Pac-12 Conference men's basketball media poll
1. Oregon (16) 288
2. UCLA (6) 264
3. Washington (2) 249
4. Arizona (1) 205
5. USC 203
6. Arizona State 165
7. Colorado 161
8. Utah 122
9. Stanford 109
10. Oregon State 102
11. Cal 45
12. Washington State 37
First-place votes in parenthesis
SAN FRANCISCO — Colorado men's basketball coach Tad Boyle wasted little time turning over his offense to then-freshman McKinley Wright last season.
Wright, in turn, wasted little time asserting his command as the Buffaloes' floor general. Still, as a freshman, Wright's reach only extended so far. Now a sophomore with a full season of play and a few impressive accolades in his back pocket, Wright has fully taken over the mantle of CU's leadership since the Buffs' season ended at the Pac-12 Conference tournament in March.
The point guard's appearance Thursday at the annual Pac-12 men's basketball media day was another step in that process.
"It's a different experience. It's very fun to be here representing our university and get to know some of these other guys more than I already did," Wright said. "Our team, they feed off my energy every day in practice. I try to bring it and be the best I can be.
"Last year I had spurts of being a good leader and spurts where I wasn't a good leader. And it showed. Games like San Diego, my energy was terrible and I played bad and the whole team was bad. I know I have to have a high energy level, whether I'm playing good or bad, in order to get these guys going."
Wright was named to the 2018 Pac-12 All-Freshman team after leading the Buffs in scoring (14.2), assists (5.5) and steals (31). He also was an honorable mention selection for the regular All-Pac-12 team as well as the All-Defensive team.
Perhaps the only knock on Wright was his struggles from 3-point range, as he finished with a .204 mark in league play and only .304 overall. Still, Wright's leadership also shined through with his penchant for knocking down key 3-pointers nonetheless, hitting a winner at the buzzer early in the season against Quinnipiac and going 2-for-3 from long range in a win against Arizona State in the Pac-12 tournament.
"I think last year McKinley was very cognizant of Dom (Collier) being a senior, of George (King) being a senior. He wasn't deferential, but he was very respectful of those guys because he was a freshman and they were seniors," Boyle said. "Now, McKinley is a natural leader. His teammates are drawn to him. He's got a great influence in our locker room and on the floor."
There is a buzz about the Buffs' potential this season. That buzz, however, hasn't yet spread nationally.
CU was picked seventh in the preseason media poll, finishing with 161 points and trailing sixth-place Arizona State by just four points. The Buffs finished the regular season in a tie for eighth last year (with ASU) and are one of the few teams widely expected to improve in 2018-19, given the glut of young talent that should take a step forward. Those details apparently didn't impress voters, though.
"I'm glad we're picked there, honestly," Wright said. "We're coming with a chip on our shoulder. There were a lot of guys returning and we were a young team last year. They can say what they want to say. We're here to prove something."
Perhaps more inexplicably, the Buffs were tabbed ninth in the initial Pac-12 power rankings by ESPN, which also was released Thursday. That report cited the loss of "more than 27 points per game of offensive production overall," but that total only holds true if the six games Tory Miller-Stewart played is included along with the scant production supplied by since-departed Serbian guard Lazar Nikolic.
"Being here with them helps build relationships off the court. Obviously when we're playing against each other we're not cool. Outside of that, it's good to have relationships with these guys."
— CU guard McKinley Wright, on getting better acquainted with some of his Pac-12 foes at the league's media day.
The league once again will send a team to China for an early regular-season game with Cal taking on Yale on Nov. 9. Last year's game in China was marred by a shoplifting incident involving three UCLA players...The first-place finisher of the Pac-12 preseason media poll has eventually won the regular season race in five of the past six seasons.