Predicting the 2014-15 Pac-12 All-Conference Teams

Arizona will be the near-unanimous favorite to win the 2014-15 Pac-12 regular-season title, but just how many Wildcats will be on the receiving end of all-conference honors?

T.J. McConnell will be one of the most valuable players in the conference, but he’ll have a tough time finishing ahead of players like Chasson Randle, Joseph Young and Delon Wright as those players all but single-handedly lead their teams to the NCAA tournament.

More intriguing than how many awards Arizona wins, when will the world start paying attention to Josh Scott?

In the third week of our second seven-week series of the summer, we took a look at Pac-12 rosters and projected standings to forecast the first, second and third All-Pac-12 teamsas well as a handful of honorable mentions.

In addition to those teams, we also projected Freshman of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year, Newcomer of the Year, Sixth Man of the Year and Coach of the Year.

In case you’d like to reference them in the discussion, here are the projected Pac-12 standings from mid-June.

 

Unless otherwise noted, statistics on the following slides are courtesy of ESPN.comSports-Reference.com and KenPom.com (subscription required).

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Predicting the 2014-15 Pac-12 College Basketball Standings

Friday night means another team-by-team projection of a major college basketball conference for the 2014-15 season, and this week we’re looking at the Pac-12.

Clearly, T.J. McConnell and company are pretty excited about being in the driver’s seat for the Pac-12 title after winning it last season, but which teams have the best chance of challenging them?

And are we headed for another six-bid season for the Pac-12, or will they revert to the two bids received in the 2012 tournament?

This conference is absolutely loaded with turnover from last season. Of the 12 teams, nine are losing at least three key players, and six teams are losing five or more key players.

Oregon takes the cake by losing eight players who logged at least 300 minutes last season, but that certainly doesn’t mean the Ducks are headed for last place—they might not even miss the NCAA tournament.

In ranking the teams, we looked at outgoing seniors, incoming freshmen, D-I transfers, JUCO transfers, redshirts and projected starting fives. For better or worse, no stone was left unturned.

We look forward to your civilized disagreements about the order in which these teams will finish.

Previous projections in this series:

ACC

Big 12

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UCLA vs. Arizona: Grades and Recap for Pac-12 Championship 2014

Two of the premier programs in all the land faced off in the 2014 Pac-12 championship game, and it didn’t disappoint. The plethora of talent and abundance of athleticism on the court made the conference title clash a competitive and thrilling encounter, with UCLA pulling out the 75-71 win over Arizona in one of the best games of the year.

UCLA came out guns blazing, connecting on six of its first 10 shots and jumping out to a 14-3 lead in the first six minutes. Arizona eventually clawed its way back into the game behind the three-ball and more intensity on the defensive end, including a six-minute stretch where it held the Bruins to 2-of-8 shooting.

The Bruins took a 43-40 lead into halftime, shocking the Wildcats defense that has been the best in the country according to Ken Pomeroy’s rankings.

The pace of the game certainly favored the Bruins from the get-go, as the up-and-down tempo allowed UCLA to get out in transition and create easier looks against a Wildcats defense that wasn’t set.

It was a back-and-forth battle in the second half, with neither team leading by more than five points. Stars from both teams stepped up in the biggest moments, but no shot was bigger than the contested three that Jordan Adams knocked down with Nick Johnson’s hand in his face to give UCLA a three-point lead with 43 seconds left in the game.

Arizona failed to convert on the ensuing possession, and the Wildcats fouled Kyle Anderson, who had the chance to make it a two-possession game with 19 seconds left.

Anderson, who was 10-of-12 from the charity stripe at that point, missed the front end of a one-and-one, keeping the Wildcats’ hopes of the Pac-12 crown alive.

Unfortunately for Sean Miller and Co., Arizona failed to score again—despite having two cracks at a three-pointer—and the Bruins won the conference crown in their first year under head coach Steve Alford.

