2011-2012 Pac-12 Preview

The Pac-10 is now the Pac-12, with the addition of Utah and Colorado.  Arizona was the team to beat last season, and it looks like they may be it again, though UCLA, Cal, Washington, and a new look Oregon squad will all be in the hunt. The highlight of the season may be all of the talented newcomers who have made their way out west – Arizona, Washington, Oregon, and Stanford all have very good freshmen.  And who else can’t wait to see what assault on color Oregon will give us this year?  Here is the NBA Draft Blog Pac-12 Conference Preview:

Overview

 

Player of the Year:  Reeves Nelson, UCLA

Freshman of the Year: Josiah Turner, Arizona

Defensive Player of the Year: Jorge Gutierrez, California

 

Predicted finish

  1. Arizona
  2. UCLA
  3. California
  4. Washington
  5. Oregon
  6. Stanford
  7. Colorado
  8. Oregon State
  9. Washington State
  10. USC
  11. Arizona State
  12. Utah

Arizona

 

The Good:  Derrick Williams was the #2 pick in the NBA Draft, and MoMo Jones left to head back east and play, but things just seem to be getting better for Coach Sean Miller and the Arizona Wildcats.  4 players return who averaged at least 20 minutes a game last season.  Kyle Fogg struggled at times getting good looks at the basket, but with his ability to hit the 3, he is capable of plenty of big scoring nights.  Solomon Hill is a good perimeter defender who uses his combination of speed and strength to create mismatches. Kevin Parrom has improved his mid-range jumper and uses his body well to hit the boards on both ends of the floor.  Jesse Perry is a high-energy bench player who has also improved as a scorer and rebounder.  Miller’s freshman class is loaded, bringing more athleticism and firepower to the team.  Josiah Turner should be able to step right into MoMo Jones spot as a distributor who can also create scoring opportunities.  Nick Johnson can score in a variety of ways, and he also sees the court very well.  The class also includes 2 athletic forwards in Angelo Chol and Sidiki Johnson, both who run the floor very well and can score around the basket or with the mid-range jumper.  Jordin Mayes and Brendon Lavender provide shooting off the bench.

 

The Not-So-Good:  It is a strange mix that Miller will be working with this year – a lot of veteran winners, but a much more skilled group of freshmen.  Either way, the loss of Williams could still be felt, especially around the post area.  While Williams did a great job becoming a more versatile player last year, he was still the Wildcats’ best post option.  Both Hill and Perry are more comfortable facing the basket, and Chol and Johnson still need to develop strength and post skills.  Senior Alex Jacobson hasn’t seen much action, though he has the frame to compete down low.  Kyrhl Natyazhko will most likely most of the time at center, but he has always preferred showing off his perimeter skills.  All of this holds true on the defensive end as well, where the frontcourt will need do a much better job rebounding and playing post defense.  Also, while Turner and Johnson are very good for freshman, there will be a lot of pressure to keep the offense moving and to play tough defense on the perimeter.

 

The Question Mark:

 

What Will March Bring?:  Even with the loss of Williams, Arizona is still far and away the best team in the Pac 12.  A tough non-conference schedule should help the freshmen get their conference legs, and all 4 should be vital parts of the rotation come January.  Look at them winning between 23 and 25 games, the Pac12, and most likely looking at getting at least a 3 seed come NCAA Tournament time.  If the freshmen come along quickly, this is a team athletic enough to make a deep run in the Tournament.

Arizona State

 

The Good:  There may not be many positives from a 12-win team that lost 3 starters, but Coach Herb Sendek does have his leading scorer back in guard Trent Lockett.  Lockett has a great feel for the game, picks his spots well to go the basket and can be a tough on-ball defender.  Forward Kyle Cain is undersized at the 4 spot, but is comfortable playing with his back to the basket and using his long arms to get shots over defenders.  He also has good anticipation of missed shots and can get to rebounds quickly.  Carrick Felix and Keala King provide good depth on the wings and can be tough perimeter defenders.  Junior college transfer Chris Colvin is very quick on both ends of the floor and can provide good energy and a change of pace.

