Pac-12 media day begins Thursday morning from the conference’s headquarters in San Francisco. You can follow the action here.
Coach Lorenzo Romar and C.J. Wilcox take the main stage at 10:40, which will be streamed live on Pac.12.com. Fans can participate in the Q&A and send questions via Twitter using #pac12hoops.
Romar will also appear at 11:30 a.m. on the Pac-12 Netwworks.
Here’s a look at a few Pac-12 story lines that will likely be discussed today.
1. How is Steve Alford handling high expectations at UCLA?
Ben Howland, who made three consecutive trips to the NCAA Final Four with the Bruins, won the Pac-12 regular-season title, advanced to the NCAA tournament and posted a 25-9 record last season. And he got fired. Needless to say, there’s ridiculously high expectations in Westwood. It took a seven-year deal that will pay Alford $2.6 million per year salary to lure him away from New Mexico. He takes over a team that returns four starters and is expected (there’s that word again) to make a deep push in the NCAA tourney.
2. When will Andy Enfield bring ‘Dunk City’ to Los Angeles?
No one blames Enfield for cashing in on Florida Gulf Coast’s historic Cinderalla run to the NCAA tournament Sweet Sixteen last season. He made $157,000 per year at FGCU and reportedly makes $1.5 million annually at USC. It took Enfield two years to implement a running-and-dunking style that turned Fort Myers, Fla., into Dunk City, USA. He’ll need at least two years to resurrect a Trojans team that was 14-18 last season. Besides USC’s best player just might be 7-2 center Omar Oraby, who isn’t exactly fleet of foot.
3. Is the Pac-12 still on the rebound?
In 2012, the Pac-12 sent just two teams to the Big Dance, not including the conference regular-season champion Washington Huskies. In 2013, the league returned to respectability. Five teams made the NCAA tourney and two advanced to the Sweet 16. Arizona is receiving lots of preseason media attention, but there’s no great certainty any other team in the conference should be included among the nation’s best.
4. Who’s No. 2?
It’s fairly obvious media folks covering the Pac-12 will pick Arizona the preseason favorite in a poll that will be released Thursday morning. The only intrigue is whether the Wildcats will receive every first-place vote and which team will fall into the No. 2 slot? You can make a strong argument for six teams – Oregon, UCLA, Colorado, Stanford, California and Arizona State.
5. How will the new officiating rules geared to promote more scoring affect teams?
The NCAA is making a push to juice up the game and make it more attractive to fans. Last season average scoring among the Division I teams dropped to 67.5 points, which is the lowest in the past 31 years. Three-point shooting and fouls also hit historic lows. The NCAA will make it a little easier to play offense. No more continuous hand-checking, jabs, forearms in the waist or contact from upper limbs of any kind. The block-charge call has also been tweaked to favor the offensive player.
6. Are the returning stars healthy?
UCLA guard Jordan Adams missed the Pac-12 Tournament final and NCAA tournament because of a broken bone in his right foot. Wilcox missed the start of training camp due to offseason surgery to correct a stress fracture in his left foot. Arizona State guard Jahii Carson also skipped the first week of practice due to leg injuries. And California guard Justin Cobbs expects to be ready for the season opener after undergoing surgery for a broken right foot.
7. Which newcomer will have the biggest impact this season?
The Pac-12 added five players (Arizona’s Aaron Gordon and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, California’s Jabari Bird, Oregon’s Mike Moser and Washington’s Nigel Williams-Goss) with national buzz. Many believe Gordon will push for the conference player of the year award. There are several other newcomers who should create positive headlines. The candidates include: Arizona’s T.J. McConnell, Colorado’s Wesley Gordon, UW’s Perris Blackwell, Washington State’s Que Johnson and UCLA’s Zach LaVine.
8. Will anyone admit they’re on the hot seat?
Probably not. Why would they? But the truth is about half of the coaches in the conference are in jeopardy of losing their jobs. Let’s start with Johnny Dawkins, who enters his sixth year at Stanford. The Cardinal return more proven talent than any team and its poised for a breakout season. But we said the same thing about Stanford last year. The Cardinal have a six-year NCAA tourney drought and it has never finished better than seventh in the regular-season standings under Dawkins. Herb Sendek appeared to be circling the drain before Arizona State finished last season with a 22-13 record that tied the number of wins from the previous two seasons. He’s taken steps to energizing a dormant fan base, but needs another 20-win season to quiet critics. Oregon State coach Craig Robinson admits it’s time the Beavers turn things around. He’s 78-89 in five seasons at OSU. It feels like a NCAA tournament-or-else kind of situation in Corvallis, Ore. The same can be said for Washington State where Ken Bone has been treading water. He’s 70-65 in four years, including two last-place conference finishes. Bone appears to have cleaned up the embarrassing off-court problems, but now he needs to win. Utah’s Larry Krystkowiak and Romar aren’t in must-win territory, but they need to show their teams are headed in the right direction to keep fans happy.