The Pac-12 basketball landscape shifted drastically Wednesday when Reid Travis announced that he’s transferring from Stanford for his fifth year.
The forward was the third-best player in the conference last season, per KenPom, and would have been the frontrunner to be Pac-12 Player of the Year if he stayed in Palo Alto.
But the 20-and-10 player will save his best for last elsewhere (likely Kentucky?), and it’s a late subtraction that decimates a Cardinal roster that already lost two starters — Dorian Pickens and Michael Humphrey — to graduation.
“I feel bad for Stanford,” Arizona head coach Sean Miller said Thursday at a press conference. “They’ve invested a lot in Reid. He was one of our conference’s great players this past year, so that happened at the end of May. It’s the world we live in, wherever he goes to college they got themselves a heck of a basketball player.”
And the Pac-12 has lost one, which is something it cannot afford. The conference was so weak last season that it only placed three teams in the NCAA Tournament, none of which got past the first round.
So even though Travis had two 20-point games against Arizona last season, Miller isn’t exactly glad to see him leave the conference.
“The days are cheering against each other within a conference are over,” Miller said. “We want programs that are healthy. We want the bottom of our conference to win the most games possible in non-conference. We want the most teams we can get into the NCAA Tournament.
“Once we’re in the NCAA Tournament, we want those teams to advance. This year that didn’t happen and we were a big part of that problem. When you have a four-seed, you want to win a few games. And the fact that we didn’t do that isn’t something that we feel good about. And USC, having left them out, not that we needed a wake up call, but it makes everybody in our conference step back. For them to win 11 games away from home, finish in second place, get to the conference tournament’s championship game, have the talent that they’ve had a year ago and not make the tournament, we don’t want that to happen. We want that team to get in.”
That team could be Arizona next season. The Wildcats are expected to have a down year (relatively speaking) and could find themselves on the NCAA Tournament bubble for the first time in a decade.
While they do have a non-conference schedule that includes road games at Alabama and UConn, a home game against Baylor, and the Maui Invitational, it might be difficult for them to bolster their resume once conference play starts, especially since they only face USC and UCLA once next season.
And if Stanford has a rough year without Travis, which seems more likely than not, it will only exacerbate the issue.
“I think Oregon will be terrific, UCLA, those two in particular,” Miller said. “And then you have a number of other programs that are replacing a lot or trying to have their players return that much better.”
Follow Ryan Kelapire on Twitter at @RKelapire