The loss shouldn’t affect Arizona’s chance of being a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament, but the win is an enormous boost for UCLA’s resume and its seeding.

More importantly for the Bruins, the win—and how they did it—serves as a statement to the rest of the country, as noted by Brad Evans of Yahoo Sports:

Both teams boast so much natural talent, athleticism and depth that either has the goods to make a deep run in the tournament—albeit relying on its prowess on different ends of the court.

 

Grades

Nick Johnson, G, Arizona: A

Stats: 22 points, five rebounds, two assists, three blocks, one steal, one turnover

Nick Johnson led all scorers with 22 points and made some eye-popping plays while steering the Arizona ship. Johnson’s athleticism was on display, as he was on the receiving end of a thunderous alley-oop slam and made a couple of leaping blocks on the defensive end.

Johnson has always been an elite defender, but he carried the load offensively for the Wildcats. He only made nine of his 20 shots (including 3-of-8 from beyond the arc), but he showed why he earned Pac-12 Player of the Year honors.

 

Kyle Anderson, G, UCLA: A+

Stats: 21 points, 15 rebounds, five assists, one turnover

Kyle Anderson’s all-around performance certainly earns him the highest grade of the game—as evidenced by his shiny Pac-12 Tournament Most Outstanding Player trophy.

For those who are new to watching the Bruins play, you would have been impressed by how extensive Anderson’s impact was on the win. But those who have been watching UCLA all year know that it’s become the expectation from the sophomore guard, as he turned in an amazing second year in Los Angeles.

He’s basically a walking double-double, and it didn’t seem to bother him at all that arguably the best defender in college basketball focused on him, as J.B. Long of the Pac-12 Network observed:

In fact, it didn’t really matter who was guarding him, per Jeff Eisenberg of Yahoo Sports:

Anderson did it all, scoring from the perimeter and in the paint—all the while maintaining the aggression that earned him 13 free-throw attempts.

 

Aaron Gordon, F, Arizona: A-

Stats: 11 points, eight rebounds, eight assists, two steals, one turnover

Aaron Gordon didn’t score the ball very well—hence the slight deduction in his grade—but his value has always been as the “glue guy” who does everything you need on the court.

He definitely proved his worth in that regard, as Eisenberg noted:

Gordon led the Wildcats in assists and rebounds, all while expending a lot of energy harassing Kyle Anderson.

The athletic freak got a little too happy to settle for perimeter jumpers instead of using his gifts to attack the rim, but you can’t complain about Gordon’s all-around performance.

 

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Bruins top No. 4 Arizona 75-71 in Pac-12 final (Yahoo Sports)

UCLA's Norman Powell reacts after scoring against Arizona in the first half during the championship game of the NCAA Pac-12 conference college basketball tournament, Saturday, March 15, 2014, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

UCLA went into the season with the uncertainty that comes with a new coach. The Bruins suffered their share of setbacks, a notable one just a week earlier. Once the Pac-12 tournament got rolling, the Bruins took off. Now, after trading body blows with one of the nation’s best defensive teams, UCLA takes home a Pac-12 championship in its first season under Steve Alford.


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UCLA upsets No. 4 Arizona to capture Pac-12 tourney title

Jordan Adams hit a huge 3-pointer in the final minute.

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Pac-12 Tournament 2014: Day 3 Scores, Updated Bracket and Day 4 Schedule

Day 4 of the Pac-12 tournament featured some of the conference’s best teams fighting against each other in the semifinals, but only two could advance to the championship game.

The Arizona Wildcats were able to win their second straight game with ease in the conference tournament, taking down the Colorado Buffaloes, 63-43, to grab the first spot in the championship game. As the top seed in the tourney, the Wildcats have now shown in back-to-back games just how good they really are.

With that being said, let’s take a look at the scores from the semifinals, followed by an updated bracket and schedule for the championship game.