 

The Not-So-Good:  The eligibility of freshman star Jahii Carson is still an issue as he has not been cleared to play by the NCAA.  A speedy point guard who can score and create for others could be a game-changer if he suits up this season.  Sendek has two seven-footers on the roster, Ruslan Pateev and Jordan Bachynski, but neither has done anything to impress or warrant much more playing time, though Bachynski at 7’2 can be a deterrent in the middle.  The loss of the team’s 3 best shooters- Ty Abbott, Richard Kuksiks and Jamelle McMillan – none of who shot over 40% of three, isn’t going to be a help either.  Lockett can score, but he still needs to work on his long-range jumper.

 

The Question Mark:  Easily enough, are we going to see Jahii Carson this season?  The Sun Devils are going to have trouble scoring to begin with.  Without Carson scoring and creating, it will be a tough to see this team hitting the 60 point mark on a lot of nights.  Let’s hope for Sendek’s sake that he is declared eligible soon.

 

What Will March Bring?:  With some tough non-conference games, and an improving conference, I think 10-12 wins is the best we will see, and unfortunately come March, it may be the end of Sendek’s tenure in Tempe.

California

 

The Good:  Coach Mike Montgomery arguably has his best team to date out in Berkeley this season.  Led by seniors Jorge Gutierrez and Harper Kamp, and sophomore Allen Crabbe, Cal returns 3 starters who averaged at least 13 points a game.  Gutierrez, a very good distributor and lockdown defender, showed that he can do some scoring last season also.  Kamp uses his body well to create space around the basket leading to easy scores.  He is also an effective rebounder.  Crabbe, last season’s Pac-10 Freshman of the Year, is a very good shooter who also uses a quick first step to get past his man.  He does a good job seeing the court and doesn’t force many shots.  Minnesota transfer Justin Cobbs can also defend well and can play either guard spot.  Sophomore Richard Solomon is developing into a very good post option and solid rebounder and shot-blocker.  Montgomery also has good options off the bench with Brandon Smith, Jeff Powers, Alex Rossi, and Bak Bak,

 

The Not-So-Good:  The best post player, Kamp, is undersized, and both Solomon and Bak need to add some bulk.   The team has 3 good scorers, but they will need some point production from the bench.  Defensively, the team is good on the perimeter with Gutierrez, Cobbs and Crabbe, but the interior players will need to do a much better job forcing opponents off the block.

 

The Question Mark:  Who is the team’s go-to player?  On the one hand you have the steady veteran Gutierrez and on the other you have the explosive sophomore Crabbe.  The last 6 weeks of last season, the real potential of Crabbe seemed to come out and I expect his development to continue.  Look for him to be the man with the ball when Cal needs a score.

 

What Will March Bring?:  As I said up top, this could be Montgomery’s best squad yet at Cal, and I expect them to be a solid 2nd to Arizona out west.  If they can get better offense from Solomon and Bak, they may make it a close race.  Look for them to win 23-25 games due to a favorable non-conference schedule, and in the NCAA Tournament, the trio of Gutierrez, Kamp and Crabbe could win them a couple of games.

Colorado

 

The Good:  Tad Boyle’s first season at Colorado was a success by Buffalo standards, and he is already making waves on the recruiting trail with his 2012 class.  This season will be a transition season, with the loss of 4 double-digit scorers, including NBA 1st rounder Alec Burks.  This year’s team will be lead by sophomore Andre Roberson, a wing with great size and athletic ability.  Roberson has a decent jumper, can get to the rim and is a fantastic rebounder.  Point guard Nate Tomlinson does a great job running the offense and distributing the ball, though he isn’t much of a scorer.  Boyle now has multiple options if he wants to look for scoring at the point position.  Sophomore Shannon Sharpe and freshman Askia Booker both have great quickness and ballhandling skills to get to the basket.  Adding to the backcourt is Utah transfer Carlton Brown, who has great experience and a versatile offensive game and freshman point guard Spencer Dinwiddie.  Returning to anchor the frontcourt is senior Austin Dufault, who has started all three years at Colorado.  Dufault can be an effective scorer around the rim and does a good job defending larger players.

