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Pac-12 Conference Preview

Wed, 11/08/2017 - 8:32pm

1. Arizona Wildcats
Head Coach: Sean Miller
2016-2017 Season: 32-5 overall, 16-2 in Pac-12
Key Players Lost: Kadeem Allen, Chance Comanche, Lauri Markkanen, Kobi Simmons
Key Additions: DeAndre Ayton, Brandon Randolph, Emmanuel Akot

DeAndre AytonDeAndre AytonMiller will once again have a tremendously talented team at Arizona, but the same question will persist. Can he lead them to the school’s first Final Four since 2001 under Lute Olson?

Miller, now in his ninth season, has lost in the Elite Eight in 2011, 2014, and 2015. Arizona also made an improbable premature exit in last year’s tournament after blowing an eight-point lead to Xavier in last year’s Sweet Sixteen.

Arizona also brought in 15-year Washington Huskies head coach Lorenzo Romar, as an assistant coach. Romar has had a knack for recruiting top talent for years. Among those players include Brandon Roy, Marques Chriss, Markelle Fultz, and Michael Porter, who de-committed from Washington after Romar was fired.

Freshman DeAndre Ayton is one of the most highly rated prospects ever to enroll at Arizona. He’s super versatile and fluid with excellent stretch forward and rim-protection skills. He should be one of the most impactful freshmen in the country and have a chance to be a top-three NBA Draft selection this summer.

Ayton is not a traditional center, but 7-foot senior Dusan Ristic will occupy that spot. Rustic is a skilled low-post scorer, but he is not an elite rebounder or defender. Senior Keanu Pinder is an excellent rebounder and defensive role player who should be a perfect complement to Rustic. Freshmen Ira Lee and Emmanuel Akot will also have opportunities to enter the rotation.

The backcourt is loaded, especially with last year’s top-scorer Allonzo Trier returning. Trier will be the go-to perimeter scorer, as he has the size and ball skills to get to the rim and the range to fill it up from deep.

Senior guard Rawle Alkins, who withdrew from the NBA Draft, could emerge as an All-Pac-12 performer if he can make a full recovery after undergoing foot surgery at the end of last season. He is expected back in late November or early December.

Freshman Brandon Randolph and UNC Asheville transfer Dylan Smith will provide reliable perimeter shooting. Senior point guard [Player: Parker Jackson-Cartwright] and freshman Alex Barcello are expected to split minutes running the point. Jackson-Cartwright, struggles on the defensive end at times but has played a lot of basketball over his career and is a deft passer.

Miller’s biggest challenge with this team will be figuring out how to ration minutes and shots amongst so many quality players. This may be Arizona’s most talented team in the past decade. If Miller fails to reach the Final Four once again, it will be considered a major disappointment.

2. USC Trojans
Head Coach: Andy Enfield
2016-2017 Season: 26-10 overall, 10-8 in Pac-12
Key Losses: None
Key Additions: Derryck Thornton, [Player: Charles O’Bannon Jr.]

USC has made great improvements in each season under Andy Enfield. The Trojans won just 23 games total during his first two years, before a breakout 21-win season and NCAA Tournament appearance last year. With virtually the entire roster back, big expectations are ahead this year.

USC returned all of their underclassmen, including forwards Bennie Boatwright and Chimezie Metu, who were both potential draft picks. Boatwright is a prototype stretch-4 player. At 6'10", he finished as the team’s leading scorer at 15.1 points per game, shooting 36.4 percent from beyond the arc. Metu, on the other hand, is one of the more athletic big men in the country. He is an outstanding finisher at the rim and an elite rim protector. He earned the Pac-12’s Most Improved Player award last season.

Nick Rakocevic, an active 6'11" forward, will add depth off the bench. The prize of the Trojans’ latest recruiting class was [Player: Charles O’Bannon Jr.], a 6'6" freshman and was USC’s first McDonald’s All-American since 2008. O’Bannon can score at all three levels, has terrific length, and should be a key addition on the wing for USC.

USC has a lot of backcourt experience, starting with Jordan McLaughlin and Elijah Stewart. McLaughlin is a dependable facilitator and has made strides as a scorer throughout his career. He averaged 5.5 assists per game last season as a junior. Stewart is streaky, but has the arsenal to go off for 30-plus points any night.

