2017 -18 Pac 12 Conference Preview

It was a wildly successful year for the Pac-12 conference as a whole last year. Lonzo and Lavar Ball and Oregon’s Final Four run were big enough talking points. Add in Arizona and USC playing into the second weekend in March, and the conference showed why it is one of the best. This year will be another fight at the top, but there are several teams that will show much improvement from last year. Whoever wins this conference, will definitely have earned it.

Projected Finishes

  1. Arizona – If Sean Miller is going to get the Final Four monkey off his back, this is the year to do it. Arizona has potential POY candidate Allonzo Trier for a full season, and pair him with probable Top 5 pick DeAndre Ayton. The Wildcats start the year without Rawle Alkins, but will get him back just as conference play picks up. Arizona is a legit title contender.
  2. USC – If not for USC, Arizona would heads above the rest of the Pac-12. USC is talented too though, and have a front court that can go toe-to-toe with U of A’s. The Trojans have two legit 6’10 forwards in Bennie Boatwright and Chimezie Metu, both of whom are different types of players. Boatwright is more lethal on the wing, where Metu does most of his work down low. The Trojans had a very balanced scoring team last season, and I expect that to remain the same this year.
  3. UCLA – The Bruins will have new, exciting freshman on campus this year, as Jaylen Hands and Kris Wilkes will replace Lonzo Ball and TJ Leaf. Aaron Holiday and Thomas Welsh are the leaders returning this season. Both players will be relied on heavily to lead UCLA through Pac-12 play and into March Madness.
  4. Oregon – The Ducks lost A LOT from their team last season. It is simply too much to replace in one year. Dana Altman does have freshman Troy Brown to help fill the scoring holes.While Ayton may be the most talented freshman, Brown could be the most exciting scorer.
  5. Stanford – Stanford returns All-Conference talent in Travis Reid,  who averaged 17 points and 9 rebounds last year. The Cardinals also bring back their second leading scorer Dorian Pickens, while adding top recruit Daejon Davis and redshirt freshman Kodye Pugh to the mix. Stanford could have the biggest turnaround record wise from season to season.
  6. Arizona State – Bobby Hurley’s rebuild is progressing slowly but surely. The Sun Devils return their top three leading scorers, including Shannon Evans, who just dropped 50 in an exhibition game. And to the mix some talented freshman such as Kimani Lawrence and Remy Martin and you can see ASU trending upward.
  7. Utah – The Utes don’t lose as much as Oregon number wise, but they it will seem that way as they feel the loss of Kyle Kuzma. While Kuzma continues his hot start to his NBA career, the Utes will lean on returners Justin Bibbins and David Colette.
  8. Oregon State – If Stanford is not the most improved team record wise this year, Oregon State will be. The Beavers will (hopefully) have a healthy Tres Tinkle and Stephen Thompson Jr., who missed last year with injury. Those injuries opened the door for Drew Eubanks and JaQori McLaughlin to have good seasons. If all four stay healthy and mesh together, Oregon State will have a lot more than one conference win.
  9. Colorado – Colorado is a very young team this year. Their roster consists of eight freshman, two of which were redshirts from last season. George King will have a nice year in his senior season, but this young group will have a rough welcoming to the Pac-12.
  10. Washington – Washington went out and got their head coach this off-season in Mike Hopkins. Now it is on him to turn this program around. Obviously Markelle Fultz is gone, but second leading scorer David Crisp returns. The Huskies also got great news when Noah Dickerson decided not to transfer out. These two are solid building blocks for Hopkins.
  11. California – It won’t be a great year for Cal, coming off an underwhelming year last season. They lose Jabari Bird, Ivan Rabb and Charlie Moore. Kentucky transfer Marcus Lee will man the middle and be the centerpiece, but there is just not much else surrounding him. It won’t help watching Cuonzo Martin coach his talented freshman over at Missouri.
  12. Washington State – If not for an injury riddled Oregon State team, Washington State would have finished last in the conference last season. The Cougars don’t have a lot coming in and see their leading scorer leave. That’s a bad equation for this year.

Andy Enfield has one of the deepest teams he’s ever be given at USC, it will be up to him to see how far they can go

Projected Awards

Player of the Year – Allonzo Trier (Arizona)

Trier was the Pac-12 Tournament’s Most Outstanding Player last year. He is the conductor for Sean Miller and Arizona team. He averaged 17 points per game in a shortened season for him last year. I don’t expect the addition of DeAndre Ayton to impact that much at all. When Arizona needs a bucket, Trier is going to be the guy.

Freshman of the Year – Troy Brown (Oregon) 

I think Ayton is the best player in the conference, and will show that on several occasions throughout the year. Brown however, has the best opportunity to put up monster numbers. This is not a Markelle Fultz/Washington situation; Oregon will be better than Washington was last season. If Brown leads in scoring and Oregon finishes in the top four, I think he should get FOY.