 

The Not-So-Good:  The rest of the post players don’t inspire much confidence.  Seven foot sophomore Ben Mills has good size, but needs to really bulk up to be effective.  Trey Eckloff is a decent rebounder, but doesn’t do much else on either end.  Shane Harris-Tunks has great size for the post and is skilled, but is coming off a torn ACL.  The only proven scorer on the team is the transfer Brown, though the others, especially Roberson, have potential.  They will need to get more scoring, especially from the point guard position.

 

The Question Mark:  Can Roberson be Colorado’s star?  I’m not exactly sure yet.  This is a very similar dilemma to what I have with Kansas’ Thomas Robinson – a player who excelled in their prior role, but when the role change is a major one, there is always going to be some doubt if it will work.  Roberson has all of the tools to be this team’s star, he will just need to make the adjustment.

 

What Will March Bring?:  The non-conference schedule is fairly tough, and I expect a tough first year adjusting to a new conference.  I think we are looking at 13-15 wins, 4-6 coming in conference, but next year the rebuilding gets back on track.

Oregon

 

The Good:   Dana Altman had a successful first season at Oregon, leading them to the CBI championship.  This season a freshman star and a couple of transfers will hopefully help lead Oregon to the NCAA Tournament.  Leading scorer Joevan Catron is gone, but EJ Singler established himself as a solid scoring option on the wing with the mentality to hit big shots.  He also is a better than average defender and rebounder, doing a lot of the little things that help teams win.  Point guard Johnathan Loyd may get the first crack at leading the team.  He is small, but extremely quick and can make plays on both ends of the floor.  Louisiana Tech transfer Olu Asholu is a great rebounder on both ends of the floor and is an effective scorer around the basket.  Wake Forest transfer Tony Woods will give the Ducks good size in the middle, and the rebounding ability which will give Asholu more freedom to make plays around the basket.  Minnesota transfer Devoe Joseph, who should be eligible in December, will give Altman a reliable perimeter presence.  Added to all of this is a potential star in freshman Jabari Brown.  Brown has great athletic ability, can score on the perimeter or going to the basket, and is a solid perimeter defender.  There is also plenty of depth in the backcourt with Garrett Sim, and freshmen Brett Kingma and Bruce Barron.

 

The Not-So-Good:  The addition of three transfers and a slew of freshmen will make for an interesting adjustment period.   Add to that that two of the freshmen, Woods and Joseph, don’t exactly have stellar off-the-court reputations, and it can be a volatile mix.  In the frontcourt, while there is good size and ability, there is not a lot of depth.  Asholu is strong, but undersized, and Woods has not lived up to his potential in 2 years of college ball.  Jeremy Jacob and Tyrone Nared will contribute on the defensive end, but neither is a real offensive threat, and freshman Austin Kuemper is skilled, but still developing.

 

The Question Mark:  Obviously, will this new mix of players pay off quickly?  Asholu flirted with the NBA Draft in May, but wisely stayed in school.  However, he is used to being the star of his team.  We have discussed the problems of Woods and Joseph.  Brown has the ability to be the team’s top scorer from Day 1.  Mix them with players like Singler, Loyd, Sim, and the others who have worked to sustain the Oregon program, and it may take a while for this group to gel.  Altman is solid coach, and I expect him to get the team on the right track, but watch for some of the early games to be a bit messy.

 

What Will March Bring?:  Most of the non-conference schedule is pretty favorable, and hopefully the team has gelled come Pac-12 conference play.  If it has, Oregon should be in the Top 4 in the conference, 23-25 wins, 10-12 in conference.  All of that should have them safely in the NCAA Tournament, and this is a team that could win 2 games in the first weekend.