There is also plenty of young talent. [Player: De’Anthony Melton] is a do-it-all guard, that joined Dwyane Wade last season as the only other freshman since the 1992-93 season to average at least 4.5 rebounds, 3.4 assists, 1.9 steals and 1.0 blocks per game. Melton might be the best perimeter defender on USC’s roster. USC also adds Duke transfer Derryck Thornton. A former five-star recruit, Thornton averaged 7.1 points and 2.5 assists in 26.0 minutes per game for the Blue Devils two years ago and will look to have a breakthrough year in his first season with USC.

This is Enfield’s most talented and deepest team at USC. The Trojans have a great chance to take the next step forward and emerge as one of the best teams in college basketball this year.

3. UCLA Bruins

Head Coach: Steve Alford
2016-2017 Season: 31-5 overall, 15-5 in Pac-12
Key Players Lost: Lonzo Ball, [Player: T.J. Leaf], Ike Anigbogu, Bryce Alford
Key Additions: Jaylen Hands, Kris Wilkes, Cody Riley, Jalen Hill

This is the deepest team Steve Alford has inherited in his four years at UCLA. All-American point guard Lonzo Ball is now running the show for the Los Angeles Lakers, but the Bruins will still be in great hands at the point this season. Aaron Holiday is the Bruins’ leading scorer and facilitator and should be in for a big year.

UCLA also brings in five-star point guard Jaylen Hands. Hands is a very smooth and explosive playmaker off the dribble, is a tremendous passer, and can create his own shot. Alford should be able to create some interesting matchup problems with Holiday and Hands on the floor at the same time.

UCLA also brought in five-star small forward Kris Wilkes, who is already getting recognition. He was one of two Bruins named to a preseason watch list, specifically the Juluis Erving Award, given to the top small forward in country.

Cody Riley and Gyorgy Goloman will compete to start at power forward. Goloman has made progress in his game the last few seasons and will most likely start. Riley has more raw talent, but needs a bit more polish.

Alex Olesinski is another option to play PF, though he played just sparingly last season. Thomas Welsh also returns and should continue to be a weapon offensively. Welsh is one of the best mid-range shooters in the country and is a skilled low-post scorer as well.

Four-star freshman center Jalen Hill also will add some power off the bench and some interior defense.

UCLA will have an adjustment to make with Ball not creating as many easy points this year, but the Bruins are deeper and return a lot of talent and experience. They should be in line for another successful year.

4. Oregon Ducks
Head Coach: Dana Altman
2016-2017 Season: 33-6 overall, 16-2 in the Pac-12
Key Losses: Dillon Brooks, Jordan Bell, Tyler Dorsey, Dylan Ennis, Chris Boucher, Casey Benson, [Player: Kavell Bigby-Williams]
Key Additions: Elijah Brown, [MiKyle McIntosh], Paul White, Troy Brown, Victor Bailey, Kenny Wooten

Oregon will have a new-look roster with three transfers and five freshmen after all the departures. Elijah Brown is a two-time All-Mountain West player who led New Mexico in scoring his last two seasons there. He averaged 18.9 points, 5.2 rebounds and 3.1 assists last year.

MiKyle McIntosh was a second team all-Missouri Valley selection last season at Illinois State. He averaged 12.5 points and 5.6 rebounds last year. Paul White sat out last season after transferring from Georgetown two years ago. White averaged 5.0 points and 2.8 rebounds as a freshman, but missed all but seven games due to injury as a sophomore.

Five-star recruit Troy Brown is the highlight of the freshman class and is a potential one-and-done NBA Draft lottery pick. Brown stands at 6-7, is a smooth athlete, and can score at all three levels with a diverse array of moves.

Four-star guard Victor Bailey also steps in as an athletic left-handed scorer. Kenny Wooten, a 6-8 forward, is also a four-star recruit. Brown, Bailey and Wooten will all see major roles right away as freshmen. Abu Kigab also adds to the roster’s depth as a three-star, 6-7 forward, and [Player: M.J. Cage] will step in this year after he redshirted last season.

