SI Now co-hosts Maggie Gray and Robin Lundberg share what they believe the NCAA should do in reaction to its corruption scandal and how that compares to what the organization will probably do.
Pac-12 basketball media day is set for Thursday in San Francisco. The day’s theme will be no mystery. With both Arizona and USC featured in the recent FBI investigation into college basketball, it’s reasonable to expect a lot of questions — and probably not many answers.
The preseason media poll also is an unknown. After Arizona and USC, the rest of the conference has questions. Can UCLA contend without Lonzo Ball? Will Oregon take a significant step back after losing nearly all of last year’s Final Four firepower? Does Arizona State’s Bobby Hurley have the roster to contend in Year 3?
Doug Haller’s ballot:
1. Arizona. Scandal aside, the Wildcats make a strong case for the nation’s preseason No. 1 team. Top to bottom, this might be Sean Miller’s most talented squad, certainly one that looks capable of reaching the Final Four. That’s assuming, of course, nothing else comes out of the FBI probe involving former assistant coach “Book” Richardson, a situation that likely will hang over the program all season.
2. USC. The Trojans are talented, maybe even a preseason Top 10 team, but like Arizona, the FBI probe presents a lot of unknowns. Provided nothing changes, coach Andy Enfield returns all five starters from last season’s team that posted a school-record 26 wins. He also welcomes in Duke transfer Derryck Thornton and McDonald’s All-American Charles O’Bannon, Jr.
3. Oregon. The Ducks lost a ton from last season’s Final Four squad. Jordan Bell, Tyler Dorsey and Dillon Brooks all were NBA Draft second-round selections. Chris Boucher signed a two-way contract with the Golden State Warriors. Overall, Oregon lost 72 points per game from last year’s team. And yet, Dana Altman is among the best in the nation at rebuilding his roster. Don’t count out the Ducks.
4. UCLA. The Bruins lost three starters – including Ball, an All-American – from last year’s team that won 31 games, but they shouldn’t drop far. Coach Steve Alford has a decent mix of veterans (Aaron Holiday is in line for a breakout season) and newcomers (including Ball’s brother, LiAngelo) that will keep UCLA in the hunt.
5. Stanford. Reid Travis last season established himself as one of the country’s top post players, even if it went largely unnoticed. The 6-8, 245-pound forward played his best against top competition, producing 29 points and nine rebounds against Kansas, 26 and 11 against Arizona and 27 and 14 against Oregon. He’s one of three returning starters, which includes Valley products Dorian Pickens (12.6 ppg) and Michael Humphrey (9.4).
6. ASU. The Sun Devils return two of the Pac-12’s top scorers in Tra Holder (16.2 ppg) and Shannon Evans (15 ppg). Add Kodi Justice (41.7 3FG%), and Hurley should have one of the Pac-12’s top offensive backcourts. ASU’s fate, however, likely will be determined inside. Forward Romello White – who sat out last season as an academic redshirt — impressed Hurley over summer workouts. If White delivers as expected, ASU could challenge for an NCAA Tournament bid.
MORE PAC-12 BASKETBALL: ASU basketball: One week in, five things to know
7. Utah. I don’t know why I have Utah this low. Actually, I do. On paper, the Utes aren’t impressive. At the same time, Larry Krystkowiak routinely gets the most out of his players. Last year the media slotted Utah eighth in the preseason poll; it finished fourth. Don’t be surprised if the Utes – who return two starters but bring in transfer point guard Justin Bibbins (13. ppg, 4.6 apg) from Long Beach State – follow a similar path.
8. Oregon State. The Beavers likely will place higher in the media poll. Coach Wayne Tinkle returns all five starters, including all-conference candidate Tres Tinkle, who missed nearly all of last season with an injury. They also bring in four-star guard Ethan Thompson, younger brother of guard Stephen Thompson, Jr. At the same time, they went 1-17 last season in the Pac-12. The climb to respectability is a long one.
9. Colorado. In some ways, coach Tad Boyle is starting over. He’s down four starters from last season but brings in perhaps his best recruiting class. To start, he’ll probably need strong contribution from seniors George King (11.1 ppg), Dominque Collier (6 ppg) and Tory Miller-Stewart (5.6 ppg) to contend.
10. Washington. Mike Hopkins – who replaced Lorenzo Romar in March – starts a new era in Seattle. Although he has four returning starts, it might take the longtime Syracuse assistant a couple years to revive the Huskies, who haven’t posted a winning conference record since 2012.
11. Washington State. Nearly a decade has passed since Tony Bennett last took the Cougs to the NCAA Tournament. To help speed up a return, coach Ernie Kent made changes to his staff that he hopes will strengthen a recruiting pipeline to Seattle. This year’s team returns just one starter.
12. California. Wyking Jones steps into a difficult situation. At the end of last season, much of Cal’s talent declared for the NBA Draft or transferred out of the program. A possible building block: Kentucky transfer Marcus Lee, who will provide a physical post presence.
F Reid Travis, Sr., Stanford
F Allonzo Trier, Jr., Arizona
C DeAndre Ayton, Fr., Arizona
G Jordan McLaughlin, Sr., USC
G Aaron Holiday, Jr., UCLA
F Chimezie Metu, Jr., USC
F Tres Tinkle, Soph., Oregon State
F Troy Brown, Fr., Oregon
F Rawle Alkins, Soph., Arizona
G Tra Holder, Sr., ASU
F Bennie Boatwright, Jr., USC
F David Collette, Sr., Utah
C Thomas Welsh, Sr, UCLA
G Dorian Pickens, Sr., Stanford
G George King, Sr., Colorado
Player of the Year – Allonzo Trier, Arizona
Freshman of the Year – DeAndre Ayton, Arizona
Defensive Player of the Year: Aaron Holiday, UCLA
Coach of the Year – Dana Altman, Oregon