Pac-12 men's basketball media day: UCLA picked to win conference

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UCLA guard Johnny Juzang (3) and guard Jaime Jaquez Jr. (4) celebrate after an Elite 8 game against Michigan in the NCAA men's college basketball tournament at Lucas Oil Stadium, Wednesday, March 31, 2021, in Indianapolis. UCLA won 51-49. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)
UCLA's Johnny Juzang, left, and Jaime Jaquez Jr. celebrate after the Bruins' Elite 8 win over Michigan on March 31 in Indianapolis. (Darron Cummings / Associated Press)

UCLA’s run to the Final Four was surprising; the Bruins being the overwhelming favorite to win the Pac-12 men’s basketball title was not.

The media picked UCLA on Wednesday to win the conference in its preseason poll in a runaway, the Bruins snagging all but two of the 34 first-place votes. Defending Pac-12 champion Oregon, which received the other two votes, was picked to finish second.

USC, coming off an appearance in the Elite Eight that it was its deepest NCAA tournament run in 20 years, was projected to finish third. The Los Angeles Times does not vote in media polls per its longstanding policy.

Oregon State, another NCAA tournament surprise that advanced to the Elite Eight following its run to the Pac-12 tournament title, was picked in a tie for fourth alongside Arizona, which is set to start its first season under coach Tommy Lloyd.

Colorado was picked sixth, followed by Arizona State, Washington State, Stanford, Utah, Washington and California.

UCLA was a natural selection atop the media poll given it returned all five starters and every player who appeared in its stirring NCAA tournament run. The Bruins have added graduate transfer Myles Johnson, providing the interior defensive presence they were missing last season, as well as highly touted guard Peyton Watson from Long Beach Poly High.

UCLA was also picked to win the Pac-12 last season before finishing fourth after three consecutive losses to end the regular season.

The Bruins placed a conference-best three players on the preseason media all-conference team: point guard Tyger Campbell, swingman Jaime Jaquez Jr. and guard Johnny Juzang. USC’s Isaiah Mobley, who will need to carry a much larger piece of the offense with brother Evan departed for the NBA, was also selected for the first team. Trojans newcomer Boogie Ellis, a transfer from Memphis, was on the second team.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.