Nick's Picks: Pac-12 preview for men's college basketball season

College basketball is ramping up. Reporter Nick Hedges previews this season in the Pac-12 and predicts the Sun Devils' next two games

We skipped football season, but regardless, Nick's Picks is back with a fresh predictive algorithm that will be even more accurate than last year. I don’t want to keep beating around the bush — here is our preview for the 2019-20 college basketball season.

Will ASU be any good?

The short answer is yes, they will be pretty good. Thanks to the recruiting class Bobby Hurley brought in for this year, this team will remind fans of the team from two years ago that shot its way to the top-end of the AP Poll only to collapse during conference play. Once Hurley gets the new additions integrated well, the Sun Devils will be fun to watch.

The basketball composite index will get more accurate as the year goes on, but our preseason rankings have ASU at number 52. The loss to Colorado is a bad start on that front, however.

The Sun Devils have six games on their schedule against teams with a worse composite index, so theoretically, ASU should be 24-6 heading into the conference tournament. However, history shows us this won’t happen Hurley’s squad tends to play to the level of their competition. With a combined record of 43-23 over the last two years, ASU has won games it has no business winning and lost games it should never lose. If early season results are any indication, this will be a very difficult season to predict for another unpredictable ASU squad.

But it's more complicated than that. The Pac-12 is better now than it was a year ago. UA and UCLA are surging, and Colorado and Oregon, among others, return the bulk of teams that were very successful last year. At their best, ASU will do well, but given their recent struggles for consistency, it isn’t that hard to see the Sun Devils missing the NCAA Tournament this year.

What about the rest of the Pac-12?

As mentioned earlier, the Pac-12 will be much better this year than it was a year ago. Top-to-bottom, the conference will be solid, and some teams have even been getting some Final Four buzz from experts.

Oregon won the conference tournament last year and made a surprising run to the Sweet 16 where they nearly beat eventual national champions Virginia. Oregon should be even better this year.

The Ducks return several key contributors from a year ago, primarily guard Payton Pritchard. He averaged 13 points and just under five assists per game last year, and ASU fans will know him well after he ripped the Sun Devils up in all three meetings.

Washington won the Pac-12 regular season title in 2018-19, but this year's team will look very different. A top-15 recruiting class has the Huskies on the up once again. Coach Mike Hopkins will heavily rely on classic, big-man basketball for success after he brought in forwards Isaiah Stewart and Jaden McDaniels, the third and eighth-ranked prospects from the class of 2019, respectively. Led by those two in the frontcourt, Washington could have what it takes to make a deep run in March.

UA also brought in a high-caliber recruiting class, headlined by Nico Mannion, the top-ranked player from Arizona. Forward Josh Green is another new five star, and the Wildcats also retained Chase Jeter, a key contributor from last year. Those three, along with other additions and pieces already in place, give UA a good platform to rebound from last season when they missed the NCAA Tournament. ASU fans probably won’t like it, but the boys from down south will be very good this year.

The rest of the conference looks solid as well. USC also turned in a top-tier recruiting class. UCLA will get some key contributors back from injury, and Stanford will also be better this year. Oregon State recruited comparably to ASU, and the Sun Devils have already seen how good the Buffaloes will be. The bottom line is this: ASU will have a tough time being successful in the Pac-12 this year.

Here is a look at where each team in the Pac-12 stands in the composite index:


How about ASU’s upcoming games?

ASU vs. Central Connecticut State (Thursday Nov. 14, 8 p.m. MST, Tempe, AZ)

The Sun Devils struggled in the overseas opener against Colorado, but ASU shouldn’t face the same problems against CCSU. Bobby Hurley should be able to get the newcomers going. In particular, I expect a much better game from Alonzo Verge, Jr. Additionally, ASU should be getting Romello White and Taeshon Cherry, who were suspended for the first game, back for this one. They may not look pretty, but the Sun Devils will open their win column in emphatic fashion here.


ASU: 70.73% chance to win
Central Connecticut State: 29.27% chance to win
Prediction: ASU 89, CCSU 61

ASU vs. Rider (Sunday Nov. 17, 4 p.m. MST, Tempe, AZ)

Everything I said about the CCSU game also applies here. This is another great opportunity for the Sun Devils to find their groove and formulate their methods for success. Look out for a big game from Remy Martin to lead ASU to a big win.


ASU: 95.4% chance to win
Rider: 4.6% chance to win
Prediction: ASU 93, Rider 66

A team's composite index is one number formed using stats and recruiting rankings from the past several years and games played this year. Read below to see specifics about how the composite index is formed.

The primary component of the composite index is a custom power index formed by statistics from previous seasons as well as recruiting rankings from the past several years. Stats are collected from www.sports-reference.com and recruiting rankings are pulled from www.247sports.com.

Essentially, stats that help a team’s success are added to the score, and metrics that hurt are subtracted. This one-number scoring system makes for easy mathematical predictions for each game.

Because the current season is in progress, the system weighs recruiting rankings and stats from previous years higher than this season's numbers. As the season progresses, the composite index will weigh current statistics more and more.


Reach the reporter at nkhedges@asu.edu and follow @nicktrimshedges on Twitter.

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