2018 Pac-12 Men's Basketball Media Day: Five biggest preseason storylines for 2018-19
The 2018-19 Pac-12 men’s basketball season officially tips off Tuesday, Nov. 6. But we can’t possibly wait that long to start talking hoops!
This Thursday, Oct. 11, tune in to the Pac-12 Network at 11 a.m. PT/12 p.m. MT to watch the Inside Pac-12 Basketball: Men’s Media Day Special with Mike Yam, Don MacLean, Ashley Adamson and Kate Scott. Until then, brush up on the season's five major storylines here:
For most of Dana Altman's tenure in Eugene, it feels like the incoming transfers have always grabbed the biggest headlines. But this season it's the Ducks' flock of freshmen getting all the hype, and for good reason. The 247Sports Composite rankings slate Oregon's 2018 class as the nation's third-best and tops in the Pac-12. That includes two five-star recruits, three four-stars and one grad transfer from Texas A&M Corpus Christi. The five-stars — Bol Bol and Louis King — are already drawing attention from NBA scouts.
Arizona State was one of the conference's most intriguing teams last season, thanks to a hair-on-fire scoring approach that left Guard U with the Pac-12's highest offensive output at 82.7 points per game. But things might look a little different this year. Bigger and stingier, to be exact. Nine players on ASU's roster stand 6-foot-7 or taller, up from six on last year's squad. In taking advantage of that height, Bobby Hurley has said in recent interviews that the team's focus will switch to defense. Hello, new-look Devils.
Stanford and the Pac-12 lost an absolute star in Reid Travis, who transferred to Kentucky over the summer for his last year of eligibility. He was the team's top scorer (19.5), top rebounder (8.7) and logged the most minutes on the court (a whole lot). That departure, paired with the loss of Dorian Pickens, leaves one big question for the Cardinal: What's next? Jerod Haase will have to look to sophomores Daejon Davis and KZ Okpala for the answer. Last season, the pair made their presence known, especially Davis who started in 33 games last season and averaged 10.7 points per game.
How does Washington follow up on last year's surprise of a season? The Huskies leapt over the low bar set for them, finishing tied for sixth place in the league after being predicted to place 10th. Now, in head coach Mike Hopkins' second year on the job, many pundits are forecasting a top-three finish. His four most productive scorers — including sophomore Jaylen Nowell and senior Noah Dickerson — are back to pick up where they left off, as is reigning Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year Matisse Thybulle. Side note: You'll want to keep an eye on the steals tally for Thybulle, who finished last season just nine swipes shy of breaking Jason Kidd's 1993 single-season record of 110.
Who will be the Pac-12's coveted NBA draft pick this year? Last season, it was Arizona's freshman phenom, Deandre Ayton. The year before, Washington's Markelle Fultz and UCLA's Lonzo Ball went first and second overall, respectively. Who will carry the torch for the conference in the 2019 draft? NBADraft.net lists UCLA sophomore Kris Wilkes at No. 7 overall in its most recent mock draft, followed by Oregon's Bol Bol at No. 15. Sports Illustrated's latest big board doesn't note a Pac-12 player until No. 14, reserving that slot for fellow Oregon freshman Louis King. Who will emerge as a national head-turner between now and then?
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