Pac-12 basketball preview: Arizona leads the way heading into regular season
SAN FRANCISCO — Considering how only one team has a losing record in nonconference play, the Pac-12 is certainly living up to the expectations of Arizona coach Sean Miller. He predicted parity and success at the league’s media day before the season began.
“I think we have great balance,” said Miller, who noted the importance of Pac-12 teams winning games in November and December. “The most success that we can have as a conference, only helps each other. And now’s the best time to do it with the added exposure that (Pac-12 commissioner) Larry Scott has brought us. I think timing is really impeccable.”
Tabbed as a narrow favorite in the Pac-12’s preseason media poll, Arizona has certainly lived up to expectations. The Wildcats were a perfect 12-0 in nonconference play.
Miller, however, entered the campaign unwilling to talk about just one team in the league.
“I think there’s five or six different teams that can do a great job,” he said.
Pac-12 play tips off this week with five teams (Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado, Oregon and UCLA) already sporting 10 or more victories. Oregon State, Stanford and Washington State each have nine. California, Utah and Washington prevailed eight times outside conference play.
USC (5-8) is the only team in the league with a losing record as the quest for seeding at the Pac-12 Tournament (March 13-16) in Las Vegas begins.
In projected order of finish from the preseason media poll (2012-13 nonconference records).
ARIZONA WILDCATS (12-0)
Head coach: Sean Miller (81-35, 201-82 overall)
Scoring leader: Senior G Mark Lyons, 13.4 ppg
Rebounding leader: Freshman F Brandon Ashley, 6.5 rpg
Assists leader: Lyons, 3.2 apg
2012-13 vs. Top 25: 2-0 (beat Florida, San Diego State)
National RPI: 7th
National strength of schedule: 47th
EXTRA STUFF: Arizona leads the Pac-12 in scoring margin (+17.4), free-throw shooting (75.8 percent), 3-pointers made (8.1 per game) and attendance (13,642 per game). ... Senior forward Solomon Hill entered the season on the Wooden Award watch list. ... Former Arizona coach Lute Olson has been named as the 2013 winner of the Naismith Outstanding Contributor to College Basketball award.
UCLA BRUINS (10-3)
Head coach: Ben Howland (218-100, 385-199 overall)
Scoring leader: Freshman G-F Shabazz Muhammad, 19.6 ppg
Rebounding leader: Freshman G Kyle Anderson, 8.5 rpg
Assists leader: Senior G Larry Drew II, 8.6 apg
2012-13 vs. Top 25: 1-1 (beat Missouri; lost to San Diego State)
National RPI: 43rd
National strength of schedule: 48th
EXTRA STUFF: UCLA leads the Pac-12 with 80.9 points per game. ... The Bruins lead the conference with a shooting percentage of .486. ... UCLA also tops the league in assists (18.5 per game), turnover margin (+2.46) and assist/turnover ratio (1.6). ... Drew II tops the Pac-12 in assists and assist/turnover ratio (5.1). ... The Bruins are the only team in the conference yet to play a true road game.
CALIFORNIA GOLDEN BEARS (8-4)
Head coach: Mike Montgomery (88-47, 635-291 overall)
Scoring leader: Junior G Allen Crabbe, 20.9 ppg.
Rebounding leader: Sophomore F David Kravish, 7.5 rpg
Assists leader: Junior G Justin Cobbs, 3.8 apg
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