger brother of ASU's Jordan Bachynski, who played decent minutes as a FR at Southern Utah before going on a 2-year mission and then transferring to Utah.

Utah thus has a serious talent upgrade at all positions, espcially the frontcourt. In last year's Pac-12, Utah might've made major strides. As it is, they ought to upset some of the better teams along the way to climbing out of the cellar and possibly surprising by doing even better than 11th place.

10. Washington State Cougars

It might seem strange to peg a team with the pac-12's best returning player, Brock Motum, for just 10th place. But WSU finished just 7-11 in the pac-12 last season and 2 of their wins were against 1-17 USC (with a third at home against 5-13 ASU). In addition, Wazzu last 3 starters and didn't replace them through recruiting.

Motum, the 6-10 SR, plays both the 4 and 5 and presnets matchup nightmares whereever he plays because of his ability to stretch defenses with his 3-point shooting. He averaged 18.0 PPG, 6.4 RPG and hit 39.7% of his 3s despite being the focus of many teams' defenses.

Reggie Moore, 6-1 SR PG, averaged 10.2 PPG and 5.2 APG, leading the conferrence in the latter category with an excellent 2.0 A/TO ratio. However, he's an erratic shooter who sometimes sulks on defense when his shot isn't falling. The 3rd returning player with starter experience is Davonte Lacy, a strong 6-3 SO SG who scored 8.5 PPG. He's a streaky shooter who also plays indifferent d at times. Defense is WSU's Achilles Heel.

The other starters will likely be Mike Ladd, 6-5 SR SF, 5.4 PPG, 3.0 RPG, a good outside shooter, and DJ Shelton, 6-10 JR C/PF, 4.2 PPG, 2.9 RPG, a mobile big man with nascent post skills. Returning veterans who will come off the bech are Patrick Simon, 6-8 JR PF 2.6 PPG, a finesse player who's a good shooter, and Dexter Kernich-Drew, a willowy 6-6 SO wing who can also shoot the 3.

Newcomers are led by James Hunter, a 6-10 JR C from Australia who could challenge Shelton for a starter's role, Demarquise Johnson, a 6-5 FR SG, a standout athlete with offensive skills who hasn't qualified yet (if he does, he could challange for a starting role as well), and Richard Longrus, an undersized PF at 6-6 with long arms, a high bb IQ and a good motor who might also see time a starter. Then there's Brett Boese, a 6-6 FR SF who can shoot it, but who will come along more slowly.

WSU has Motum and Moore, but plays poor team d and doesn't really have an established second option of offense. Johnson might be that player if he qualifies, but he won't be enough to lift the Cougars out of a 10th place finish.

9. Oregon State Beavers

Oregon State went 7-11 last season, but they were a dangerous team with some serious athletes, capable of outscoring even the best teams in the conference. But they lost Jared Cunningham early to the NBA and that's robbed them of a great deal of their danger. They didn't replace him through recruiting and have some holes.

The frontcourt is OSU's strength. Devon Collier, 6-7 JR SF 13.1 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 61.5% FG%, and Eric Moreland, 6-9 SO PF, 5.2 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 1.9 BPG, make up one of the more athletic, talented forward tandems in the conference. Collier is best in the open floor when OSU can get into transition mode and in slashing or cutting towards the basket as he's a streaky jump shooter. Moreland can be dominant on d and on the boards and is just starting to scratch the surface of his potential as a post scorer.

Backing them up will be Victor Robbins, 6-6 FR SF from Compton High, and Jarmal Reid, 6-7 230 FR PF. Robbins is a very good athlete with developing wing skills. Reid is reported to be a strong post player with some good face-up abilities. Also, Daniel Gomis, 6-10 FR PF, was a redshirt last season after getting hurt and is valued by the OSU coaches as someone who can make an instant impact. Rhys Murphy, 6-7 JR SF, 1.6 PPG, is a good outside shooter.