Oregon State

 

The Good:   Coach Craig Robinson is entering his 4th season at the helm of Oregon State, and he will need to show rapid improvement this year if he hopes to continue his rebuilding efforts.  Luckily for him, he now has a full team of players he has recruited, and there are a few goods ones among the mix.  Leading the group is one of the Pac-12’s best in Jared Cunningham.  Cunningham is explosive and does a great job getting into the lane and drawing contact.  On the defensive end, his quick hands and feet give him lockdown defender potential.  Roberto Nelson will be starting his first full season with the Beavers, and should show more of what made him such a lethal high school scorer.   Joining them in the backcourt is Ahmad Starks, a small and quick point guard who can draw the defense while also being able to hit from long-range.  Anchoring the frontcourt is big Joe Burton, who is undersized, but a big space-eater.  While not much of a scoring threat, Burton sees the court well and anticipates where his teammates will be, and he uses his big body well to defend and rebound around the basket.  Forward Devon Collier is very athletic and can hit the mid-range jumper or take the ball strong to the basket.  Freshman Daniel Gomis is a good rebounder and shot-blocker and should give Robinson solid minutes.  Angus Brandt has good size and has the ability to play either face-up or back to the basket in the post.

 

The Not-So-Good:  The strength and scoring of this team is concentrated in the backcourt.  Cunningham, Nelson and Starks will need to be at the top of their game every night to keep this team in games.  The frontcourt has a lot of great size – 6 players over 6’9 – but there is very little production coming from this group.  Gomis will have an impact on the defensive end, and Brandt, who has international experience with the Australian National Team, could play a bigger role in the offense.  The bigger problem is that without offensive help on the inside, the already poor 3-point shooting won’t get better.  Nelson and Starks can both hit the three, but they force a lot of bad shots.

 

The Question Mark:  Where will scoring come from after Cunningham?  First place to look would be Roberto Nelson, who has the potential to be the top-flight scorer this team needs.  Starks is shifty, but his size will really hinder his ability to be a top scorer.  Collier is improving and can become a more versatile wing scorer, but he needs to be consistent.  Gomis may be one to watch for, just off his ability to grab offensive rebounds quickly and go right back up with them.

 

What Will March Bring?:  The team will definitely be better than last season, and with a lot of young talent, the future looks a little brighter.  Look for 15-16 wins this season, 5-7 in the Pac-12, and at least one big upset win.

Stanford

 

The Good:   Though leading scorer Jeremy Green passed up his final year at Stanford, Coach Johnny Dawkins has slowly started to build up the team’s talent.  Forward Josh Owens is a good athlete, and combined with a good shooting touch, makes him very effective around the basket.  He has bulked up this season and this should help him on the defensive end and rebounding.  Sophomores Anthony Brown and Dwight Powell both had very successful first seasons and will be counted on to take their game to the next level this season.  Brown is a versatile scorer, and can put up points quick from long-range.  Powell runs the floor well for his size and uses his quick leaping ability to score points around the basket and to block opponent’s shots.  Senior point guard Jarrett Mann is a very good leader, sees the court well, and does a good job pacing the team on both ends of the floor.   Freshman point guard Chasson Randle should also see a lot of minutes right away.  He is a good distributor, but he adds more of a scoring punch than Mann.  Joining them in the backcourt at times will be sophomore Aaron Bright, a small, quick point guard who can push the ball in a hurry and get to the rim.

 

The Not-So-Good:  The team has a lot of depth at the power forward and center positions, but they will need some of them to break out behind Owens and Powell.  Center Stefan Nastic has good size and developing skills, but is coming off a redshirt year due to injury.  John Gage needs to get stronger, or he will end up settling for jumpers.  The loss of Green, especially on offense, means both Brown and Powell will need to become a bigger part of the offense, and if the offense struggles, we may see a lot of Randle on the court.  Without Green, the team is just an average perimeter shooting team, though Brown and Gage have the ability to hit from long-range.

