SAN FRANCISCO – The Pac-12 preseason men’s basketball media poll affirmed widely held beliefs heading into the 2021-22 season that UCLA is the runaway favorite to win the conference crown.
The Bruins, a near-unanimous pick, claimed the top spot with 32 of 34 first-place votes and 404 points.
Even though UCLA returns all five starters from a team that posted a 22-10 record and finished in the Final Four last season, coach Mick Cronin isn’t feeling pressure to capture the school’s 12th national championship and the first title since 1995.
“We don’t just play for us,” he said. “We play for Kareem (Abdul-Jabar), Reggie (Miller), Baron (Davis) and Russell (Westbrook). That enough is pressure. You got to live up to that and we’re just trying to make those guys proud. They (the players) see that all I’m worried about is practice every day. If I can help them get better than our team is going to get better.
“Our motto is constant teaching, constant trying to improve each player so then our team is going to improve. We don’t ever talk about, we got to get back. We lost to Gonzaga on a banked shot. We just don’t have those talks about big goals. We just try to stay focused on getting better and make it about them day by day. That’s just what we do. You better be that way if you have my job because if you start looking around (Pauley Pavilion) at banners and (John Wooden’s) chair, then you’d get overwhelmed very quickly.”
Defending Pac-12 regular-season champion Oregon picked up the other two first-place votes and was second in the conference’s preseason media poll with 373 points followed by USC (320).
Arizona and Oregon State tied for fourth with 245 points and Colorado garnered 235 points for sixth place.
The bottom half of the poll starts with Arizona State (224) in seventh place followed by Washington State (221), Stanford (151) and Utah (105).
Washington was picked 11th with 85 points while California lands at 12th with 44 points.
For the second straight the Huskies are saddled with modest expectations. Last year, UW was picked ninth and finished 11th with a 4-16 conference record. Washington was 5-21 overall.
Following a dismal season that produced the second-lowest winning percentage in school history, embattled coach Mike Hopkins revamped the roster.
Eight players left, including seven via transfer, while UW brought in eight newcomers, including six transfers and four-star freshman forward Jackson Grant from Olympia High
After Hopkins guiding Washington to a Pac-12 regular-season title in 2019, the Huskies finished 12th and 11th the past two years.
Davis receives all-Pac-12 preseason recognition
UW newcomer Daejon Davis received all-Pac-12 preseason honorable mention recognition. Davis, a senior guard, spent the previous four seasons at Stanford.
Washington State guard Noah Williams, who starred at O’Dea High, was voted to the 10-player all-Pac-12 preseason first team.
Not surprisingly, UCLA dominated the league’s preseason honors, which is chosen by media members who cover the conference. Bruins guards Johnny Juzang, Jaime Jaquez Jr. and Tyger Campbell were selected all-Pac-12 first team.
The all-Pac-12 first team also includes Oregon guard Will Richardson, USC forward Isaiah Mobley, Oregon State forward Warith Alatishe, Colorado forward Evan Battey, Arizona State forward Marcus Bagley and Arizona guard Bennedict Mathurin.
The all-Pac-12 second team includes Oregon forward Quincy Guerrier and guard De’Von Harmon, Oregon State guard Jarod Lucas, USC guard Boogie Ellis and Arizona forward Azuolas Tubelis.
Washington State forward Efe Abogidi received all-Pac-12 honorable mention hors along with UCLA’s Peyton Watson, Stanford’s Jaden Delaire and Colorado’s Jabari Walker.
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