 

Arizona 63, Colorado 43

Entering this game ranked No. 4 in the latest AP poll at 29-3 already with two wins against the Buffaloes, it was safe to say that the Wildcats were expected to win this one.

But the Buffaloes came ready to play in the first half, keeping the Wildcats in check throughout. Arizona was able to grab a six-point lead with four minutes to go before halftime, but Colorado pulled to within one point at 24-23 thanks to a Jaron Hopkins layup followed by a Xavier Johnson three-pointer that was assisted by Hopkins. 

At halftime, the Wildcats led 27-24, but given the way the game had gone so far, it was hard for Colorado to not feel good about how it was playing.

While Colorado was able to stay close to Arizona for a bit in the second half, the Wildcats were able to break it open thanks to a 13-0 run to go up 51-32 with about eight minutes to go.

Ashley Adamson from Pac-12 Networks pointed out just how well the Wildcats were playing up to that point:

From that point on, the Wildcats were able to settle down and came away with the strong 63-43 win to advance to the finals. Nick Johnson was spectacular throughout, finishing with 16 points, four rebounds and four assists. Star freshman Aaron Gordon had a strong game as well, finishing with nine points, nine rebounds, three assists, three steals and three blocks.

The win for the Wildcats means that they will be playing for the Pac-12 Championship, but it also means that they’ve possibly solidified themselves as a contender for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament. Given how well they’ve been playinggoing 7-1 in their last eightit looks like they have nearly locked up a top seed.

Meanwhile, the Colorado Buffaloes move to 23-11 on the year, but they should still be in good shape to grab a NCAA tourney bid despite losing Spencer Dinwiddie, their top scorer, all the way back in January.

 

Updated Bracket

Pac-12.com has the latest updated bracket following all of Friday’s action.

 

Day 4 Schedule

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Wildcats rout Utes 71-39 in Pac-12 quarterfinals (Yahoo Sports)

Arizona's Aaron Gordon (11) puts up a shot past Utah's Jordan Loveridge during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in the quarterfinals of the Pac-12 Conference tournament, Thursday, March 13, 2014, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

Aaron Gordon, who did get the steal because of McConnell’s effort, flipped the ball ahead and Arizona’s point guard ran under it, scoring an easy basket in transition. Playing with a feverish intensity from the opening tip, Arizona raced through the record book and overwhelmed the stunned Utes in a 71-39 rout on Thursday to match the most lopsided game in Pac-12 tournament history. ”We were locked in,” Arizona coach Sean Miller said. ”Everything that we wanted to do defensively, we were able to do it.” Nick Johnson scored 14 points, McConnell 13 and Gordon added 11 for Arizona, which shot 53 percent.


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Pac-12 Tournament 2014: Day 3 Schedule, Live Stream Info and Bracket Predictions

The 2014 Pac-12 men’s basketball tournament didn’t offer much suspense when the top seeds opened action in the second round, but Friday’s semifinals promise more drama at the dawn of March Madness.

Although Colorado pulled a slight 59-56 upset over California to advance, the Buffaloes have to face top-seeded Arizona, who dismantled Utah 71-39 in a suffocating defensive display. The UCLA Bruins disposed of Oregon easily 82-63 on Thursday and will face Stanford, a surprisingly dominant winner over Arizona State.

If all goes according to plan, the top two teams in the conference should meet in the final. Let’s take a look at when and where to catch the action as well as predictions about how both contests will play out.

 

Bracket Predictions

Arizona Dominates Colorado

Nothing against the Buffaloes—credit them for continuing to fight hard and play like there’s no tomorrow—but there won’t be a “tomorrow” in the Pac-12 tournament when they’re finished playing the Wildcats on Friday.

This Arizona team has looked possessed on the defensive end all season, and it continued that trend by holding the Utes to a mere 13 points in the first half. Stats guru Ken Pomeroy—who has the Wildcats as the No. 1 defensive team in the country—was impressed with the devastating display:

Ball movement and spacing on offense are other big advantages for Arizona, and they were on full display when the Wildcats traveled to Boulder and crushed the Buffaloes 88-61 on Feb. 22. The Wildcats shot 60.3 percent in that contest and had assists on 24 of 35 field goals, while Colorado had just six dimes on 17-of-52 (32.7 percent) shooting.