 

The Question Mark:  Is the team actually better without Jeremy Green?  It is tough to say goodbye to 17 points a game and almost 43% shooting from 3-point range, but Green’s play wasn’t really conducive to making a better team.  Yes, the season could have been worse without him, but with him moving on, the development of talented players like Brown, Powell and Randle should accelerate.

 

What Will March Bring?:  Dawkins will definitely have his team back on the right side of .500, but they are probably a year away from being back in the mix of things in the Pac-12.  17-19 wins is a possibility, with 7-9 of them in the Pac-12.  They may find themselves in NCAA Tournament bubble talk, but I wouldn’t expect to see them this year.

UCLA

 

The Good:   Ben Howland’s team won 23 games and made it to the 2nd round of the NCAA Tournament, and he is hoping to build on that, even with the loss of Malcolm Lee and Trevor Honeycutt to the NBA.  The strength of the Bruins this year is in the frontcourt, where Reeves Nelson and Josh Smith form as intimidating a duo in the country.  Nelson uses his body well on the offensive end to clear out space and get his shot off.  He is a tenacious rebounder on both ends of the floor, and is starting to expand his mid-range game.  Smith, at over 300 pounds, has great footwork and nice touch around the rim.  Defensively, it is very tough for many players to get around him.  They are joined this season by North Carolina transfers Travis Wear and David Wear.  The Wears both possess multiple skill-sets and have great basketball IQs.  Their height lets them see the court well and easily get off jumpers or make tough passes.  Junior Brendan Lane provides good depth at forward with his rebounding and defensive ability.  The point guard duties will most likely be split between Lazeric Jones and Jerime Anderson, each providing a different style at the position.  Freshman guard Norman Powell is a streaky scorer who is still developing as an all-around player, but he will provide scoring off the bench.  Tyler Lamb is a versatile guard who should see his production go up with an increase in minutes and Howland can expect some offense from JUCO transfer De’end Parker.  Defensively, this is a Howland team, so I expect players who put in the effort to get their fair share of minutes.

 

The Not-So-Good:  The point guard position is far from steady, with Jones being inconsistent and Anderson, who is already suspended for the first 2 games this season, one more mistake from being gone.  Add to that, Anderson hasn’t come close to fulfilling his promise since coming to UCLA.  Perimeter shooting, which wasn’t strong to begin with, could be even weaker with the loss of Lee and Honeycutt.  Lamb should help in this area, as well as Parker, but they need to be consistent to free up Nelson and Smith.

 

The Question Mark:  Will Smith be in good enough shape to stay on the court?  Surprisingly light on his feet when he does play, the main burden the weight has on Smith is his ability to play long stretches of minutes.  As he starts to tire, he also starts to fall a step behind on defense, leading to bad fouls.  It will be important that Smith get himself down to at least 290 to increase his stamina.  If he can do this, UCLA should be in good shape themselves.

 

What Will March Bring?:  UCLA is still one of the top 4 teams in the Pac-12, and I expect them to be in the mix for the conference championship.  As part of a tough Maui Classic field, the Bruins can build some early momentum for the season.  I would expect them to win 22-24 games, with 11-13 coming in the Pac-12.  NCAA Tournament bound, I would expect them to make it to the second weekend this year, especially if Smith gets into better shape.

USC

 

The Good:   After a trip to the NCAA Tournament last season, coach Kevin O’Neill will be looking to rebuild his talent pool after losing Sasha Vucevic to the NBA, Alex Stephenson to graduation and Jio Fontan to a torn ACL.  With the loss of Fontan, the leadership of the team will fall to sophomore Maurice Jones, a small, quick guard with very good court awareness.  At 5’7, he has a quick release on his shot and has shown that he can hit from long-range.  The only other returning player who logged significant minutes last season is sophomore forward Garrett Jackson.  Jackson is an athletic wing who is still developing offensively, but did a good job as a perimeter defender last season.  JUCO transfer Greg Allen should play significant minutes immediately as one of the best shooters on the Trojans.  Adding more spark on the perimeter is Danilo Dragovic, another very good shooter with a good feel for the game.  Iowa transfer Aaron Fuller is a workhorse, playing tough defense and hitting the boards hard.  Freshman Byron Wesley is a versatile offensive player, strong enough to attack the rim, but also able to hit from 15-18 feet consistently.

