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Offseason Update: Men’s basketball in the Pac-12, Part 1

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It’s June, and unfortunately that means we still have five months until college basketball returns. With that being said, we’re in the heart of the offseason, and teams have been hard at work upgrading their squads as they prepare for the 2021-22 season. As we get closer to November, I’ll do my usual Pac-12 Power Rankings and in-depth analysis of every team, but today, it’s time to get into a Pac-12 men’s basketball offseason update where we talk about the transfers, recruits and coaches that each team has added ahead of next season.

Today, I’ll discuss what the offseason has had to offer for the first six of the Pac-12 teams and what we can expect to see from new additions to the Cardinal’s conference foes.

Teams are listed in alphabetical order:

Arizona:

The first major event of the offseason for the Wildcats was the firing of longtime head coach Sean Miller. Miller was subsequently replaced by former Gonzaga assistant coach Tommy Lloyd, who served as an assistant under Mark Few for 20 years and was an integral part of Gonzaga’s road to becoming a powerhouse program.

With the coaching transition, eight Arizona players decided to enter the transfer portal. Guards James Akinjo, Jemarl Baker Jr. and Terrell Brown Jr., transferred to Baylor, Fresno State and Washington, respectively. Forwards Jordan Brown, Ira Lee, Tibet Gorener and Daniel Batcho transferred to Louisiana Lafayette, George Washington, San Jose State and Texas Tech respectively. Walk-on forward Matt Weyand has not announced where he will be headed.

The Wildcats have added three transfers that will be role players from the get-go, helping to fill the void left by the sea of departures. First is guard Justin Kier, who started his collegiate career at George Mason but was most recently at Georgia. Kier averaged 9.5 points per game and started every game he played for the Bulldogs (25). Next up is center Oumar Ballo, who comes with Coach Lloyd from Gonzaga. The 7-footer from Mali brings size but little collegiate experience, as he averaged just 6.3 minutes per game with the Zags. Lastly, guard Pelle Larsson will be joining the Wildcats. Many will recognize Larsson as he was a first-year standout for Utah this past season, averaging 8.2 points and 2.8 assists per game. Larsson has experience against Pac-12 opponents, which will be valuable for Arizona.

With the second-worst recruiting class in the Pac-12, Coach Lloyd and his staff will hope for these three transfers to step up.

Arizona State

Last season was a disaster for the Sun Devils. The team that was looking like it would be the most talented in the league ended up finishing with a losing record, and for head coach Bobby Hurley, the offseason hasn’t been much better. 

Arizona State will be without 10 players from last year’s team, including six who have transferred out. Star guard Remy Martin and freshman phenom Marcus Bagley have both declared for the NBA draft, which are devastating blows to the program. Martin will be headed to Kansas if he doesn’t go pro, while Bagley is in the transfer portal and will consider other colleges if he withdraws from the draft.

To compensate for their losses, the Sun Devils have strong recruiting and transfer classes. Of the four incoming transfers, three guards are quite notable. Marreon Jackson averaged 18.1 points, 6.1 rebounds and 5.9 assists per conference with Toledo this past season. Jay Heath was the leading scorer for Boston College as he demonstrated his shooting prowess against ACC competition. Finally, D.J. Horne averaged over 15 points per game with Illinois State in 2020-21  and even scored 34 in his final regular season game. 

The top-30 nationally ranked recruiting class will be headlined by five-star center Enoch Boakye, who decommitted from Michigan State in February and then committed to Arizona State early in the offseason. Boakye will be joined by five other freshmen. 

Cal

The Golden Bears have had a slightly calmer offseason than Arizona and Arizona State, but there have still been some significant headlines for the struggling program from Berkeley.

Most significantly, star guard Matt Bradley announced he was transferring to San Diego State. Bradley was a dominant force in the Pac-12 and will be difficult to replace.

The one transfer that Cal secured in the offseason is guard Jordan Shepherd, who played a significant role for UNC Charlotte in his upperclassmen years. After averaging 14 points per game in his junior season, Shepherd scored just 11.9 points per contest as a senior. He lacks experience against high-major teams, but will likely be a key guard for a Cal team that needs anything it can get.

The Bears’ recruiting class is not bad, but not great, ranked at No. 8 in the Pac-12. It’s unlikely that any of the freshmen play a big role for this team, but anything is possible in a year where, once again, Cal will be somewhat desperate.

Colorado

One look at the photo of the Buffaloes’ seniors on Senior Day and you’d realize this offseason was destined to be difficult. Although players are allowed to return for an extra year of eligibility, the player all eyes were on was guard McKinley Wright, who announced in March that he would not be returning to Boulder. Wright was a force to be reckoned with on both ends of the court, and he will be a dearly missed senior leader. 

Colorado will also have six players transferring out, with the most significant names being D’Shawn Schwartz and Dallas Walton, who are heading to George Mason and Wake Forest, respectively.

Fortunately for head coach Tad Boyle, the Buffaloes are sporting the No. 11 recruiting class in the nation. The biggest recruiting headline in the offseason was guard K.J. Simpson decommitting from Arizona and switching over to Colorado. Freshmen will likely play a very significant role for the Buffaloes in the 2021-22 season.

Oregon 

Oregon lost quite a bit from last season, but a relatively successful offseason for head coach Dana Altman leaves the Ducks with a healthy roster entering next season. 

Stars from last season Chris Duarte, Eugene Omoruyi and L.J Figueroa will not be returning to Eugene. While these three, especially Duarte, will be impossible to replace, the Ducks have three transfers coming in who will all likely be starters. Quincy Guerrier, Jacob Young and De’Vion Harmon are transferring from Syracuse, Rutgers and Oklahoma, respectively, and each averaged double figure scoring in their most recent season. 

Five players also transferred out of Eugene this offseason, but none were expected to be significant difference-makers for this team.

Center Nathan Bittle is the only notable name in this year’s recruiting class, but this five-star recruit can play. He will see lots of playing time in his first year.

Oregon State

Oregon State was the surprise team of the 2020-21 season, and it is returning some key players, including Jarod Lucas and Warith Alatishe. 

The Beavers are also welcoming five transfers, but all five either committed long before the offseason or are relatively insignificant. The one exception may be junior guard Tre’ Williams, who saw nearly 19 minutes per game in his sophomore season for Minnesota.

Oregon State’s recruiting class is ranked No. 9 in the Pac-12 and features small forward Glenn Taylor, who will likely see significant minutes in his first year in Corvallis.

So, despite some March magic that made waves around the country, Oregon State has had a relatively quiet offseason.

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Teddy Solomon is a staff writer in the sports section and a host of the Stanford Daily Men's Basketball Podcast. He is a freshman from San Francisco who is planning on majoring in Economics and considering a minor in Mathematical and Computational Science. Teddy is a competitive table tennis player, an avid investor, and a lifelong college basketball fanatic. Contact him at tsolomon 'at' stanforddaily.com.