Part of that can be attributed to the absence of Spencer Dinwiddie, who led the team in scoring and assists before tearing his ACL in a Jan. 12 loss to Washington. CBSSports.com’s Jon Rothstein praised the job coach Tad Boyle has done in spite of that major setback:

But the outcome of the game sans Dinwiddie should dismiss any notion that the Buffaloes can pull off the unthinkable upset. Then again, they are considered a borderline NCAA tournament bubble team and would see their stock soar with a win in this one.

It’s just hard to see Colorado creating enough offense without its best player against a Wildcats team that seems intent on confirming its status as king of the conference.

Prediction: Arizona 70, Colorado 55

 

UCLA Edges Stanford

The Bruins just have a bit more firepower and consistency on their side. Sophomore point guard Kyle Anderson is a matchup nightmare at 6’9″, and Jordan Adams is a dangerous 2-guard who will give Stanford problems.

As reported by the Orange County Register’s Ryan Kartje, Anderson implied that UCLA put together its best game of the season in topping the Ducks on Thursday:

This is going to be an interesting semifinal, as these two teams split the regular-season series. ESPN’s Dave Flemming believes Stanford showed a lot in winning 79-58 over Arizona State:

Cardinal head coach Johnny Dawkins has his side playing inspired basketball over the past two games, and star guard Chasson Randle and Co. may have saved Dawkins’ job with the win over Arizona State.

Dawkins is aware that his employment status won’t be secure unless the Cardinal make it to the NCAA tournament. Athletic director Bernard Muir expressed as much earlier in the season, but it’s something Dawkins has embraced, per Yahoo! Sports’ Jeff Eisenberg:

I’ve been in this sport a long time. I don’t feel pressured by things like that. I look at that as an opportunity and a challenge. I believe in what he said and I felt the same way. I’d be very disappointed if we didn’t accomplish those things because I believe in my guys. I think he said those things because he believes in them as well. I think we’re on the same page with that.

Both squads are hot and have leadership exuding supreme confidence. However, when the Cardinal topped UCLA 83-74 in the last meeting between these rivals, it took a ridiculous 62.5 percent shooting effort for them to come out on top.

That type of offensive execution happens once in a blue moon, and it helped that Stanford played that contest at home. The first clash saw the Bruins run away with a 17-point triumph, and a neutral court should reveal them as the superior team.

All of this should culminate in a dream scenario in which the Wildcats battle the Bruins in the conference tournament final. Arizona will likely be an NCAA tournament No. 1 seed regardless of the outcome, as Villanova was bounced from the Big East tournament, but the Wildcats could use a quality win to boost their spirits before the Big Dance.

Consistency has been more of an issue for UCLA, and playing a hard-nosed defensive team such as Arizona will be a tremendous test and a final measuring stick ahead of the NCAA tourney. But the Bruins will have to claw their way past an upstart Stanford first, and they can’t look ahead to Arizona and become mired in a trap-game scenario.

Prediction: UCLA 74, Stanford 68

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Pac-12 Tournament 2014: Day 2 Schedule, Live Stream Info and Bracket Predictions

Conference tournaments are now underway as the NCAA tournament approaches, and the Pac-12 tournament has a number of teams that could be playing in the Big Dance in about a week.

The Oregon Ducks continued their eight-game win streak with a 88-74 victory over the Oregon State Beavers. Meanwhile, the Colorado Buffaloes barely made it past the USC Trojans at 59-56 to continue to make a case for a solid spot in the NCAA tourney.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at the complete schedule for the second day of the Pac-12 tournament, followed by viewing information and predictions for how the bracket will play out.

