|Arizona freshmen Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (left) and Aaron Gordon (right) look to make a splash in the Pac-12 this season. (bleacherreport.com)|
Sean Miller's club is the clear favorite, receiving 21 of 23 first-place votes from the Pac-12 media. The Wildcats lost their top two scores from last season in Mark Lyons and Solomon Hill, but part of Arizona's perceived success lies in the arrival of hyped freshman Aaron Gordon, the No. 4-ranked player in the ESPN 100 rankings. Arizona also has another McDonald's All-American in Rondae Hollis-Jefferson to compliment Gordon, as well as guard Nick Johnson, who averaged 11.5 points per game last season, and 7-foot sophomore Kaleb Tarczewski. This Wildcats team will be fairly young but loaded with talent that should be clicking by conference play.
Dark Horse Team to Watch: California
The loss of Allen Crabbe is significant, but if the Golden Bears can patch the scoring hole left by Crabbe, this could be a dangerous team. Seniors Justin Cobbs (15.1 ppg, 4.8 apg) and Richard Solomon (8.9 ppg, 6.8 rpg) will look to make the most out of their senior campaign and will have the help of freshman Jabari Bird, a McDonald's All-American shooting guard and No. 23 player in the ESPN 100. Cal was picked fifth by the Pac-12 media, but the Golden Bears' potential is greater.
Player of the Year: Aaron Gordon, Arizona
It's tough not to pick the player that has had this much hype surrounding him. He will be the most talked about player in the conference, and has the luxury of playing on what many feel is the conference's best team. Remember this dunk? Gordon has a ton of raw talent and with Lyons and Hill gone, he will have an opening to make his presence known early on.
Coach of the Year: Tad Boyle, Colorado
This was a difficult selection, as Arizona's Sean Miller is always going to be a high candidate and if Steve Alford can turn UCLA around in his first season, it would be tough not to give him the honor. But Alford also has a ton of pressure on him and changing the culture in LA may take a bit more time. That's why I like Colorado's Tad Boyle. The Buffaloes lost Andre Robinson but are returning juniors Spencer Dinwiddle and Askia Booker, who were first and second on the team in scoring with 15.3 and 12.4 ppg respectively. Boyle will have to find someone to crash the boards as well as Robinson, but overall has a talented team that has played together before. Boyle is testing his team early with non-conference games against Baylor, Kansas and Oklahoma State from the Big 12, and the Buffs could be seasoned and balanced enough by January to make a run at the Pac-12.
Newcomer of the Year: Aaron Gordon, Arizona
I know, I know, this isn't a very original pick, but sometimes the obvious choice is the correct answer. It's difficult to find flaws in his game, and Gordon will get tested early in the season against games versus UNLV and Michigan to get some of the freshman jitters and kinks worked out. It's obviously tough to judge a player who has yet to play a game of college basketball, but Gordon's potential is that he could be a star.