Pac-12 expert picks, 2020-21 preview: Oregon edges UCLA as preseason pick to repeat as conference champion

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The Pac-12 was projected to get six teams in the 2020 NCAA Tournament field, according to CBS Sports Bracketology Expert Jerry Palm, with a resurgent UCLA on the bubble as a potential seventh. After seeing just three teams reach the NCAA Tournament in 2018 and 2019, Selection Sunday would have been a nice showcase of the league’s hoops renaissance.

Then the COVID-19 pandemic cut the season short and left the league with plenty still to prove. But as a new season approaches, there is reason to believe the oft-maligned conference could be even better this season than it was a year ago when Oregon edged UCLA for the league crown.

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The Ducks and Bruins are projected again to be top teams in the Pac-12, but there is a solid mix of productive returners and incoming talent throughout the entire league that suggests the conference’s status will continue to climb. Even the projected bottom-feeders return potential stars in Ethan Thompson (Oregon State), Isaac Bonton (Washington State) and Matt Bradley (Cal) in what should be a compelling season for a conference on the rise.

Pac-12 Preseason Player of the Year Remy Martin, Arizona State

The senior point guard passed on the NBA Draft after coming up clutch for the Sun Devils on numerous occasions as a junior while averaging 19.1 points, 4.1 assists and 1.5 steals per game. Martin has continued to rise since winning the Pac-12’s Sixth Man of the Year award as a freshman and will now have a chance to lead Arizona State past the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1995. Few athletes play their sport with as much passion and fearlessness as Martin does, and he is poised to take over for departed Oregon guard Payton Pritchard as the face of the conference.

Pac-12 Preseason Coach of the Year Bobby Hurley, Arizona State

The COVID-19 pandemic and scheduling disruptions it may bring will be the only thing that stops Hurley from being the first coach in program history to lead Arizona State to four consecutive 20-win seasons. His sixth season on the job is set to be a crescendo-type year, as he’s assembled a roster combination that includes an excellent veteran core and the nation’s No. 7 recruiting class. 

Pac-12 Preseason Freshman of the Year Evan Mobley, USC

Mobley, who was ranked the No. 3 prospect in the class of 2020 by the 247Sports Composite, faces stiff competition to be the Pac-12’s top freshman. Stanford wing Ziaire Williams (the No. 6 overall player) and Arizona State’s Joshua Christopher (No. 12) could have special seasons, as could any of the five four-star players that are part of Arizona’s No. 5 ranked signing class. But at 6-foot-11, Mobley’s elite size and athleticism make him the top choice as he seeks to follow Onyeka Okongwu and be an elite one-and-done post player for the Trojans.

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Pac-12 predicted order of finish Pac-12 expert picks

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