Coach of the Year – Andy Enfield (USC)

These season awards could be a complete sweet in favor of Arizona if Sean Miller has them playing to their massive potential. But USC is the other team that has Final Four potential in this conference. Enfield has plenty of tools at his disposal and if he pushes the right buttons, USC could make a deep March run and challenge Arizona at the top of the conference.

Stanford may not be Arizona or USC, but they do have one of the best players in the Pac 12 in Travis Reid

Projected All Pac-12 Teams

First Team 

Allonzo Trier – Arizona

Travis Reid – Stanford

Troy Brown – Oregon

Chimezie Metu – USC

Aaron Holiday – UCLA

Second Team

Tres Tinkle – Oregon State

DeAndre Ayton – Arizona

Bennie Boatwright – USC

Shannon Evans – Arizona State

Jaylen Hands – UCLA

Previewing the Pac-12


The Pac 12 had the most successful Spring of any conference last basketball season. As a whole they got four teams into the tournament, three into the Sweet 16, two into the Elite 8 and one into the Final Four. And let’s not brush over USC’s upset over fan favorite SMU team. Following the Madness, the conference then saw two of its players go #1 and #2 in the 2017 NBA Draft. The trend of success should continue, as more highly touted prospects join the conference for the 2017-18 season. Let’s take a look at some early pre-season predictions. It should be noted that this does not include the potential transfer of Marvin Bagley, the top player in the Class of 2018 that several Pac 12 teams are in the running for.

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Jake Straughan: A Story of Determination and Motivation

Jake Straughan has accomplished many things on the playing field that would classify him as a special athlete. The Hoop Group Alumni was not only a three sport athlete at Colton High School in Colton, Washington, but he was a key component to each teams’ success throughout his four years there. Playing football, basketball and baseball, Straughan was able to accumulate 12 varsity letters in his high school career while maintaining a 3.9 GPA in the classroom.

On the court, Jake is a point guard with a scorer’s mentality. He possesses the ability to score inside by attacking the hoop, but can also knock down shots from three point range. His mid range game can also hurt the opposition. His accomplishments both on the basketball court and in the classroom earned him a scholarship to the University of Idaho.

On the football field, Jake, a receiver and a quarterback, caught 26 touchdowns, threw for 72 and ran for 37 more while racking up more than 9,000 all purpose yards in four years. On the baseball diamond, Jake was a starting pitcher and shortstop. As a sophomore, playing alongside his brother, Jake helped lead his team to a Washington 1B State Championship. His junior year he went 6-1 as a starter and batted .425 on his way to league MVP. By the end of his junior year, Jake’s statistics and recognitions in all three sports were enough for most athletes to call their career a success. Not Jake, he was far from finished, but he was about to face an obstacle that was much bigger than anything he had come across before.

Athletes face challenges every day in practices and games. In the fall, Jake would experience a new challenge; something that was different from the challenges he had faced during competition. In a playoff football game, Jake suffered a broken leg and for a moment, his mind had to shift from playing to recovering. The healing process took some time and a lot of hard work on Jake’s part, but a little over a month after the injury, Jake was back to working out. A few weeks later, he saw himself back on the court competing alongside his teammates.

During his recovery phase, Jake never let the thought of competing for a state championship leave his mind. He wanted to win one too badly to let this injury be more than a minor setback. As a result, he was able to overcome his obstacle and help his team win the first ever state championship in Colton High School boy’s basketball history.

Jake’s team saw success once Jake made his way back into games, going on a seven game win streak. During that streak Jake was a stat sheet stuffer, averaging 22 points, seven assists, six rebounds and three steals per game. In the State Tournament, the 6’2 guard continued his tremendous play. He averaged 27 points per game, scored 25 in the Championship and led all scorers in the tournament with 81 points. After the game, Jake was selected as the Washington AP and WIBCA 1B State Player of the Year. He left Colton as the school’s all-time leading scorer, recording 1,505 points along with 512 assists, 417 rebounds and 185 steals.

Leading the basketball team to its first ever state title in the winter created some lofty expectations for Jake and the baseball team come spring time. So, what did he do for an encore? He won another state title on the diamond, of course. Jake went 7-1 as a starting pitcher, batted .575 and drove in 30 RBIs in his senior season. He also pitched a perfect game, retiring every batter that came to the plate. Colton won the state championship in baseball last year by a score of 2-1. Jake struck out 10 in that game and drove in the only two runs for Colton. He was named all league pitcher-shortstop, all league MVP and Player of the State Title game.

Picture via highschoolillustrated.com

Picture via highschoolillustrated.com

Jake’s story of perseverance and motivation is an inspiring one. Recovering from an injury of that magnitude is not an easy task. Some players would have instantly assumed their high school athletic careers were over after suffering a broken leg, but not Jake. Jake never took his eye off the prize: winning a state championship. And nothing, not even a broken leg, was going to prevent him from doing so. We are honored to have a person like Jake be a part of our Hoop Group family and we wish him the best of luck in his future at the University of Idaho and beyond!

For more info on Jake’s story and a full list of his awards and recognitions in high school, click here.