Payton Pritchard is the only returning player that averaged double-digit minutes last year. Pritchard was typically the fifth scoring option on the floor last season, but he is a capable shooter that will have a much bigger role this year. Keith Smith and Roman Sorkin are also back after seeing limited roles last season. Smith played in 28 games and scored 1.9 points per game. Sorkin played in 23 contests and averaged 3.2 points and 1.9 rebounds. Smith and Sorkin may not see much more playing time than they saw last year, but should still add depth to the roster.

Head coach Dana Altman has a bunch of moving pieces on his team, and his ability to have them play together will determine how successful the Ducks are this season. The pieces are there to get back to the NCAA Tournament, but making another deep run in March is less likely.

5. Stanford Cardinal
Head Coach: Jerod Haase
Key Players Lost: Marcus Allen, Robert Cartwright
Key Players Added: Daejon Davis, Oscar Da Silva, Kezie Okpala

Stanford finished just ninth in the Pac-12 with a 6-12 record against conference opponents last season in Jerod Haase’s first year at the helm. A major problem was playing on the road, as the Cardinal went just 1-10 in true road games last season.

Despite these challenges, Stanford should be much improved in 2017-2018. Probably the biggest of these reasons is that star power forward Reid Travis elected to return for one final go. Travis has added to his numbers in each year of his career, and there’s no reason to think that should stop this season. Travis has added to his offensive arsenal every year and is a sensational rebounder on both ends. He figures to be one of the best players in the Pac-12 this year.

The Cardinal also return senior guard Dorian Pickens, who was their only other double-digit scorer last season outside of Travis. The good news is that Stanford finished with the 13th best recruiting class in the nation according to 247sports. The third best recruiting class in the Pac-12 includes two wings in Daejon Davis and Kezie Okpala who were all top 50 overall recruits.

Oscar Da Silva will be another rotation player. He was rated as the 35th best power forward in the nation. The Cardinal will have plenty of young talent that will help to take some of the pressure off of Travis and Pickens.

There should be fewer bumps along the road for Haase in year two, as Stanford has the pieces to return to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in four years. They could very well be the sleeper in the Pac-12 this year.

6. Arizona State Sun Devils
Head Coach: Bobby Hurley
2016-2017 Season: 15-18 overall, 7-11 in Pac-12
Key Players Lost: Torian Graham, Obinna Oleka, Jethro Tshisumpa
Key Additions: [Player: De’Quon Lake], Mickey Mitchell, Kimani Lawrence, Remy Martin, Romello White, Vitaliy Shibel

The Sun Devils lose two of their top contributors from last season’s squad. Torian Graham led the Pac-12 in scoring in league games with 18.6 points per game. Graham was a scoring machine last year, posting 13 20-point games while reaching 30 points twice. Obinna Oleka was a double-double machine in his two seasons at Arizona State, totaling 16 such games in 2016-17. His on-court leadership will be missed as well.

Reserve players Jethro Tshisumpa, Andre Adams and Maurice O’Field have all transferred out of the program. Tshisumpa was a top-100 recruit and started five games as a freshman, but only played 7.4 minutes per game.

Hurley reloaded his roster to avoid similar depth issues that plagued an otherwise talented Arizona State team last season. De’Quon Lake is a junior college transfer that gives the Sun Devils size down low at 6-10. He averaged 13.5 points and 7.2 rebounds last year at Iowa Western. Mickey Mitchell will be eligible starting in December after transferring in from Ohio State. Mitchell was a four-star recruit out of high school, but didn’t get much time as a freshman with the Buckeyes.

The Sun Devils also added two top-100 freshmen, Kimani Lawrence and Remy Martin. Lawrence is a four-star, 6-7 forward that was ranked as a top-60 player in the nation. Martin is a four-star point guard that should add depth in the backcourt right away.

Romello White and Vitaliy Shibel will both see action this year after redshirting last season. White was a top-100 recruit a year ago but was ruled ineligible for academic reasons. Shibel is a 6-9 forward who missed all of last season with a knee injury, but he should be a reliable stretch-four man.