At C, Angus Brandt, 6-10 SR, 9.1 PPG, 3.4 RPG, 49.2% from 3, and Joe Burton, 6-7 280 SR, 8.3 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 2.8 APG, 42.9% from 3, are paradoxically the team's best 3-point shooters and Burton led the team in assists in OSU's halfcourt Princeton-type offense. FR Maika Ostling, 6-10, probably won't play much as he understudies the vets.

In the backcourt, Ahmad Starks, 5-9 JR 12.1 PPG, 37.1% from 3, and Roberto Nelson, 6-3 JR 9.3 PPG, 34.8% from 3, may play 70 minutes per game. They're both very streaky from the outside and have questionable decision-making abilities.

Backing them up is vet Challe Barton, 6-3 SO, who only averaged 1.7 PPG last season. Langston Morris-Walker, 6-5 FR SG/SF, is a very good athlete, but it's not clear if he has the quickness or skills to play guard or will instead lend depth to the forward position.

So OSU has some serious questions both as to depth and decision-making in the backccurt and that, along with a lack of good team defense, should hold back its talented frontline. If Starks and/or Nelson have a very good year and OSU finds a relaible guard reserve, OSU could challenge to finish much higher in the Pac-12.

8. USC Trojans

The Trojans were a pitiful 1-17 in Pac-12 play last season. But they were riddled with injuries and add a raft of transfers and guys coming back from injuries this season and thus could be the most unpredictable team in the conference. They could easily finish 3 or more spaces higher or fall flat again.

The guards include a mix of returnees and newcomers. Maurice Jones, 5-7 JR PG, 13.0 PPG, 3.5 APG, 30.2% from 3,played 38 MPG last season but could lose his starting job to Jio Fontan, 6-0 SR PG, who missed all last season with an injury. Fontan averaged 10.5 PPG and 3.9 APG 2 years ago while hitting 37.5% of his 3s and is clearly better than Jones if he's fully-recovered from his ACL tear.

JUCO transfer JT Terrell, 6-3 JR SG, should start at the other guard spot. He averaged 11.1 PPG and hit 35.7% from 3 as a FR at Wake Forest and then was a JC AA last season. Terrell has all Pac-12 potential. He will be backed by returning Greg Allen, 6-3 SR SG, 4.7 PPG, and 6-2 FR CG Brendyn Taylor of Fairfax High, a very good athlete with a nice stroke who should eventually succeed Terrell at the 2 after 2014.

At the wing spot, Byron Wesley, 6-5 SO, 9.6 PPG, 5.1 RPG, a superior athlete who needs to improve his game beyond slashing to the hopp (which he does extremely well) should hold off another Wake Forest refugee, Ari Stewart, 6-7 JR, who averaged 8.5 PPG and 4.4 RPG as a SO in the ACC while shooting atrociously from the field. The Trojans have a lot of players with very good athleticism who aren't good shooters and whose history as transfers adds questions of character and chemistry.

In the post, Aaron Fuller, 6-6 JR PF, 10.6 PPG, 5.9 RPG, himself a transfer from Iowa, must hold off another transfer, 6-6 SR Eric Wise of UC-Irvine. Wise averaged 16.3 PPG and 8.2 RPG in his final year for the Anteaters and like Fuller is a 240-pound bull with face-up skills as well as low post moves. 6-8 FR Strahinja Gavrilovic and 6-7 SO Evan Smith add depth here.

Dewayne Dedmon, 7-0 JR C, 7.6 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 1.0 BPG, went down with injury during the season and now returns to hopefully fulfill Coach Kevon O'Neill's prediction of regular double/doubles. He's certainly athletic and mobile for a big man, but lacks refined skills and feel up to this point last year. James Blasczyk, 7-1 SR C, 3.2 PPG, 2.9 RPG, is a space-eater who got some starting experience last season in Dedmon's absence, but who is best spelling the starter for brief periods off the bench.

