Pac-12 Basketball: Preview and Predictions for 2014-15 Season

A year after sending six teams to the NCAA tournament, including three to the Sweet 16 and one just short of the Final Four, the Pac-12 Conference faces an uncertain season in 2014-15.

There’s no uncertainty at the top, with defending regular-season champ Arizona somehow reloading despite losing two key starters early to the NBA draft. Beyond the Wildcats, though, question marks abound.

Read on for our preview of how the Pac-12 looks for the 2014-15 season.

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Pac-12 adopts reforms aimed at benefiting its athletes

Among changes, athletes will receive immediate scholarships after intra-league transfers.

      
 

 

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Pac-12 passes reforms for athletes (Yahoo Sports)

Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott speaks during NCAA college basketball Pac-12 media day in San Francisco, Thursday, Oct. 23, 2014. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

The Pac-12 has passed sweeping changes for athletes in all of the conference’s sports, guaranteeing four-year scholarships, improving health care and liberalizing transfer rules. The changes announced by the Pac-12′s presidents and chancellors Monday include many of the same proposals outlined in a letter to university leaders in the five major football conferences in May. The conference also said its presidents and chancellors reaffirmed their support for stipends to cover the full cost of attendance for athletes. Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott has said that figure will likely range between $2,000 and $5,000 per athlete depending on the university.


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Arizona near-unanimous pick by media to win Pac-12

Arizona near-unanimous pick by media members to win Pac-12 Conference again

      
 

 

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Arizona near-unanimous pick by media to win Pac-12 (Yahoo Sports)

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Arizona is the near-unanimous pick by members of the media to the win Pac-12 this season.

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Pac-12 officiating for men, women top priority

Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott committed to further strides in basketball officiating

      
 

 

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Colorado a darkhorse in the Pac-12, country

USA TODAY Sports breaks down the projected NCAA tournament field of 68.

      
 

 

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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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