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It’s way too early for college basketball predictions, but ...

Pac-12 Conference insider Jon Wilner of the Mercury News weighs in on where he sees the Utes finishing in the conference

Utah Utes center Branden Carlson (35) dunks during a Pac-12 game against the Oregon Ducks.
Utah Utes center Branden Carlson dunks during a Pac-12 game against the Oregon Ducks at the Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Jan. 9, 2021.
Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

We’re just entering full-on prediction season for the upcoming college football campaign, but one writer is already looking forward to the basketball season.

On Monday, Pac-12 Conference insider Jon Wilner of the Mercury News published his predictions for the conference, and he has the Utah Runnin’ Utes pegged to finish eighth.

“The roster suggests a long first year under coach Craig Smith following a mass offseason exodus, with Timmy Allen, Alfonso Plummer, Rylan Jones, Pelle Larsson and Ian Martinez moving on,” Wilner wrote, adding that the returns of Branden Carlson and Both Gach “doesn’t come close to matching what was lost.”

That said, Wilner expressed confidence in Smith, who exceeded preseason expectations in each of his three years at Utah State.

Concluded Wilner: “We’re expecting a slight upside surprise from the Utes based on Smith’s proven ability to maximize his personnel and his shrewd eye for talent.”

Wilner predicts that UCLA will win the conference after a surprise run to the Final Four last season and the fact that they’ll have a bunch of returning production, and that Cal will finish in last place.

Here are Wilner’s full predictions:

  1. UCLA
  2. Oregon
  3. USC
  4. Oregon State
  5. Washington State
  6. Colorado
  7. Arizona State
  8. Utah
  9. Arizona
  10. Stanford
  11. Washington
  12. Cal