O'Neill must keep his fingers crossed that everyone stays healthy and also that he can incorporate so many newcomers and returnees from injury into a coherent whole. My take is that something always goes wrong for everybody at some point during a season and so USC will get bit somewhere along the way and this will limit their upside. Crawling out of that 1-17 hole into a respectable 7-11 record would be a semi-triumph all by itself.

7. Oregon Ducks

Oregon finished 13-5 in Pac-12 play lasy year, tied with Cal for 2nd place. They then lost their standout starting backcourt of Devoe Joseph and Garrett Sim plus 3 athletic part-time starting forwards in Olu Asaolu, Jeremy Jacob and Tyrone Nared.

However, the Ducks have enough left over and a strong recruiting class to keep within range of the upper division of the conference. It starts with all Pac-12 player EJ Singler, 6-6 SR wing, 13.6 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 36.8% from 3. Singler is a savvy, skilled player with good athletic ability and could really emerge as one of the best players in the conference this season.

Two other starters return: Tony Woods, 6-11 SR C, 6.8 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 1.5 BPG, and Carlos Emory, 6-6 SR PF, 6.8 PPG, 3.8 RPG. Woods, a transfer from Wake Forest, is a strong help defender who is often curiously passive when it comes to scoring and rebounding. The Ducks could surely use him living up to his potential. Emory split the 4 spot 4 ways last season, but should flourish in a full-time starter's role. He's strong and mobile with good face-up skills and can score inside and out.

The Ducks' frontcourt will be backed by Ben Carter, 6-8 FR PF, a very good, mobile post prospect from Bishop Gorman High School in Las Vegas, along with redshirt 6-9 FR Austin Kuemper, reported to be skilled but not very athletic, and wings Damyeon Dotson, 6-6 FR, and Fred Richardson, 6-5 FR.

In the backcourt, two standout newcomers should start: Dominic Artis, 5-11 FR PG, and Devon Branch, 6-5 JR CG. Artis, out of Oakland, is a pure PG with a good outside shot who should make the all Pac-12 FR team. Branch should also challenge to make what is technically an all "newcomers" team as he's a very talented true combo guard who can shoot it and also play the point. Johnathan Loyd, 5-8 JR, 3.3 PPG, 2.9 APG, 29.3% from 3, has some starting experience and should see a lot of minutes off the bench. Hopefully, he shoots it better. Oregon's fortunes are highly dependent on their young guards making an instant impact. If they turn out to be really good right away, Oregon could challenge for the NCAA Tournament.

The other backcourt reserves include 6-3 FR CG Willie Moore, reported to be a very athletic and skilled player, and 6-1 SO SG Brett Kingma, who scored 3.1 PPG while hitting 31.3% from 3 as a FR. Kingma lacks really good athleticism, but was known as a real sharpshooter in H.S.

6. Colorado Buffaloes

Colorado finished in 5th place in the Pac-12 last season with an 11-7 record, but went on a tear to win the conference tournament and last until the round of 32 where they lost to Elite 8 team Baylor. Though Carlon Brown, Nate Tomlinson and Austin Default have all departed, the Buffs have enough returning talent to go along with some talented newcomers and one of the best homecourt advantages in the country to finish in the upper half of the Pac-12 and at least make the NIT next season.

Their best player is Andre Roberson, 6-7 JR CF, 11.6 PPG, 11.2 RPG, 1.3 SPG, 1.9 BPG, 38% from 3. Roberson should leave after this season to be a solid first round pick in the NBA Draft. He has the skills of a wing combined with a hellacious attitude regarding the ownership of rebounds. He's also one of the best defenders in the country.