 

The Not-So-Good:  Vucevic and Stephenson were the two best rebounders in the Pac-10 last season, while also combining for almost 27 points a game.  O’Neill has some good size to step into the frontcourt, but it is a very raw and inexperienced group.  Transfers James Blasczyk and Dewayne Dedmon are a pair of seven-footers with solid bodies, but little actual playing time under their belt.  Sophomore Curtis Washington played few minutes last season, but is athletic for his size and could eventually become a contributor.   The loss of Fontan is the real blow to this team, as he was to be not only their team leader, but the key to the offense.  Jones did start most of last season, so he at least is familiar with what his coach wants on the floor.

 

The Question Mark:  Where is the scoring going to come from?  Jones showed last season that he could score, but he is the only one of the returnees.  Allen and Fuller should contribute, but I think it may be the freshman Wesley who steps up and becomes that second main scoring option.  Of all the newcomers, he has the most refined offensive game.

 

What Will March Bring?:  With a huge personnel turnover and a brutal non-conference schedule, this could shape up to be one rough season for the Trojans.  10-12 wins may be the most this team could hope for, 4-6 coming in the Pac-12.

Utah

 

The Good:  New coach Larry Krystkowiak has his work cut out for him in his first season.  Leading scorer Will Clyburn decided to transfer, but the Utes still have some talent.  Point guard Josh Watkins is experienced and can both score and distribute well.  He has a strong body and uses it well to create space for himself.  JUCO Transfer Dijon Farr is very athletic and can make plays on both ends of the floor.  Freshman George Matthews is a versatile scorer who has the body to finish in traffic, as well as being able to hit the mid and long-range jumper.   7’3 David Foster is a menace in the middle, blocking and altering shots.  Junior Jason Washburn has great size and should improve greatly with Krystkowiak as his coach.

 

The Not-So-Good:  There are very few returnees from last season’s team, so the Utes are going to be going through some growing pains as the new players learn to gel.  5 of the top 6 leading scorers are gone, and other than Watkins, someone is going to need to step up and score.  Defensively, they have 2 solid bigs who can defend, but they need them to contribute a lot more on the offensive end.  Someone is going to need to step up in the backcourt, so the pressure is not on Watkins to do everything.  Chris Hines has experience and should be able to alleviate some of the playmaking duties from Watkins.

 

The Question Mark:  Can Utah compete in the Pac-12?  Yes, Utah has been to a National Championship game, but since then, the program has been very inconsistent, with a noticeable drop off in talent levels.  While being in a major conference should help in recruiting, are talented west coast players going to consider Utah as a top choice?  The hiring of former NBA player Krystkowiak should attract some decent big men, but I think it will be 4 or 5 years before the talent is raised enough for Utah to be a contender.

 

What Will March Bring?:  The non-conference slate is probably more difficult than this group can handle right now, with the conference schedule not getting any easier.  I think 10-12 wins would be successful for this group, and I would be surprised if they didn’t finish at the bottom of the conference.

Washington

 

The Good:  Coach Lorenzo Romar lost his top 3 scorers from last season, but he still has plenty of talent to help Washington keep pace in the Big 12.  Two sophomores – Terrence Ross and CJ Wilcox, along with junior Abdul Gaddy and freshman Tony Wroten form the core of this year’s Huskies squad.  Ross is a fantastic athlete who can hit jumpers from anywhere.  He runs the court well and can be a tough perimeter defender.  Wilcox is a similar player, though he is much better going to the basket right now.  Gaddy started last season much better than his disappointing freshman season, before a knee injury took him out in January.  He is a consummate point guard, seeing the court extremely well, breaking down defenses, and finding the open man.  Wroten has great size for a point guard, outmuscling defenders to get to the rim and either make a spectacular pass or finish strong.  Freshman Hikeem Stewart will get plenty of minutes based on his ability to score in bunches.  Aziz N’diaye gives the Huskies great size in the middle, though he is still developing as a player on both ends of the floor.  Senior Darnell Gant is a great all-around player, rebounding well on both ends of the floor, making smart passes, and scoring when he gets the chance.

