Pac-12 men's basketball projections

Pat Rooney's projected order of finish

1. Arizona

2. Utah

3. Oregon

4. UCLA

5. Colorado

6. Cal

7. USC

8. Oregon State

9. Washington State

10. Arizona State

11. Washington

12. Stanford

Preseason projections

Media poll

1. Arizona

2. Cal

3. Utah

4. Oregon

5. UCLA

6. Oregon State

7. Colorado

8. Arizona State

9. Stanford

10. USC

11. Washington

12. Washington State

Pac-12 Conference men's basketball capsules

(NOTE: All statistics and RPI rankings are through games from Tuesday, Dec. 29)

Arizona Wildcats

Coach: Sean Miller, seventh season (175-53).

Record: 12-1.

Rankings: No. 8 AP; No. 7 USA Today Coaches; No. 44 RPI.

The good: After losing highly-touted freshman Ray Smith to a preseason ACL tear, the Wildcats have successfully weathered a foot injury to center Kaleb Tarczewski to remain among the nation's elite. Senior forward Ryan Anderson ranks among the top 25 rebounders in the nation, and the Wildcats lead the league in scoring defense with an impressive 61.8 points per game mark. Despite the injuries Arizona hardly missed a beat with Tarczewski expected to return as soon as this weekend.


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The bad: Arizona has not played the most difficult nonconference slate, recording a win against Gonzaga in its only matchup against a ranked foe (though the Wildcats did suffer their lone loss against No. 12 Providence before the Friars were ranked). Arizona picked up quality wins against Santa Clara, UNLV, and Boise State (twice).

Postseason projection: NCAA tournament.

Arizona State Sun Devils

Coach: Bobby Hurley, first season (10-3).

Record: 10-3.

Rankings: No. 29 RPI.

The good: The Sun Devils are battle-tested after playing a strong nonconference slate, going 2-2 against UNLV, Marquette, North Carolina State, and Kentucky in games played away from home. Sophomore Tra Holder has emerged as a consistent scorer, more than doubling his output from his rookie year to lead ASU at 14.5 points per game.

The bad: ASU ranks either last or next to last in the Pac-12 in field goal percentage (.430), defensive field goal percentage (.416), 3-point percentage (.318), and assists per game (12.8).

Postseason projection: Lower-tier tournament.

Cal Golden Bears

Coach: Cuonzo Martin, second season (28-18).

Record: 10-3.

Rankings: No. 61 RPI.

The good: The Bears have been solid defensively, leading the Pac-12 in field goal percentage defense (.378) while ranking second in the league in scoring defense (65.2 points allowed per game). Cal's vaunted freshman tandem of Ivan Rabb and Jaylen Brown has experienced its expected allotment of growing pains, but the duo is settling in with Ivan Rabb ranking second in the Pac-12 in field goal percentage at .663.

The bad: Despite playing well defensively overall Cal has been vulnerable at the 3-point arc, ranking 11th in the league with opponents connecting at a .389 rate. Cal's best win was an overtime decision at Wyoming, with losses in late November against San Diego State and Richmond along with a failed upset bid last week at Virginia. Depth is an issue, as Cal does not get a wealth of production off the bench.

Postseason projection: NCAA tournament.

Colorado Buffaloes

Coach: Tad Boyle, sixth season (119-70).

Record: 11-2.

Rankings: Receiving votes in AP and USA Today Coaches polls; No. 18 RPI.

The good: George King has emerged from his redshirt season as a bona fide scoring threat, and Josh Fortune has not disappointed following his transfer season from Providence. CU has been strong on the glass, ranking in a tie for fifth in the nation in rebounds per game (44.2) and 10th in rebound margin (plus-11.5). Josh Scott appears fully healed from last year's back issues and has resumed his role as a double-double machine, while the Buffs also lead the Pac-12 with a .419 3-point percentage.

The bad: Turnovers plagued CU a year ago and it has been the same story at times so far this year, with the Buffs ranking last in the Pac-12 in turnover margin. Despite solid outings against ranked clubs from Iowa State and SMU that resulted in losses by a combined 10 points, CU still is seeking a signature win against a marquee opponent.

Postseason projection: NCAA tournament.

Oregon Ducks

Coach: Dana Altman, sixth year (144-61).

Record: 11-2.

Rankings: Receiving votes in AP and USA Today Coaches polls; No. 20 RPI.

The good: The Ducks have displayed the definition of balance, with five regulars averaging at least 9.8 points per game. That list does not include forward Jordan Bell, who averaged 10 points and 5.5 rebounds in his first four games after returning from a broken foot, and senior point guard Dylan Ennis, who returned from a season-long absence due to a foot injury in Tuesday's win against Western Oregon. Oregon boasts players among the Pac-12 leaders in scoring (Dillon Brooks, fifth, 16.5 points per game), blocked shots (Chris Boucher, first, 3.4 blocks per game), and assist-to-turnover ratio (Casey Benson, first, 6.5).

The bad: Oregon is susceptible on the glass, entering Pac-12 play ranked 10th in rebounds per game and ninth in rebound margin. The Ducks' most impressive win since an early triumph against Baylor occurred last week against Alabama, with Oregon's losses coming on the road against UNLV and Boise State.