The other frontcourt starters at the start of the year should be Shane Harris-Tunks, 6-11 JR, 2.7 PPG, 2.2 RPG, and Jeremy Adams, 6-5 JR SF, 2.3 PPG, 1.4 RPG, but both could easily get displaced by FR during the course of the season. Harris-Tunks is a banger, but doesn't do anything well besides bang, screen and foul. His chief competition will come from Josh Scott, 6-10 FR PF/C, one of the highest-rated h.s. prospects from Colorado in awhile. Scott is mobile and skilled and only needs weight to become a very good starting post.

Adams will have his hands full holding off Xavier Johnson, 6-6 FR CF, a tough combo forward from Mater Dei High School with developing wing skills. Johnson actually resembles Roberson a lot in his game and might be his eventual successor, although 6-8 FR PF Wesley Gordon will have something to say about that, he's an athletic true low post player who should see a lot of time immediately.

The backcourt will consist of the SO duo of 6-1 Askia Booker and 6-5 Spencer Dinwiddie, two LA h.s. players who made a big impact for Colorado as FR last season. Booker was the team's 6th man in scoring 9.1 PPG while hitting 37.2% from 3. Dinwiddie started at the SG spot, scoring 10.3 PPG and making 43.8% from 3. Both play very good defense. It'll be interesting to see if one or the other emerges as a full-time PG or whether, as I suspect, they'll both initiate a lot of plays this season.

Backing them up will be returnee Sabatino Chen, 6-4 JR SG, 2.0 PPG, and Xavier Talton, 6-0 FR PG, a pure true PG, very quick and a good candidate to make the kind of impact that Booker and Dinwiddie did last season. Chris Jenkins, 6-6 FR SG/SF, is a young wing who could emerge down the road as a player.

Colorado is young, but very athletic, versatile and committed to defense. They have an outside shot to finish in the top 4 of the pac-12 and make the NCAA Tournament for the second straight season.

5. California Golden Bears

The Bears finished 13-5 last season and were the Pac-12's only at-large team in the NCAA Tournament. The they lost Jorge Gutierrez, arguably the best all-around player in the Pac-12, and capable Harper Kamp. Guess what? Cal could be better this season, but sink in the standings because the conference has moved up a notch or two.

Cal's strength is still its backcourt and wing spots. Justin Cobbs, 6-2 JR PG, 12.6 PPG, 5.0 APG, 2.5 A/TO ratio, 41% from 3, is the best PG in the Pac-12. Allen Crabbe, 15.2 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 39.9% from 3, an all Pac-12 player, could challenge for POY honros if he shows improvement at creating his own shot. These two guys are the anchors of the team.

They will be joined by Ricky Kreklow, 6-6 SO SG/SG, a swingman transfer from Missouri, Tyrone Wallace, 6-4 FR CG, and Brandon Smith, 5-11 SR PG, 2.8 PPG, 2.1 APG. Kreklow is a very good athlete with ridiculously deep range on his 3. Wallace is a true combo guard with the potential to develop into a superior defensive player.

Smith is the veteran, a true PG who doesn't shoot it very well. Emerson Murray, 6-3 JR SG 1.7 PPG, and Jeff Powers, 6-7 JR SF, 1.3 PPG, are also available for spot duty; both can shoot the long ball.

Up front, David Kravish, 6-9 SO PF, 6.9 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 1.2 BPG, emerged as a starter last season and showed good mobility and athleticism. With added weight, he should more than make up for the loss of Kamp. Richard Solomon, 6-10 JR PF/C, 5.6 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 1.1 BPG, had an up and down season, getting suspended twice, but returns as the favorite to take the other post spot. He will face a stiff challenge from Sami Eleraky, a 7-footer from Denmark who posted good numbers for a Danish pro club and who is reported to have excelletn athleticism and mobility for a big man with some good face-up moves. Also in the mix for a starting role is former walk-on Robert Thurman, 6-10 SR C/PF, 3.7 PPG, 1.9 RPG, who had a few big games towards the end of the conference season last year. He's a big banger with good hands who finishes well around the basket. Bak Bak, 6-9 SR PF, Christian Behrens, 6-8 SO PF, Khalil Johnson, 6-7 FR CF and Kalieb Rodriguez, 6-8 FR PF, should bring up the rear.

