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Pac-12 basketball preview: Arizona leads the way heading into regular season

Published: Monday, July 27 2015 7:44 p.m. MDT

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.

Pac-12 capsules

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

2012-13 vs. Top 25: 0-2 (lost to UNLV, Creighton)

National RPI: 75th

National strength of schedule: 55th

EXTRA STUFF: Crabbe is the Pac-12’s leading scorer. ... Cal opened the season 6-0 for the first time since 2007-08. ... Kravish is 20 pounds heavier than a year ago. The 6-foot-9 forward now weighs in at 221. ... The Bears signed three highly touted prep players for 2013-14 — swingman Jabari Bird, shooting guard Jordan Matthews and point guard Sam Singer — giving them a consensus top 20 recruiting class.

STANFORD CARDINAL (9-4)

Head coach: Johnny Dawkins (75-59)

Scoring leader: Junior F Dwight Powell, 14.5 ppg

Rebounding leader: Junior F Josh Huestis, 8.9 rpg

Assists leader: Sophomore G Chasson Randle, 3.5 apg

2012-13 vs. Top 25: 0-2 (lost to Missouri, North Carolina State)

National RPI: 66th

National strength of schedule: 69th

EXTRA STUFF:. ... Stanford won the NIT last season and finished with a 26-11 record. ... NBA veteran Mark “Mad Dog” Madsen returned to his alma mater as an assistant coach in June. ... The Cardinal won a school-record 17 home games last season. ... Former Olympus High star Elliott Bullock, a 6-foot-11 junior, is redshirting this season after serving an LDS Church mission in Houston.

WASHINGTON HUSKIES (8-5)

Head coach: Lorenzo Romar (221-116, 314-204)

Scoring leader: Junior G C.J. Wilcox, 18.5 ppg

Rebounding leader: Senior C Aziz N’Diaye, 9.2 rpg

Assists leader: Senior G Abdul Gaddy, 3.7 apg

2012-13 vs. Top 25: 0-1 (lost to Ohio State)

National RPI: 95th

National strength of schedule: 40th

EXTRA STUFF: Wilcox, a former Pleasant Grove High School star, is the Pac-12’s co-leader in 3-pointers made (2.6 per game). He tops the conference in minutes played (35.4 per game). ... N’Diaye leads the Pac-12 in offensive rebounding (3.8 per game). ... The Huskies have won 924 games on their home floor at Hec Edmundson Pavilion, the most of any team in any facility in the nation.

COLORADO BUFFALOES (10-2)

Head coach: Tad Boyle (54-25, 110-91)

Scoring leader: Sophomore G Askia Booker, 14.8 ppg

Rebounding leader: Junior F Andre Roberson, 11.9 rpg

Assists leader: Sophomore G Spencer Dinwiddie, 2.8 apg

2012-13 vs. Top 25: 1-1 (beat Baylor; lost to Kansas)

National RPI: 5th

National strength of schedule: 7th

EXTRA STUFF: Colorado opens conference play Thursday at Arizona. The Buffaloes defeated the Wildcats 53-51 in the championship game of last year’s Pac-12 Tournament. ... Roberson is the Pac-12’s leading rebounder and top defensive boarder (9 per game). ... Colorado is off to its best start since 2005-06. ... The Buffs have drawn crowds of 10,000 or greater to five of their six home games.

OREGON DUCKS (11-2)

Head coach: Dana Altman (45-28, 454-271)

Scoring leader: Freshman G Damyean Dotson, 11.0 ppg

Rebounding leader: Senior F Arsalan Kazemi, 10.0 rpg

Assists leader: Freshman G Dominic Artis, 3.6 apg

2012-13 vs. Top 25: 1-1 (beat UNLV; lost to Cincinnati)

National RPI: 65th

National strength of schedule: 220th

EXTRA STUFF: Oregon leads the conference in rebounding margin (+10.7). ... The Ducks top the Pac-12 in offensive rebounds with 14.3 per game. ... Freshman forward Ben Carter is the league’s best free-throw shooter (.938) and Kazemi is the leader in steals (3.1 per game). ... Senior forward E.J. Singler has made 91 consecutive starts. ... Oregon leads the league in steals (10.1 per game).

