Arizona Basketball

Oregon ends Arizona Wildcats’ run as preseason Pac-12 favorites

PAC-12 (edit 2)_1

Arizona’s four-year streak of being the Pac-12’s men’s basketball favorite is over.

Oregon has been tabbed to win the league in a vote of conference media released Friday morning at Pac-12 Media Day.

Can’t argue with the Ducks.

Oregon was a the Pac-12 regular-season and conference tournament champ last season, earning a No. 1 seed and advancing to the Elite Eight.

The bulk of that team is back, including wing Dillon Brooks, guard Tyler Dorsey, shot-blockers Chris Boucher and Jordan Bell, plus Oregon has more options at point guard with Villanova transfer Dylan Ennis being granted a sixth year of eligibility and joining efficient Casey Benson.

The Ducks also added yet another shot-blocking big man in Kavell Bigby-Williams, the JC Player of the Year. He leads a group of newcomers that includes four-star freshman guard Payton Pritchard (another option at point guard) and freshman power forward M.J. Cage, the son of former NBA power forward Michael Cage.

Oregon was picked to win the national title by Lindy’s College Basketball magazine.

As Arizona fans know, the Wildcats are loaded, too. They have been picked around No. 10 nationally in most preseason rankings, so they can dream of all the big prizes as well.

The Ducks, in being named the preseason favorite for the first time ever, earned 23 first-place votes in the media poll, with the Wildcats receiving four.

Since the media poll started in 1989-90, Arizona’s biggest surprise title — if you can call it that — was in 1993-94 when the Wildcats were predicted to finish third but won the title. The Wildcats went on to the Final Four that season.

UCLA, which also returns four starters and adds three Top 100 freshmen including McDonald’s All-Americans Lonzo Ball and T.J. Leaf (a former Arizona commit), was picked to finish third. Cal, anchored by All-American candidate Ivan Rabb (had Arizona as a finalist two years ago), was chosen fourth. Colorado, one of four Pac-12 teams set to return four starters, was narrowly edged by Cal and picked fifth.

Washington and national freshman of the year candidate Markelle Fultz rounded out the top half of the preseason poll.

The bottom six:

USC, Utah, Oregon State, Stanford, Arizona State and Washington State.

(Pac-12 graphic)

(Pac-12 graphic)

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