Cal is still very strong both inside and out and could be poised to make another run into the NCAA Tournament. Kravish, Solomon, Eleraky and Thurman will have to show themselves as more than just productive for Cal to reach its full potential.

4. Washington Huskies

Udub won the regular season Pac-12 last year with a 14-4 record, led by Tony Wroten and Terrence Ross. Both players have gone to the NBA. But the Huskies return enough talent to go with a strong homecourt advantage to make a strong run for the Pac-12 title again as well as the NCAA Tournament.

Washington's backcourt remains its strength. CJ Wilcox, 6-5 JR SG, 14.2 PPG, 3.4 RPG, 40% from 3, and Abdul Gaddy, 6-3 SR PG, 8.1 PPG, 5.2 APG, 2.5 A/TO ratio, return as starters. Probably all Pac-12 player Wilcox has the prettiest shot in the conference. Gaddy is one of the conference's best PG's, but does need to shoot the ball better (just 33% from 3 and 68% from the FT line). Joining them will be Scott Suggs, 6-7 SR SF, who averaged 7.4 PPG and hit 45% of his 3s 2 years ago before missing all last season with an injury.

Backcourt depth should be covered by Mark McLaughlin, 6-6 JR wing, the nation's top JUCO scorer. Andrew Andrews, 6-2 FR PG, a redshirt, should back up Gaddy, and Hikeem Stewart, 6-2 SO CG, will try to improve upon an unmemorable frosh campaign.

Up front, Washington has d and rebounding, but scoring could be an issue. The team also lost valuable role player Darnell Gant and no immediate replacement is in sight. Aziz N'Diaye, 7-0 SR C, 7.8 PPG, 7.3 RPG, 1.0 BPG, and Desmond Simmons, 6-7 SO PF, 4.2 PPG, 4.8 RPG, should start. N'Diaye is big and athletic, but has minimal post moves. Simmons is a junk-yard dog type with some ability to step out and hit the 3.

Backing them up will be a hodge-podge of players unless someone emerges from the pack: Shawn Kemp, Jr., 6-9 SO C, 1.6 PPG, 0.8 RPG, Austin Seferian-Jenkins, 6-6 SO PF, 1.1 PPG, 2.1 RPG, Martin Bruenig, 6-9 SO PF, 1.7 PPG, 1.1 RPG, and Jernard Jarreau, 6-11 FR PF, will all be in the mix. Kemp is obviously the son of the former NBA player. He's big and has some mobility, but lacks refined skills. Seferian-Jenkins, the fb walk-on, if he shows up again for the bb team, gives them some consistent rebounding and d around the basket. Bruenig didn't show much as a FR. Jarreau redshirted last year. He's supposed to be mobile and skilled, but very slender. Udub got by last year with Gant and Seferian-Jenkins providing the backup relief in the post. If Kemp can improve just a little and if Jarreau has the advertised skills, they should be better off this season with the presumed improvement of N'Diaye and Simmons.

The Huskies have the pieces and homecourt advantage to make the NCAA Tournament even after losing both Wroten and Ross. Improved SR play from Gaddy and N'Diaye will be the key to their season.

3. Stanford Trees

Stanford went 11-7 in the Pac-12 last year and then went on to win the NIT. They're hoping to ride that hot streak into a conference title and an NCAA Tournament berth this season.

Stanford lost starter Josh Owens and role players Jarrett Mann, Andrew Zimmerman and Jack Trotter. The retunring talent and newcomers more than make up for those losses.

