BuffPlayBook Pac 12 Basketball Preview

Pac 12 play gets underway this Thursday, BuffPlayBook.com's Basketball writer Alissa Noe takes a look at the Men Basketball teams in the league, with her thoughts on a Pre-season prediction based on each team's non conference play.

1. Arizona Wildcats

For the fourth straight week, Arizona (13-0) is the No. 1 team in both the Associated Press and USA Today Coaches polls. Led by junior Nick Johnson (16.0 ppg), sophomore Brandon Ashley (12.5 ppg, 7.0 rpg) and freshman sensation Aaron Gordon (12.5 ppg, 7.6 rpg), the Wildcats have been a well-rounded team. They average 76.3 points per game and have complemented that with strong rebounding and even stronger defense. Throughout non-conference play, head coach Sean Miller implemented a rock-solid man-to-man defense that gave up an average of only 56.7 points per game. The Wildcats have already earned impressive wins against San Diego State (currently No. 21), Duke (No. 7) and Michigan, and they head into Pac-12 play as the favorite to win the title.

2. Oregon Ducks

After appearing in the rankings every week of the season so far, the Ducks stand at No. 10/9 in the AP and USA Today polls in week nine. They go into Pac-12 play with a 12-0 record after playing a somewhat difficult schedule (ranked 71st), with their most significant wins being against Illinois, Mississippi and Brigham Young. Led by Junior Joseph Young (20.2 ppg) and senior Mike Moser (13.9 ppg), the Ducks boast a strong backcourt and a more balanced frontcourt. Going into conference play, the Ducks appear to be a serious contender for the Pac-12 title should they continue playing in this fashion.

3. Utah Utes

Utah finished non-conference play with an 11-1 record, and their only loss was to Boise State by two points, 69-67. The Utes currently lead the nation in field goal percentage (.542) and are fifth overall in points per game with 87.4. On top of that, their defense only gives up an average 60.6 ppg. However, they haven't played any real notable teams to beef up their record. Their schedule is ranked the 348th toughest schedule in the country. They only have three players averaging double digits in scoring: sophomore Jordan Loveridge (17.3 ppg), junior Delon Wright (14.9 ppg) and sophomore Brandon Taylor (11.0 ppg). Aside from these three, the Utes lack a sufficient frontcourt presence to help them balance their game.

4. Colorado Buffaloes

For the fourth week straight, the Buffaloes have made appearances in the AP Top 25 and have showed up in the USA Today Coaches Poll at No. 24 for the third week in a row. They are currently ranked 20th and 24th respectively. The Buffaloes finished conference play with an 11-2 record, with their most notable wins being against Kansas and Harvard. Their only two losses were to No. 25 Baylor and No. 7 Oklahoma State. Led by junior Spencer Dinwiddie (15.8 ppg) and sophomore Josh Scott (13.1 ppg, 9.2 rpg), the Buffaloes came out on top in a difficult non-conference schedule that is ranked sixth in the country. Colorado looks to be a serious contender for the conference title this year if they keep it up the intensity once Pac-12 play starts.

5. Arizona State Sun Devils

The Sun Devils finished non-conference play with an 11-2 record with their most significant win against No. 25 Marquette. Their only two losses were against two tough opponents: No. 20 Creighton and Miami. Aside from these three teams, their schedule (175th in the nation) has been fairly easy-going. Led by sophomore Jahii Carson (19.3 ppg) and seniors Jermaine Marshall (15.5 ppg) and Jordan Bachynski (12.5 ppg, 9.8 rpg), the Sun Devils averaged 79.8 ppg and gave up 64.1 ppg in non-conference play. If the Sun Devils want a shot at the title this season, they'll have to try to keep up with Arizona, Oregon and Colorado throughout Pac-12 play if they want to claim it in the end.

6. UCLA Bruins

After finishing their non-conference schedule with an 11-2 record, the Bruins are flirting with a top 25 ranking in both the AP and USA Today. Their only two losses were against No. 8 Duke and Missouri, both of whom are currently ranked in both polls at 7th and 25th respectively. Other than that, they didn't have any notable victories throughout their first 13 games. They have a strong backcourt headlined by Jordan Adams and Kyle Anderson, who score a collective 33 ppg and 13.8 rpg. Their front court, however, could use a little more work. The Bruins have a shot at claiming the Pac-12 title this year, but they'll have to keep up with the top five teams throughout conference play.

7. The Stanford Cardinal

Going into Pac-12 play, the Cardinal has a 9-3 record and a win against No. 10 Connecticut under its belt. They had a decent non-conference schedule (84th) and their three losses were to teams with eight plus wins. Four players are averaging 11.5 ppg or more with junior Chasson Randle (18.7) and senior Dwight Powell (14.3) leading the way. The Cardinal will have to find their momentum early in their conference play and maintain that momentum for the remainder of the season if they want a shot at the Pac-12 title in the spring.

8. California Golden Bears

By the end of conference play, the Golden Bears held a 9-4 record, but it did not include any wins against tough opponents. The Bears boast strong scorers in both their starting frontcourt and backcourt as each of the five players is averaging at least 10.6 ppg, with senior Justin Cobbs (14.2 ppg) and junior David Kravish (11.9 ppg) on top. With Pac-12 play beginning this week, California will have to pick it up to make up for the four losses they already have if they want any chance at claiming the conference title come March.

9. USC Trojans

The Trojans finished their non-conference play with a 9-4 record, and with a relatively easy schedule (111th). They had no real significant victories, and some of their losses included now No. 11 Villanova and Wake Forest. They have three starters scoring in double digits on average: junior Byron Wesley (17.0 ppg), senior Pe'Shon Howard (11.0 ppg) and freshman Nikola Jovanovic (10.0 ppg). Although their backcourt, led by Wesley, is fairly talented, they lack the necessary frontcourt talent to balance out their game.

10. Oregon State Beavers

The Beavers enter conference play with an 8-4 overall record, but their schedule wasn't exactly difficult (253rd in the country). They had no significant wins throughout their first 12 games, nor did they have any losses to notable teams. Only three Beavers average double-digits in scoring, with senior Roberto Nelson shining with 21.4 ppg and seniors Devon Collier (18.0 ppg) and Angus Brandt (12.9) following right behind him. Aside from these three, the rest of the Oregon State team does not contribute much on offense or on defense.

11. Washington Huskies

The Huskies finished non-conference play with an 8-5 record after losing to No. 24 San Diego State and No. 10 Connecticut. However, they had no big wins on their resume after playing a schedule that was ranked No. 197 in level of difficulty. Four Huskies' starters average at least 12.0 ppg, with senior C.J. Wilcox and sophomore Andrew Andrews scoring 20.5 ppg and 13.1 ppg. Even with four of their players scoring a combined 58.2 ppg, the Huskies will need to pick it up if they have any chance of competing well in Pac-12 play.

12. Washington State Cougars

The Cougars enter Pac-12 play with a 7-5 record, during which they fell to No. 13 Gonzaga and Butler and defeated Purdue. Aside from these three games, the Cougars haven't played much of anybody as their schedule stands at 91st in the country in strength. Only two players headline the Huskies offense--juniors DaVonté Lacy (18.9) and Royce Woolridge (10.9)--and they are the only two players that contribute double-digit scoring on average. Otherwise, the Cougars lack the talent they will need to compete in a tough Pac-12 conference.

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