OREGON STATE BEAVERS (10-3)

Head coach: Craig Robinson (61-70, 91-98)

Scoring leader: Junior G Roberto Nelson, 15.8 ppg

Rebounding leader: Sophomore F Eric Moreland, 11.2 rpg

Assists leader: Nelson, 3.2 apg

2012-13 vs. Top 25: 0-1 (lost to Kansas)

National RPI: 211th

National strength of schedule: 339th

EXTRA STUFF: Oregon State leads the Pac-12 in 3-point shooting percentage (.407). ... Nelson is the conference’s best from beyond the arc (48.9 percent). ... Robinson is the brother of U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama. ... Under Robinson, the Beavers are 61-6 when leading with five minutes left to play. ... Oregon State won 21 games last season, reaching 20 for the first time since 1989-90.

USC TROJANS (5-8)

Head coach: Kevin O’Neill (46-63, 217-243)

Scoring leader: Senior F Eric Wise, 10.8 ppg

Rebounding leader: Junior F Dewayne Dedmon, 7.3 rpg

Assists leader: Senior G Jio Fontan, 5.3 apg

2012-13 vs. Top 25: 0-3 (lost to San Diego State, New Mexico, Minnesota)

National RPI: 152nd

National strength of schedule: 25th

EXTRA STUFF: USC and Florida State are the only major college programs with three seven-footers on the roster. The trio of towering Trojans includes Dedmon (7-0), senior James Blasczyk (7-1) and junior Omar Orab (7-2). ... Ten of USC’s 17 players are transfers. ... The Trojans have six seniors. ... USC has lost 13 consecutive games on the road. The last win was at UC Riverside in 2011.

WASHINGTON STATE COUGARS (9-4)

Head coach: Ken Bone (66-50, 401-217)

Scoring leader: Senior F Brock Motum, 19.7 ppg

Rebounding leader: Motum, 7.0 rpg

Assists leader: Sophomore G Royce Woolridge, 2.9 apg

2012-13 vs. Top 25: 0-2 (lost to Kansas, Gonzaga)

National RPI: 191st

National strength of schedule: 275th

EXTRA STUFF: Washington State is giving up a league-low 55.2 points per game. ... The Cougars have three Australians on their roster — Motum, sophomore forward James Hunter and sophomore guard Dexter Kernich-Drew. ... Wazzou enters Pac-12 play with four straight wins (Fresno State, Jackson State, Buffalo and Idaho State). ... The Cougars dropped a 71-69 decision to 10th-ranked Gonzaga on Dec. 5.

ARIZONA STATE SUN DEVILS (11-2)

Head coach: Herb Sendek (98-95, 352-253)

Scoring leader: Freshman G Jahili Carson, 17.7 ppg

Rebounding leader: Senior G-F Carrick Felix, 7.5 rpg

Assists leader: Carson, 5.5 apg

2012-13 vs. Top 25: 0-1 (lost to Creighton)

National RPI: 74th

National strength of schedule: 199th

EXTRA STUFF: Arizona State is averaging a conference-best 7.9 blocks per game. ... Junior center Jordan Bachynski, the brother of Utah’s Dallin Bachynski, is the Pac-12’s individual leader with 59 rejections. ... Jonathan Gilling is the league co-leader in 3-pointers made with 34. ... Carson is on track to become the first freshman in the nation to average 17 points and five assists in a season since 1996-97.

UTAH UTES (8-4)

Head coach: Larry Krystkowiak (14-29, 56-49)

Scoring leader: Senior G Jarred DuBois, 13.5 ppg

Rebounding leader: Freshman F Jordan Loveridge, 7.6 rpg

Assists leader: DuBois, 4.0 apg

2012-13 vs. Top 25: 0-0

National RPI: 115th

National strength of schedule: 91st

EXTRA STUFF: Utah tops the Pac-12 in field goal percentage defense (.352) and 3-point shooting defense (.307). ... The Utes grab a conference-best 29 defensive rebounds per game. ... Loveridge has three double-doubles this season. ... Utah had double-digit leads in three of its four losses. ... The Utes are 1-14 on the road over the past two seasons — prevailing at Texas State (74-69) on Nov. 30.

RPI and strength of schedule rankings source: www.teamrankings.com

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