In the backcourt, Stanford might have the Pac-12's best duo in Aaron Bright, 5-11 JR PG, 11.7 PPG, 3.7 APG, 43.6% from 3, and Chasson Randle, 6-1 SO CG, 13.8 PPG, 2.1 APG, 1.1 SPG, 43.8% from 3. Both players can shoot from very deep and Randle plays tough defense as well; he might emerge as the Pac-12's best all-around guard this season. These guys will play 65 minutes a night between them so there's not much room for backups. Gabriel Harris, 6-2 SR SG, 3.3 PPG, will likely take all those minutes. Christian Sanders, 6-3 FR SG, is reportedly a terrific spot-up shooter.

Anthony Brown's emergence at the wing spot was a big part of Stanford's NIT run. The 6-6 JR averaged 8.1 PPG and 4.0 RPG while hitting 35.3% of his 3s and could dramatically improve those numbers this season. 6-9 FR Rosco Allen out of Bishop Gorman High School in Las Vegas has legit advanced wing skills at his height and should prove a capable backup.

Up front, the post is led by Dwight Powell, 6-9 JR PF, 5.8 PPG, 4.6 RPG. Highly-touted coming out of h.s., this could be the year Powell puts it all together on a consistent basis instead of in spots. He's mobile and strong and blessed with very good face-up skills, but doesn't always compete every night. Josh Huestis, 6-7 JR PF, 5.3 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 1.2 BPG, does bring it every night and should be the other post starter. He has long arms and good bounce and can step out and hit the 3 as well, but his interior d was a big part of Stanford's improvement last season.

Other returnees include John Gage, 6-9 JR PF/C, 3.9 PPG, 37% from 3, a skilled offensive player, Stefan Nastic, 6-11 245 SO C, 2.0 PPG, 1.1 RPG, another face-up big man who could be this year's sleeper for Stanford, and Andy Brown, 6-7 JR PF, the Mater Dei forward whose career has been derailed by injuries so far.

A talented newcomer, Grant Verhoeven, 6-9 FR C/PF, should see immediate PT for the Cardinal. He's a very skilled, tough kid who might never ben an elite talent but who should at least develop into a very good role player at the high major level.
Stanford can use a player with his physicality to compliment Huestis in the middle.

Led by its backcourt, Stanford has no excuse to not compete for the Pac-12 title and make the NCAA Tournament this season.

2. Arizona Wildcats

Arizona, which finished 12-6 in the Pac-12 last season, 4th place, has a much more talented team this year. They'll also be very young up front, but the kids are ready to rumble.

In the backcourt, Arizona will likely team newcomer Mark Lyons, 6-1 SR CG, with Nick Johnson, 6-2 SO SG, 9.0 PPG, 33.1% from 3, who started last season as a FR. Lyons averaged 15.1 PPG and 2.8 APG while hitting 39.2% of his 3s as a JR at Xavier. He also averaged 2.2 TOPG and clashed with his coach over wanting to play the point full-time and over shot selection. He'll now get that wish at Arizona and the Wildcat's season really hinges on the outcome. If Lyons has a strong SR year, Arizona could be a legit top 15 team. A chemistry nightmare and this team could slide all the way down to 6th or 7th place. Johnson is a strong leaper and solid open shooter from 3 who also wants to be a PG. He needs to work on his defense.

Backing them up will be Jordin Mayes, 6-2 JR CG, 4.9 PPG, 29.7% from 3. A streaky outside shooter, Mayes' game blows as hot and cold as his shot. It will really help Arizona if he matures and focuses more on playing d and taking good shots. If he doesn't, Gabe York, 6-1 FR SG, might take his place. York is a very good J shooter who can also create his own shot. He's also slender and may need some time to adjust to the college game.

At the wing, Arizona will use all Pac-12 player Solomon Hill, 6-6 SR CF, 13.0 PPG, 7.7 RPG, 2.6 APG, 39.4% from 3. Arizona initiated a lot of its offense through Hill at the 4 spot last season where Hill used his handles to beat more traditional posts off the dribble and create for himself and his teammates inside. A strong 230, Hill won't have that same speed advantage at the 3, but will have a noticeable strength advantage over most college wings. Hill will bid to be the Pac-12's POY this season.