Postseason projection: NCAA tournament.

Oregon State Beavers

Coach: Wayne Tinkle (Second year, 26-16).

Record: 9-2.

Rankings: No. 31 RPI.

The good: Shades of his father "The Glove," Gary Payton II has developed into perhaps the top all-around player in the Pac-12. Payton is the only player in the league to rank in the top 10 in scoring (fourth, 16.8 per game), assists (fourth, 5.0), steals (first, 2.5), and rebounding (eighth, 8.2). The Payton-led perimeter defense has led OSU to a No. 3 ranking in the league in defensive 3-point percentage (.303).

The bad: The Beavers have struggled to score at times, topping the 80-point mark just three times so far. OSU is averaging just 37.4 rebounds per game, ranking 10th in the league.

Postseason projection: NIT.

Stanford Cardinal

Coach: Johnny Dawkins, eighth season (148-104).

Record: 7-4.

Rankings: No. 63 RPI.

The good: Stanford features balanced scoring, with four players averaging at least 12.8 points per game and a fifth coming in at 9.6. Defensively, Stanford surrenders a solid 65.4 points per game.

The bad: The Cardinal often has struggled to score consistently, entering league play ranked last in scoring at 72.7 points per game. Stanford has been atrocious at the free throw line with a league-low percentage of .660.

Postseason projection: No tournament.

UCLA Bruins

Coach: Steve Alford, third season (59-27).

Record: 9-4.

Rankings: No. 25 AP; Receiving votes in USA Today Coaches poll; No. 64 RPI.

The good: The Bruins provided what was perhaps the Pac-12's most impressive nonconference win by topping then-No. 1 Kentucky at home on Dec. 3. UCLA is undoubtedly battle-tested after an impressive nonconference slate that also included Kansas, North Carolina, Gonzaga, Wake Forest, and Monmouth. The Bruins are the only team in the Pac-12 with two players ranked in the top 10 in scoring in juniors Bryce Alford (16.5) and Isaac Hamilton (15.3).

The bad: The Bruins are susceptible defensively, ranking last in the Pac-12 with 74.4 points allowed per game, though some of that can be attributed to their demanding schedule.

Postseason projection: NCAA tournament.

USC Trojans

Coach: Andy Enfield, third season (34-43).

Record: 11-2.

Rankings: No. 39 RPI.

The good: The high-scoring Trojans are tied with CU for second in the league with an 83.1 points per game scoring average and feature six players averaging at least 10 points. USC trails only the Buffs in 3-point percentage at .401. Junior guard Julian Jacobs has been slowed of late due to a heel injury but still leads the Pac-12 with 6.1 assists per game.

The bad: The Trojans haven't played the most demanding schedule, losing to Xavier in their only tilt against a ranked team while splitting games against a solid squad from Monmouth.

Postseason projection: NIT.

Utah Utes

Coach: Larry Krystkowiak, fifth season (79-66).

Record: 11-2.

Rankings: No. 21 AP; No. 22 USA Today Coaches Poll; No. 23 RPI.

The good: Sophomore Jakob Poeltl will battle for the mantle as the league's top big man with CU's Josh Scott. Poeltl has twice been named the Pac-12 Player of the Week and leads the league in field goal percentage (.712, fifth in the nation), while ranking third in scoring (17.8) and fourth in rebounding (9.7). Both of the Utes' losses occurred against quality teams away from home (Miami, Wichita State) and they picked up a huge overtime victory against Duke two weeks ago.

The bad: Krystkowiak believes his team is capable of playing better team defense after finishing nonconference play ranked 10th in overall defense (70.8 points allowed per game) and last in 3-point defense (.393).

Postseason projection: NCAA tournament.

Washington Huskies

Coach: Lorenzo Romar, 14th season, (278-163).

Record: 8-4.

Rankings: No. 147 RPI.

The good: Senior guard Andrew Andrews has carried the load for the Huskies, averaging a league-leading 19.7 points a game and ranking fifth in free throw percentage at .827. The Huskies have done a solid job defending the 3-point arc, ranking second in the league with a .300 defensive 3-point percentage.

The bad: Despite scoring more than 80 points per game, Washington's up-and-down style has led to a league-low .421 shooting percentage. The Huskies' opponents are averaging 41.6 rebounds per game.

Postseason projection: No postseason tournament.

Washington State Cougars

Coach: Ernie Kent, second season (21-22).

Record: 8-4.

Rankings: No. 156 RPI.

The good: Picked last in the preseason Pac-12 poll, the Cougars won their first four games and played tough in narrow losses to likely NCAA tourney squads from Gonzaga and Northern Iowa. Josh Hawkinson has been a double-double machine for the Cougars, averaging 16.5 points while leading the league with 10.5 rebounds per game. WSU's overall field goal percentage of .492 ranks second in the league.

The bad: Opponents are connecting at a .415 rate against the Cougars' defense, and WSU ranks last in the league in rebounds.

Postseason projection: Lower-tier tournament.

Pat Rooney: rooneyp@dailycamera.com or twitter.com/prooney07