The Sun Devils also return a couple key players from last year. Senior guards Tra Holder and Shannon Evans are the top players returning. Holder averaged 16.2 points, 3.7 rebounds and 3.2 assists last season. Evans averaged 15.0 points, 3.3 rebounds and 4.4 assists. Both players are excellent scorers, as each shot over 35 percent from behind the arc last season.

Kodi Justice also returns as a senior guard. Justice averaged 9.2 points, 2.8 rebounds and 2.4 assists as a junior. Justice made 41.7 percent of his threes last season.

Ramon Vila is the lone bench player that returns after playing 12.3 minutes per game as a freshman. He averaged 2.6 points and 2.0 rebounds and will need to take the next step as a sophomore.

Arizona State has struggled the last two seasons under Hurley, but this year’s roster is his most complete. More importantly, the Sun Devils will have much more depth this season with five reserve players who should see ample playing time. If Hurley gets the most out of this team, they could absolutely compete for an NCAA Tournament spot.

7. Utah Utes
Head Coach: Larry Krystkowiak
2016-2017 Season: 20-12 overall, 11-7 in Pac-12
Key Players Lost: Kyle Kuzma, Lorenzo Bonam, Devon Daniels, JoJo Zamora
Key Additions: Justin Bibbins, Christian PoPoola, Donnie Tillman, Chris Seeley

Utah loses three of their four top players from last season, including star forward Kyle Kuzma, who is gone after being selected and turning into the steal of the first round of the NBA Draft. Kuzma was selected to the First-Team All-Pac-12 and elected to leave school a year early as a junior, causing Utah to lose their top scorer and rebounder. Also gone is Bonam, who led Utah in assists. Also, Daniels and Zamora both decided to transfer out of the Utah program.

Graduate transfer Justin Bibbins from Long Beach State steps in to replace Bonam at the point guard spot. Bibbins is only 5-8, but he is quick and can shoot the three (37.5 percent last season). Bibbins was a two-time second team all-Big West selection. Utah also adds three freshmen this season. Christian PoPoola, a three-star prospect, signed with the Utes after originally committing to BYU. The 6-4 guard won back-to-back state titles in high school and should contribute immediately. Utah also adds athletic 6-7 forward Donnie Tillman, a three-star in-state prospect. With Utah’s lack of depth up front, Tillman should also contribute right away. Chris Seeley will also be eligible to play this season after redshirting last year. The 6-8 forward was a late signee in August 2016 and should be a solid rotational player.

The most productive returning player is forward David Collette. He was the team’s second leading scorer at 13.6 points per game last season. Sedrick Barefield, who was fifth on the team in scoring last season, is the next highest scorer to return for Utah. Barefield will need to continue to be an effective outside shooter in a bigger role after he made 39% of his threes as a reserve last season.

Senior Tyler Rawson will likely take Kuzma’s spot in the starting line-up. One player who could breakout this year is seven-footer Jayce Johnson. Johnson was a four-star prospect out of high school, but redshirted his first year at Utah and then played only 12.3 minutes per game last season.

Utah will need these new guys to step up for them to have a chance to compete in the Pac-12 this season. The three freshmen will be expected to contribute right away, along with Bibbins. If everyone can mesh together, Utah could once again be a factor in the Pac-12.

8. Oregon State Beavers
Head Coach: Wayne Tinkle
2016-2017 Season: 5-27 overall, 1-17 in Pac-12
Key Players Lost: Matt Dahlen, Daine Muller
Key Additions: Seth Berger, Ethan Thompson, Alfred Hollins, Zach Reichle

No longer the Conference doormat, Oregon State was a very young team last season and returns the vast majority of their production this year. Wayne Tinkle even added a few new pieces to the roster for more depth. Seth Berger joins the Beavers as a graduate transfer from UMass. He won’t put up big numbers but he should be a solid rotational player in the frontcourt. Oregon State also added three freshmen to the team this season. Four-star 6-4 guard Ethan Thompson will join his brother Stephen at Oregon State where their father is an assistant coach. Three-star prospects Alfred Hollins and Zach Reichle also step in. Hollins is a 6-6 guard who will bolster the backcourt immediately. Reichle is a 6-4 guard who was the top-ranked high school player in Oregon and was named the 2017 Gatorade Oregon Player of the Year.