The oft-injured Kevin Parrom, 6-5 SR SF, 5.0 PPG, 2.9 RPG, 34.8% from 3, will back up Hill, giving U of A the strongest set of wings in the Pac-12. Parrom is good enough to be a starter and could get the nod if Sean Miller decides to go small again and move Hill back to the 4. We should see that combo at times this year.

But only at times. That's because Arizona has brought in a real bonanza of talent in the post. Kaleb Tarczewski, 7-0 FR C, Grant Jerrrett, 6-11 FR PF/C, and Brandon Ashley, 6-9 FR PF, should all see a lot of action this year. My guess is that Tarczewski and Ashley will be the starters. Tarczewski is a legit 7-footer with good post moves. He's got decent mobility and very good low post moves. Ashley is a super athlete with the ability to hit long Js as well as post up inside. Jerrett is very mobile with a nice array of post skills and might pass up Tarczewski and Ashley as he develops physically; right now, he's very slender.

Angelo Chol, 6-8 SO PF/C, 2.8 PPG, 2.3 RPG, returns up front, but appears to have been recruited over. He has potential and it will be interesting to see if he gets PT or joins a growing list of players who have transferred out of U of A in Miller's short tenure.

Arizona has talent both inside and out. The young posts are unproven and the Mark Lyons Experiment is about to begin, but if all the pieces fall into place this could be a hell of a team come tournament time.

1. UCLA Bruins

It's been 4 years since UCLA won a Pac-12 title. That drought should end this season.

UCLA finished 11-7 in conference last season, but was a made basket or a stop in games against Stanford, Washington and Arizona from winning the title last season and returns the bulk of the team. But 5 newcomers and the play of one returning player in particular, Josh Smith, should determine the Bruins' fate this year.
Let's go through the 5 newcomers first. It's safe to say that this is Ben Howland's most talented recruiting class in his tenure. That's saying a lot for a guy who's gone to one final and two more Final 4s.

It starts with Shabazz Muhammed, 6-5 FR SF, and Kyle Anderson, 6-8 FR CF. Muhammed was the consensus #1 player in the country until Nerlens Noel recalssified and a bona fide one and done type who should be a star from the get-go (a lingering NCAA investigation into improper benefits may delay that get-go for 5-10 games). He's a powerful athlete with a good stroke out to 3 and the rare mid-range game, but more importantly he has a killer take-no-prisoners approach which should infect the whole team. A relentless self-improver, Muhammed should be even better when he enters college than we saw over the course of the past season. If there are any flaws to his game, it's maybe he likes to shoot too much and how well he plays with others could be an issue for the Bruins.

Anderson is a unique, once a generation makes everyone around him better type of player. At 6-8, he can initiate an offense like a PG yet he has the length (7-2 wingspan) and strength (225 at the end of his h.s. career) to play the 4 spot. Critics have questioned his ability to defend opposing PGs, but I don't see him matched up against opposing PGs on the defensive side of the floor. He'll probably guard forwards and possibly wing-type guards. His bb IQ is off the charts and enables him to penetrate and defend against many quicker players. He might also be a one and done type, especially if the Bruins hang a banner.

The other FR ain't so bad. Tony Parker, 6-8 FR C, is a 275-pound space-eater with refined low post moves and a good face-up game. In the Pac-12, he could be a top of the line starting C, but might only see 12-15 MPG as a FR. Jordan Adams, 6-5 FR SF, is the best pure shooter to enter UCLA under Howland and perhaps since Reggie Miller. He's been shedding weight and has gone from 230 to 215 and is adept at slashing to the basket as well as nailing the deep 3. Again, look for him to see limited minutes as a FR before moving into the starting lineup after Muhammed leaves, but he could see extended play when teams zone the Bruins, which could be a regular occurrence.

