ESPN's final preseason top 25 names the Pac-12's best team ahead of 2022-23 hoops season
The new college basketball season is a month away, almost exactly. Teams in the Pac-12 begin play on Nov. 7. Defending champion Arizona will look to defend its crown with a new cast of characters joining coach Tommy Lloyd and forward Azuolas Tubelis in the desert. UCLA, USC, and Oregon will be on the hunt after loading up on talent over the offseason.
On Thursday, ESPN’s Jeff Borzello published his final preseason top 25 ahead of the new year.
He has UCLA as the highest-ranked Pac-12 team, sitting at No. 10 in the country. Here’s what he wrote on the Bruins:
After entering 2021-22 with top-five expectations, the Bruins were hampered by a month-long COVID pause in the middle of the season and a variety of injuries throughout, before falling in the Sweet 16 to North Carolina.
Two key starters from the 2021 Final Four team are still around, though: point guard Tyger Campbell and forward Jaime Jaquez Jr. They should be two of the best players in the country at their respective positions this season, with Jaquez Jr. garnering preseason All-American recognition. Five-star recruits Amari Bailey and Adem Bona should slot into the starting lineup from day one, while returnee Jaylen Clark is poised for a big season: during a five-game stretch in late February in which he started, he averaged 14.8 points and 6.4 rebounds.
Borzello has the Wildcats at No. 17, the next-highest Pac-12 team but a spot lower than where they were in the last version of his rankings. Here’s what he wrote on Lloyd’s squad:
Arizona took the nation by storm in Tommy Lloyd’s first season at the helm, winning its first 11 games and 33 games in all before losing to Houston in the Sweet 16. Lloyd’s second season will be a bigger test, however, with three NBA draft picks in Bennedict Mathurin, Dalen Terry and Christian Koloko all gone.
Azuolas Tubelis and Kerr Kriisa are back as starters, while Pelle Larsson is widely expected to take a major step forward this season. Texas transfer Courtney Ramey will bring experience and shooting to the perimeter, and 7-footer Oumar Ballo should provide rebounding and shot-blocking on the interior. Arizona will need its newcomers to make an immediate impact, and one player worth mentioning is Henri Veesaar, an Estonian forward who played for Real Madrid.
Rounding out the Pac-12 contingent for Borzello is Oregon, a team that cleared the 20-win threshold once again last season but did so in somewhat disappointing fashion. This offseason, coach Dana Altman went out and bolstered the backcourt via the transfer portal and did the same to the frontcourt with 5-star freshman Kel’el Ware.
Borzello has Oregon at No. 19, with this to say on the Ducks:
Despite its preseason hype, Oregon really never got going in 2021-22. The Ducks were pummeled by BYU in their third game 81-49, then lost to Saint Mary’s by 12 and to Houston by 29 a week later. Five losses in their final six games relegated them to the NIT.
But Dana Altman has retooled his roster via the recruiting trail and the transfer portal, and should be toward the top of the Pac-12 standings once again. Will Richardson, one of the best guards in the country, is back for another year, as is former Syracuse transfer Quincy Guerrier. Five-star recruit Kel’el Ware has as much potential as any newcomer in the country, and Altman also landed two double-figure scoring guards with high-major experience in transfers Jermaine Couisnard (South Carolina) and Keeshawn Barthelemy (Colorado).
You can see the rest of his Top 25 here.