Oregon State will get star sophomore Tres Tinkle back this season. Tinkle played in just six games last season before suffering a broken wrist. Beofre the injury he was averaging 20.2 points and 8.3 rebounds per game.

Also back is junior Drew Eubanks who decided to return after testing the NBA Draft waters. Eubanks is a skilled 6-10 forward who tallied 14.5 points, 8.3 rebounds and 2.2 blocks per game as a sophomore.

The Beavers also return their returning leading scorer in junior Stephen Thompson, who finished sixth in the Pac-12 with 16.3 points per game. He also added 4.3 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 1.4 steals.

Three more starters from last season return in Jaquori McLaughlin, Kendal Manuel and Gligorije Rakocevic. McLaughlin averaged 10.5 points, 3.3 assists and shot 36.7 percent from three at the point guard spot. Manuel also stepped into the starting line-up as a freshman after Tinkle’s injury. He is another quality shooter, having made 38.5 percent of his treys last year.

After a disastrous 2016-17, Oregon State should be much improved in the Pac-12 this season. The Beavers essentially return their entire roster along with a healthy Tres Tinkle. Oregon State could return to .500 in conference play this season and may even find themselves on the bubble of an NCAA Tournament appearance.

9. Colorado Buffaloes
Head Coach: Ted Boyle
2016-2017 Season: 19-15 overall, 8-10 in Pac-12
Key Players Lost: Derrick White, Xavier Johnson Wesley Gordon
Key Additions: Namon Wright, Lazar Nikolic, [Player: D’Shawn Schwartz], Tyler Bey, McKinley Wright IV

Derrick White will be difficult to replace after averaging 18.1 points, 4.4 assists and 1.2 steals per game last year. He was also the team’s best outside shooter. Xavier Johnson was just as productive, averaging 14.8 points and 5.9 rebounds, and he’s gone. The final starter lost is Wesley Gordon, who averaged 6.8 points, 6.3 rebounds and 1.5 blocks during his senior season.

With all of those departures, this large group of newcomers will need to step up immediately. The only one with any collegiate experience is Namon Wright, a transfer from Missouri. He can immediately add a scoring threat to the Colorado backcourt. Freshmen Lazar Nikolic, D’Shawn Schwartz, Tyler Bey and McKinley Wright IV will add more options on the perimeter.

Schwartz, a 6-7 wing, is a tremendous talent. It remains to be seen if he will be ready to make a big impact as a freshman, but he has a lot potential of potential. Bey may not score as much as Schwartz, but he can do a little bit of everything. Wright, the reigning Mr. Basketball in the state of Minnesota, is a do-everything point guard who can score in bunches and get others involved.

The newcomers in the frontcourt are Alexander Strating, Evan Battey and Dallas Walton. Battey and Walton will battle for major playing time right away. Meanwhile senior George King could emerge as one of most versatile and underrated players in the conference this season.

Dominique Collier is talented, but he averaged just 6.0 points and 1.6 assists last season and missed some time with a foot injury. He needs to emerge as a floor general this year. Deleon Brown had a promising freshman campaign. He still has work to do after averaging just 3.2 points per game, but he has the potential to develop into a dynamic scoring threat.

Up front Tory Miller and Lucas Siewert will look to secure starting jobs. Miller is an efficient interior scorer and a solid rebounder, while Siewert finished his freshman season on a high note with his strong play down the stretch.

If everything comes to fruition, Colorado could be one of the surprise teams in the Pac-12. With a disappointing trip to the NIT last year, similar results would be welcomed during the 2017-2018 campaign with so much turn over. Coach Boyle has young talent to work with. Like last year there will be some tough stretches along the way, but this could be a dangerous team by March.

10. Washington Huskies
Head Coach: Mike Hopkins
2016-2017 Season: 9-22 overall, 2-16 in Pac-12
Key Players Lost: Markelle Fultz, Malik Dime
Key Additions: Jaylen Nowell, Hameir Wright, Nahziah Carter, Michael Carter III

It will be difficult to replace Markelle Fultz, who was drafted number one overall by the 76ers this past summer. They also must replace their best bench player in Malik Dime, but the Huskies do have some talent and return three double-digit scorers.