The last newcomer is a SR, 6-0 PG Larry Drew II. There was already a Larry Drew, Jr., which is why he got the Roman numerals after his name. Drew is almost as much of a key to the upcoming season as Muhammed and Anderson. He clearly has the quickness and talent to defend quick opposing points. As a SO at North Carolina, he averaged 8.5 PPG, 5.9 APG, with a 1.5/1 A/TO ratio, and shot 35.2% from 3. Drew is just an average shooter, but excels at running the fast break and in breaking down ds off penetration. I was one of those firmly in the Drew Camp in the infamous Drew/Jerime Anderson debates. He's simply the superior player and represents an upgrade for UCLA at the PG spot. However, he was a disruption at UNC with a poor attitude and he needs to keep his head on straight for UCLA to reach its full potential this season. IMO, Drew will start all season long for UCLA so his play will be key.

That gives UCLA Drew, Muhammed and Anderson in the starting lineup. I think the other two starters will come from among Josh Smith, 6-10 JR C 9.9 PPG, 4.9 RPG, 0.7 BPG, Travis Wear, 6-10 JR PF/C 11.5 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 1.2 BPG, 42.9% from 3, David Wear, 6-10 JR PF 10.2 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 46.2% from 3, Tyler Lamb, 6-4 JR SG 9.0 PPG, 2.8 APG, 1.7 SPG, 35.8% from 3, and Norm Powell, 6-3 SO SG, 4.6 PPG, 34.7% from 3. I believe the starters will be Smith and Powell.

The enigma that is Josh Smith has been one of the more fascinating/frustrating experiences for UCLA fans. Touted as a dominating center coming out of h.s., Smith has rarely dominated at UCLA, but has done so enough to tantalize Bruin fans with thoughts of more. Weighing in at over 350 pounds last season, he actually regressed from his FR year. Yet we saw in his games up in the Washington area, playing before friends and family, that Smith has always had the ability to dominate even when woefully out of shape.

Reports have come this off-season of Smith dedicating himself to conditioning and training like never before. At least he's staying in LA this summer, unlike last summer. We can all be skeptical of those reports, but the Bruins' upcoming trip to China should give everyone a glimpse of his progress to date. Although he's never really displayed any refined post moves, the simple fact is that no team in the Pac-12 has the interior game to keep a motivated, in-shape Smith from scoring and rebounding almost at will. If UCLA fans choose to be optimistic, the Bruins might (finally) have the most imposing big man not just in the Pac-12, but in the country.

I go with Powell as the 5th starter because I like his athleticism and end of the year defense to go with newcomers Muhammed, Anderson and Drew. Certainly Powell's FR season was much more impressive than Lamb's, and after watching both play in h.s. numerous times I think Powell is simply going to be the better player. Obviously, Lamb is there to step in if Powell falters and will almost certainly be the Bruins' 6th man, playing starter's minutes in any event.

The Wears should also see substantial time. Both showed considerable improvement over the course of last season, their first after a one-year layoff following their transfer from UNC. T Wear seems the more well-rounded at both ends while D Wear is the better rebounder and outside shooter. T Wear should back up at the 4 and 5 and see substantial minutes. I think D Wear will see his PT cut very substantially, perhaps to the 10-15 MPG range backing up at the 4.

Anthony Stover, 6-10 JR C, 0.5 PPG, 1.5 RPG, 1.4 BPG, remains a shot-blocking machine who doesn't rebound well and has yet to show any offensive game. Most likely, he gets lost in the shuffle again, but has a chance to actually play quite a bit as a SR since an in-shape Smith will almost certainly turn pro and the Wears are best suited for the 4 spot.

UCLA and Arizona are two teams with a lot of talent and a lot of question marks, but John Wooden said that talent is 90% of basketball and I'll go with Coach here. UCLA simply has more talent than the rest of the Pac-12 and that should result not only in a Pac-12 title, but a deep run into the NCAA Tournament as well.