 

Day 2 Schedule

 

Live Stream Info

All games on the Pac-12 Network can be accessed on a live stream via Pac-12.com with username and password provided by TV providers.

 

Bracket Predictions

Arizona Cruises to Finals

A 28-3, the Arizona Wildcats are one of the best teams in all of college basketball, and given how well they’ve played all year, it’s hard to see them not making it to the finals.

The Wildcats took home a number of conference awards this year. According to Pac-12.com, Nick Johnson was named the conference’s Player of the Year, Aaron Gordon was named Freshman of the Year and Sean Miller won the John Wooden Coach of the Year.

Yeah, that’s a good sign that Arizona is pretty good.

The Utah Utes will be playing the Wildcats on Thursday, and Arizona won both meetings this year against them, although the second one did go to overtime. In the next round, the Wildcats would play either California or Colorado. Arizona’s only loss between the two teams came against the Golden Bears, 60-58, back at the beginning of February.

With Johnson and Gordon combining for 28.4 points per game this season, they will likely continue to play well and should help Arizona breeze through the next two rounds on their way to the final round.

 

Oregon Continues to Stay Hot 

Even though they’re the No. 7 seed in the Pac-12 tourney, the Ducks are coming into the second round on on fire with eight straight wins. Still, they have a tough matchup against the UCLA Bruins before they can make it to the semifinals.

After starting the season 13-0 and looking like one of the best teams in the country, the Ducks lost eight of their next 10 games, completely collapsing as it looked like they were no longer going to be going to the Big Dance. Now they’re clicking once again, and their high-powered offense should be able to help them keep it going.

Currently, the Ducks rank ninth in the nation, averaging 82.3 points per game. Four players average at least 10 points per game, with Joseph Young leading the way with 18.2 points per contest. Meanwhile, Mike Moser, Jason Calliste and Damyean Dotson average 13.7, 12.5 and 10.1 points, respectively.

The Bruins are a tough opponent and the Ducks know that, as they’ve already had two incredible tough games against them this year, losing 70-68 in the first and winning 87-83 in double overtime in the second.

It won’t be easy to get past the Bruins, but if they do, the Ducks should be able to move into the finals with a big potential matchup against the Wildcats.

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Pac-12 Tournament 2014: Day 1 Scores, Updated Bracket and Day 2 Schedule

The Washington Huskies hung tough with the Utah Utes on Wednesday, but the team’s efforts fell short in a 67-61 Round 1 loss in the Pac-12 tournament. It was a great win for the Utes; however, now they have the daunting task of facing Arizona in Round 2 on Thursday.

This highly contested game is just the beginning of what should be a fantastic tournament. Not a single team can be counted out from the Pac-12 action, as the competition will be fierce. As we know, anything can happen during March Madness.

Let’s recap the early action, followed by an updated bracket and Day 2 schedule for the Pac-12 tournament.

 

Utah 67, Washington 61

It was all Utah in the first half of Wednesday’s action. At the half, the Utes had a commanding 34-24 lead and looked to be running away from the Huskies.

However, Washington wasn’t done. The team rallied in the second half with a brilliant comeback that actually allowed them to take the lead late in the game. Utah flexed its muscles though, and took the lead for good after connecting on a three with just 35 seconds left in the game.

It was a sloppy day for both teams from behind the arc, as each went 4-14 from downtown. The difference-maker here was Utah’s efficiency from the field, shooting 44.9 percent against Washington’s 37.0 percent.

The Utes also showed their physicality and size, out rebounding the Huskies 39 to 28 on the day.

Utah certainly looked like the more complete team on Wednesday, with five different players scoring at least eight points in a defensive struggle. However, it will take much more than that if the Utes plan on continuing past Arizona on Thursday.


Updated Bracket

With the Utes moving on to Thursday’s Round 2 action against Arizona, Pac-12.com has the latest updated bracket after the conclusion of Game 1.

 

Day 2 Schedule

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