Is this UCLA’s year to win the Pac-12 basketball championship?
SAN FRANCISCO —
Winning October, never the goal for UCLA’s basketball team, continues to be an annual ritual under coach Mick Cronin.
For the third time in as many years, the Bruins were picked to win the Pac-12 Conference in a media poll released Wednesday morning.
In each of the last two years, they fell short of those projections. Will this be the year that UCLA breaks through for its first regular-season conference title since 2012-13?
There’s a lot to like about these Bruins, starting with point guard Tyger Campbell and small forward Jaime Jaquez Jr. Both players are preseason first-team all-Pac-12 selections and could end the season as All-Americans. A gifted freshman class led by guards Amari Bailey and Dylan Andrews as well as center Adem Bona and swingman Abramo Canka will add some pizzazz.
Rounding out the rotation will be junior guard Jaylen Clark and fifth-year seniors David Singleton and Kenneth Nwuba in addition to big man Mac Etienne and guard Will McClendon, two redshirt freshmen who are returning from serious knee injuries.
UCLA received 26 of 33 first-place votes. Defending conference champion Arizona (three first-place votes) was picked to finish second in the conference, followed by Oregon (three), USC, Stanford (one), Colorado, Arizona State, Washington State, Washington, Utah, California and Oregon State. Media have correctly picked the Pac-12 champion 17 times in 33 tries. The Los Angeles Times does not participate in media voting per its longstanding policy.
The Associated Press rankings reflected an identical pecking order among Pac-12 teams. UCLA was ranked No. 8 in the preseason poll, followed by No. 17 Arizona and No. 21 Oregon. Unranked USC received three votes.
UCLA has finished second, fourth and second in the Pac-12 in three seasons under Cronin. The Bruins reached the conference tournament championship game last season before losing to Arizona.