 

The Not-So-Good:  The frontcourt is thin behind N’Diaye and Gant.  Redshirt freshman Desmond Simmons has added some muscle in the last year, but he is far from being a contributor.  Freshman Jernard Jerreau has great size, but doesn’t have the bulk to play in the post, and is more comfortable working on the perimeter.  Sharpshooter Scott Suggs will miss more than the first month of the season healing from a broken foot, and it is tough to determine when he will actually be healthy enough to work back into the rotation.  One thing this team will really need to watch for is not becoming dependent on hitting jumpers to score.  They have a lot of good shooters, but to be effective they need to get the ball into the post as well.

 

The Question Mark:  Who becomes the go-to guy?  Isaiah Thomas personified the role of go-to guy last season, and with his departure to the NBA, one of the 4 guards will get his shot.  Ross seems to be ideal, but he needs to use his athleticism to get to the rim more.  Wilcox does a good job shooting and getting to the rim, but he needs to be consistent this season.  Gaddy is a great set-up guy, but I think Wroten has the combination of ballahandling and shooting ability, the strength to take a hit, and the mentality of a go-to guy.  I wouldn’t be surprised if he assumes that role more than once this season.

 

What Will March Bring?:  There are some tough non-conference games, but I think this Washington team still has a chance to do very well this season.  If they can get any production out of the post, this team will be in contention for the Pac-12 title.  I see 21-23 wins, and a top 4 finish in the conference, leading to another NCAA appearance.

Washington State

 

The Good:  Ken Bone has done a quality job keeping up the momentum of former coach Tony Bennett with the Washington State program.  Klay Thompson was a lottery pick and DeAngelo Casto left to go play pro ball, but Bone has enough talent left to stay competitive this season.  Point guard Reggie Moore and shooting guard Faisal Aden will give the Cougars an experienced backcourt.  Moore is a steady point guard and solid defender.  Aden can be explosive on offense, but needs to be more consistent.  He has the ability to slash to the rim and step back and hit the 3.  Center Brock Motum provides a solid interior presence.  He is efficient around the rim and has the size to be a good defender.   Marcus Capers, Patrick Simon and Abe Lodwick provide support on the wing.  Freshmen Davonte Lacy and Greg Sequele are both high-motor, athletic players who can contribute immediately.

 

The Not-So-Good:  Behind Motum, the frontcourt is thin, and will clearly lack the strong, athletic Casto.  JUCO transfer DJ Shelton and senior Charlie Enquist can provide a few minutes here and there, but neither is consistent enough for regular minutes.  The freshman Sequele will help, but is more developed as a defender than a scorer right now.  The loss of Thompson also leaves the team short a go-to guy who can be depended on at the end of games.  This is a team that will need to be very patient on offense and find the right opportunities to take a shot.   The trio of Capers, Simon and Lodwick will all need to take their game to a new level on offense if this team is going to continue to win.

The Question Mark:  Who will step up as the 2nd scorer on the team?  Aden proved last year that he can score, and should have the opportunity to do more of the same, but he will need another player to step up and take on some of the burden.  Moore can score at times, but it really isn’t his style of play, he does a good job getting points when the opportunity is there.  The answer may be in Motum, a traditional center who has developed well, but will need to become a bigger part of the offense this year.

 

What Will March Bring?:  Most of the non-conference schedule is winnable, but this team may not have enough firepower to be among the better Pac-12 teams.  I think 16-18 wins, 6-8 in conference seems about right.  Coach Bone is probably looking at another NIT bid.

That wraps up the 2011-2012 Pac-12 Preview – make sure to check back later this week for a look at the SEC this season.  Leave your comments, email me at [email protected] and follow me on Twitter: @NBADraftBlog

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