Sweet-shooting, lefty-junior guard David Crisp is the leading returning scorer at 13.8 per game. Crisp will need to adjust to playing point guard full time and will need to become more of a facilitator for Washington’s offense to thrive. Noah Dickerson also decided to return after exploring some transfer opportunities. Dickerson averaged 12.5 points and 8.2 rebounds as a sophomore, and he could put up big numbers this year if he gets the enough touches. He is a great interior scorer who uses his size, quickness, and soft touch to score around the rim, but he often disappeared on offense.

Washington has another great perimeter shooter in 6-5 wing Matisse Thybulle. Thybulle is an athletic, long wing that averaged 10.5 points and 3.1 rebounds per game on 40.5 percent from three.

Sam Timmins will add some size to the Huskies’ frontline at 6-11 and 265 pounds. He has size to defend the post and has shown a willingness to rebound at a high level. Carlos Johnson and Dominic Green should earn minutes again this season. Johnson is a 6-3 sophomore guard who joined the starting lineup by the end of last season. Green is a 6-6 wing and averaged 5.5 points per game. Green also struggled to shoot from the perimeter, shooting 28% from three. Both must improve as perimeter shooters, having made less than 30 percent from beyond the arc last season.

Bitumba Baruti brings some versatility that could allow him to see more time this season. At 6-6 and 210 pounds, he could be a small ball power forward if the Huskies choose to go with a smaller lineup. Devenir Duruisseau could play more this season, as he is a traditional big man that will provide depth at center.

Washington has only three traditional post players on the roster, but they have a multitude of wings to work with. This will create more spacing on offense for Dickerson and Timmins and have plenty of defensive versatility on the court. The X-factor is Crisp. Even though he is the team’s leading returning scorer, Crisp needs to become more of a facilitator and play with better decision-making. The Huskies are probably a year away from contending for an NCAA tournament berth, but the Huskies could make some solid progress despite losing Fultz.

11. Washington State Cougars
Head Coach: Ernie Kent
2016-2017 Season: 9-22 overall, 1-17 in Pac-12
Key Players Lost: Josh Hawkinson, Ike Iroegbu, Charles Callison, Conor Clifford
Key Additions: Kwinton Hinson, Milan Acquaah, Carter Skaggs

It should be another long season for the Cougars, whose nine-year NCAA tournament drought is the longest in the Pac-12.

Josh Hawkinson and Conor Clifford gave Coach Kent players suited for a half-court offense the past couple seasons, but both graduated and left the Cougars with a smaller lineup looking to play a faster pace. Six-foot-four Kwinton Hinson and 6-5 Carter Skaggs are both junior-college transfers.

Malachi Flynn is the lone returning starter for the Cougars, while Robert Franks, a 6-7 junior has lost 50 pounds in the past two seasons. He is the only other returnee who averaged more than three points per game. Guards Milan Acquaah and Jamar Ergas redshirted last year along with forward Arinze Chidom.

Kent had a losing record in his first three years at St. Mary’s, as he has at WSU, before going 18-10 in his fourth year. After going 13-14 in his first season at Oregon, he went 19-13 in the second year and then reached the NCAA Tournament in 2000. It will be quite a tall task for him to lead the Cougars there this year.

12. California Golden Bears
Head Coach: Wyking Jones
2016-2017 Season: 21-13 overall, 10-8 in Pac-12
Key Players Lost: Jabari Bird, Ivan Raab, Charlie Moore, Grant Mullins
Key Additions: Marcus Lee, Darius McNeill, Justice Sueing, Deschon Winston

It’s a long way down for the Golden Bears, which returns only 16% of its minutes. Even the addition of Kentucky transfer and former top-20 recruit Marcus Lee can only do so much. Lee will be a double-double threat every night, but he’s one of a number of new faces who will start a new Golden Bear era under head coach Wyking Jones.

The Golden Bears must replace a lot of talent, as Ivan Raab and Jabari Bird have moved on to the NBA. Charlie Moore, who shined as a freshman last season and the team was really counting on to be their leader, has transferred to Kansas.

