With college basketball finally back in session, looking at the teams in each conference and ranking them is integral. Things such as returning prospects, incoming recruiting classes and the emergence of lesser-known players shakes up these rankings continuously, making it hard to pinpoint exactly what teams should go where. This is no different for the Pac-12, who had a total of five teams make the March Madness tournament last year with four advancing all the way to the Sweet Sixteen. With that said, here is the Pac-12 team rankings for the 2021-2022 college basketball season:
To no surprise, the top team in the Pac-12 is the UCLA Bruins. After last year’s Cinderella run to the Final Four, which included upsets such as beating number one ranked Michigan, the Bruins come into this season with a confidence that other teams can’t say they have. In addition to this, the recruiting team behind UCLA managed to land Peyton Watson, the 12th ranked high school player in the class of 2021. Coupling these things with the fact that one of the best college basketball players in the nation by the name of Johnny Juzang came back for his junior year, and their do-it all leader Jaime Jaquez (pictured) is back, Bruins fans will have tons to cheer for this season.
Coming in at two is the Oregon Ducks. After exceeding many people’s expectations last year and making it all the way to the Sweet 16, the Ducks returned a decent amount of players and received some solid transfers to the program. The loss of Chris Duarte to the NBA will surely hurt the team at least a little but with some solid veterans and some promising freshmen, Oregon will look to have another great year.
Barely getting beat out by their conference competitors, USC places at three in the Pac-12 rankings. After an amazing outing in the March Madness tournament last year, USC suffered an enormous offseason blow, losing phenom center Evan Mobley to the NBA draft. While the loss will hurt quite a bit, his own brother Isaiah Mobley will look to keep USC afloat and make some noise in the Pac-12.
4. Oregon State
Although the top three teams are pretty set for the Pac-12, this is where things start to get interesting. At number four is Oregon State. After an Elite 8 appearance last year, the Beavers returned nearly all of their players, which consist of numerous juniors and seniors. This leadership should certainly assist Oregon State in looking to replicate what they did last year and even try to go further.
After withdrawing from tournament play last year, the Wildcats look to bounce back and have a strong year this season. Though they had a respectable record of 17-9, the controversy that faced the program surely distracted things away from the side that matters: basketball. With Tommy Lloyd taking over as head coach and possessing a strong cast of players, he hopes to bring some of that Gonzaga magic to Arizona.
Colorado arguably had the best recruitment class of the Pac-12 this offseason, bringing in numerous four star and three star athletes. With this, the team proves to be one of the younger squads amongst the conference, which certainly has its pros and cons. While they could boom and exceed expectations heavily, they can also struggle with a lack of veteran leadership and disappoint. Finishing middle of the pack in the Pac-12 seems appropriate for this young and upcoming team.
7. Washington State
Washington State made it barely over .500 in the 2020-2021 season, finishing with a mediocre 14-11 record. While there aren’t many expectations for this team, one bright spot is the nice mix of promising young players and multi-year athletes that are on this squad.
8. Arizona State
Last year, Arizona State simply couldn’t get the ball rolling. Even with having the 24th pick in the draft [Player:Josh Cristopher), the Sun Devils finished with a below .500 record, clocking in at 11-14. With the loss of Christopher and not an insane amount of star talent coming through recruiting, it’s hard to see Arizona State placing any higher than this spot.
Stanford is a team that can surprise people this year in the Pac-12, but for now they’re sitting at the bottom half of the conference. They had a successful offseason, snagging a consensus top 20 recruit of the class of 2021 in Harrison Ingram. Ingram can provide a spark to this otherwise mediocre Stanford team. The loss of Ziaire Williams) certainly doesn’t help the cause and a year similar to last years may ensue for this squad
Utah doesn’t bring a ton to the table when it comes to the Pac-12. Their offseason consisted of basically no committed players and what happened last year evidently didn’t work, with the Utes finishing below that .500 mark. One upside is that the team is on the older side of things with 10 players being juniors and up.
After finishing with a Pac-12 low five wins last season, the Huskies really can’t do much worse than last year. Their recruitment went fairly well, having a couple of four stars commit to play for the team. Though these young guns should come in and look to make an immediate impact, a down year is once again expected for the Huskies.
12. California (Cal)
The expectations for the Golden Bears this season is quite literally slim to none. Aside from a four-star recruit that committed to play for them, Cal is set to have another abysmal year as it looks to restructure their coaching and recruiting stature.
Top 5 Pac-12 Prospects
1. [Player: Benedict Mathurin (Arizona)
Though there weren’t a ton of bright spots last year for the Wildcats amidst the controversy the program spewed, Mathurin was one of them. The guard averaged 10.8 points along with 4.8 rebounds on insanely efficient shooting marks. A big thing that freshman struggle within college is efficiency and Mathurin was the pinnacle of efficient, shooting 47.1% from the field and 41.8% from deep. This athletic guard will look to build off what can be considered a successful freshman year and help Arizona get back to where they once were. Mathurin has legitimate lottery pick (top 14) potential and should become a household name on the national level after a season of growth under his belt.
2. Jabari Walker (Colorado)
Walker is one of the more interesting players in the Pac-12. Although he only averaged 7.6 points and 4.3 rebounds per game as a freshman in the 2020-2021 season, the potential is there for a future first round draft pick. One thing can be said about Walker: the persistence is there. Since high school, he’s just gotten better as a player. He’s become more athletic, he’s bettered his jumper and he’s gotten stronger as the years have gone on. Watch out for this sophomore in the Pac-12.
3. Peyton Watson (UCLA)
If UCLA fans didn’t get lucky enough with the return of Juzang, they also landed this five-star recruit. Watson’s potential is off the charts, standing at a whopping 6’8” and weighing in at 200 pounds. Already getting projected by some to be a lottery pick, Watson’s size and athleticism allows him to get to his offensive spots with ease and with steady improvement to his shooting, he could be trouble for the Pac-12 this year. Though it can help if he gets a bit stronger and possibly puts on some more weight, the potential for this prospect is through the roof.
4. Jaime Jaquez, (UCLA)
While Jaquez may struggle to pass the eye test from an NBA athletic stand point, his intangibles, feel and leadership are all off the chart and elevate his value. He figures to be an overachiever at the next level as he seems to be a coach on the floor type with great feel and toughness. He was a huge reason for the UCLA Bruins run to the final four and could find himself in the late first round on draft night if he’s able to lead the Bruins to a similar deep tourney run this season.
5. Johnny Juzang (UCLA)
UCLA fans were ecstatic when Juzang announced that he would not enter the NBA draft and instead rejoin the Bruins for his junior season. This 6’7”, 215-pound guard is regarded by many as one of the best players in college basketball. He can get the job done on both ends of the floor. His incredible length and height for the guard position helps him get whatever he wants on the offensive end and gives him amazing defensive versatility, something that any team can use. Don’t be surprised if Juzang exceeds already high expectations and takes his game to the next level.