Junior guard Dan Coleman will probably be a double-digit scorer, but outside of him and Lee, the Golden Bears are really lacking the firepower they had last year. It should be a long rebuilding year in Berkeley.

Pac-12 Preseason Top Five Draft Prospects


1. DeAndre Ayton, Center, Arizona, Freshman

Ayton is not only the top preseason prospect in the conference, but he also has as good of a chance as anyone to be selected number-one overall. Ayton’s package starts with his physical tools that are as magnificent since Greg Oden. The Bahamian big man stands at 7-1, 265 pounds and has a 7-5 wingspan. He also has tremendous fluidity and athleticism for his size. Ayton will be a perfect fit in today’s switch-heavy NBA defense with his ability to anchor the interior as an elite shot-blocker and also switch out on guards if needed. Offensively, he brings tremendous versatility that allowed players like Anthony Davis and [Player: Karl Anthony-Towns] to be selected first overall in years past. He can score with his back to the basket, is an excellent mid-range shooter with range out to the three-point line. His jumper is mechanically fluid, so there is plenty of potential for him to keep improving as a shooter with time. When motivated, Ayton can also take over a game with his rebounding. The biggest question with him is if he can play hard and stay disciplined on the floor. However, Arizona’s coaching staff has made numerous remarks about his quick progress in this area. If he can begin to demonstrate consistent effort, Ayton could easily be the number-one pick and have a chance to be an absolute superstar in the NBA. Players with his physical stature and budding skill are extremely rare.

2. Troy Brown, Shooting Guard/Small Forward, Oregon, Freshman

Brown is one of the more intriguing prospects that could potentially leave college early for the NBA Draft. Brown is a 6-foot-6-perimeter player out of Las Vegas and is a perfect fit for Dana Altman’s system at Oregon. Brown also boasts an impressive 6-11 wingspan and is an excellent athlete that can guard every position on the perimeter. He has great instincts and is dangerous in transition. He also is an excellent passer for a wing player. His long-term position is uncertain, but he may be best suited as a point forward in the NBA. He is a good scorer inside the arc. The biggest question with him is his inconsistent three-point shooting, but he will be a triple-double threat every night even without a lethal perimeter shot. Brown could go as high as the top-ten this summer if he shows progress on his jumper.

3. Chimezie Metu, Power Forward/Center, USC, Junior

Metu will be one of the more physically gifted players in the class, should he decide to enter the draft after this season. A 6-foot-11 post player, Metu is equipped with a 7-3 wingspan and is an explosive leaper. He adds a lot of NBA value with his shot blocking and rebounding abilities. Although his physical tools and mobility are among his biggest strengths, he has slowly progressed on the offensive end over the course of his college career. Last season, Metu averaged 14.8 points, while connecting on 55-percent of his two-point field goals. He is a great lob target and has shown flashes of solid post footwork and mid-range touch. He is still not a finished product and needs to continue to polish his offensive skills, but he already brings a lot of NBA upside to the table.

4. Brandon Randolph, Small Forward, Arizona, Freshman

With Rawle Alkins injured, Randolph has an opportunity to step in right away and showcase his budding talent. He is in a great spot to produce, playing in a starting role alongside Allonzo Trier and DeAndre Ayton, who will both draw a lot of attention from defenses. This could really open things up for Randolph and allow him to show flashes of his NBA potential. He is an explosive athlete with a smooth jumper and can really score the basketball when he gets going, Randolph may be more likely to stay in school an extra year before leaving for the NBA, but he is a sleeper prospect among freshman in college basketball.

5. Allonzo Trier, Shooting Guard, Arizona, Junior

Trier surprised a lot of people by deciding to come back for another year. He is one of the top scorers in the country and should put up big numbers again this year. Trier can get to the basket and finish inside, create his own shot inside the arc, and is lethal at times as a spot-up shooter. He is a bit undersized for an NBA shooting guard and is not a great athlete, but his natural polished scoring ability is intriguing. If he can continue to develop as a playmaker, he will draw a lot of attention from NBA scouts this season.

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