Preseason Pac 12 Power Rankings

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Pac 12 Basketball Preseason Power Rankings

Pac 12
Kirby Lee- US PRESSWIRE

Last year the Pac 12 conference was the weakest out of the power six conferences, only sending two schools to the NCAA Tournament, not including their regular season champion. It was the first time ever that a power six conference regular season champion did not earn a berth to the NCAA Tournament.

Now as the Pac 12 enters its second season as a 12 member league it will be looking to earn back its reputation and once again become one of the premier conferences in all of college basketball. To do that they will need the traditional power schools like Arizona and UCLA to return to their winning ways.

Last year both schools missed the NCAA Tournament, which is a rarity for such tradition rich schools. Although both schools missed out in March it didn’t have any effect on their ability to recruit. Arizona and UCLA had two of the top three 2012 recruiting classes in the entire country and it should help them in getting back to where they want to be.

Another way that the conference can boost its national perception is if they have another feel-good story like they did last season with Colorado. The Buffaloes were predicted to finish 11th in the conference last season but they proved everyone wrong en route to their first ever conference championship. After winning an improbable four games in four days to win the Pac 12 tournament they went on to upset No. 7 UNLV in the Big Dance, ultimately falling to a hot-shooting Baylor team in the third round. They were the class of the conference last season and they will look to continue their strong play this upcoming season.

Top to bottom I think that the conference will be better this season. Besides the traditional powers, schools like Oregon, Cal and Stanford should have pretty good seasons and make the Pac 12 one of the more competitive leagues. The depth of the conference figures to be much improved this season and it will have to be in order to gain back some dignity and respect with the national media.

Here’s the first look at the Pac 12 power rankings heading into the 2012-2013 season.

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12. Utah Utes

Utes
Kirby Lee- US PRESSWIRE

Last season- 6-25 (3-15 in Pac 12)

The Utes have 11 new players that are coming in to try and end their three-year streak of finishing with a losing record. There wasn’t much to cheer about last season as they struggled mightily in their first season in the Pac 12. Utah finished near the bottom of the conference in practically every important category and never really had anything going for them.

This season doesn’t figure to be any different, especially after losing four of their key players from last season’s squad. They really only have one decent returning player, Jason Washburn, who put up decent numbers last year (11.5 ppg, 6.5 rpg) and was arguably their best player.

Utah will need other guys to step up in order to have any type of chance to finish anywhere besides last place in the conference.

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11. Oregon State Beavers

State
Kirby Lee- US PRESSWIRE

Last season- 21-15 (7-11 in Pac 12)

Head coach Craig Robinson seems to have the Beavers heading in the right direction and it’s evident from their finish to last season. They made a very nice run in the conference tournament, reaching the semifinals and they won two games in the CBI to finish with more than 20 wins for the first time in 21 years.

One of the main reasons for their success last year was due to Jared Cunningham (17.9 ppg) but he is gone after jumping to the NBA so it will be interesting to see how Robinson replaces him and how he keeps the Beavers heading on the right path.

To do that Robinson will need Devon Collier to step up and have another productive season like he did last year. Collier is their leading returning scorer (13.1 ppg, 5.2 rpg) and he will need to continue to be that force around the rim for the Beavers to have continued success in 2012.

Along with Collier, Ahmad Starks and Angus Brandt will have to have breakout seasons for the Beavers to finish any better than where they are projected to end up.

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10. Washington State Cougars

State
James Snook- US PRESSWIRE

Last season- 19-18 (7-11 in Pac 12)

Having the conference’s leading scorer didn’t necessarily translate into a lot of wins in Pac 12 play last season for the Cougars.

Brock Motum lead the Pac 12 with 18.1 ppg as he was a force down on the low block, seemingly scoring at will. In order for Motum to take his game up another level he will have to boost his rebounding numbers and become a better shot blocker at the rim. Overall he’s tough to stop but he’s really their only true threat.

A plus for the Cougars is that they return the majority of their team last year, which is reason for optimism as they try to claw their way into the top half of the conference. Along with having the conference’s leading scorer the Cougars also boasted the Pac 12’s leading player in assists per game as Reggie Moore finished with 5.5 per game. He’s their most consistent player but he will have to take on a larger scoring role in order for the Cougars to have a successful season.

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9. USC Trojans

USC
Kirby Lee- US PRESSWIRE

Last season- 6-26 (1-17 in Pac 12)

Last season was not a proper reflection of the Trojans as they were ravaged with injuries, with three of their best players suffering season-ending ailments.

Jio Fontan (ACL), Aaron Fuller (shoulder) and Dewayne Dedmon (MCL) all missed last year and it led to USC’s worst season in school history as they only won one game during Pac 12 play.

This season should be a bounce-back one for the Trojans as all three guys are returning and are healthy. Unfortunately, USC’s leading scorer from last year, Maurice Jones, will not be returning as he was deemed academically ineligible so he transferred to Iowa State.

His loss will be dampened with the return of the injured players and a transfer from Wake Forest, J.T. Terrell. The Trojans should be in much better shape as they head into the 2012-2013 season and it wouldn’t surprise me at all if they finish in the top half of the conference.

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8. Arizona State Sun Devils

State
Kirby Lee- US PRESSWIRE

Last season- 10-21 (6-12 in Pac 12)

It’s been a rough go for the Sun Devils ever since James Harden left for the NBA. They haven’t seemed to recover after his departure and haven’t been relevant since he led them to a national ranking and an NCAA Tournament appearance.

Last season wasn’t much different as the Sun Devils finished 10th in the Pac 12 at just 10-21. Their leading scorer is gone, Trent Lockett transferred to Marquette, so it doesn’t figure to get much easier for Herb Sendeck’s crew this year.

One of the lone bright spots is highly touted freshmen Jahii Carson who was unable to play last season. Having him eligible this year will be a tremendous boost to a team that lacked any sort of offensive punch, only averaging 61 ppg last year.

Carrick Felix and Carson will have to play big this year if the Sun Devils want to return to where they were when Harden left for the NBA.

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7. Oregon Ducks

Ducks
Kirby Lee- US PRESSWIRE

Last season- 24-10 (13-5 in Pac 12)

After posting back-to-back 20 win seasons in his first two seasons in Eugene, repeating the feat will be a lot tougher for head coach Dana Altman this year.

He lost his leading scorer from last season in Devoe Joseph (16.7 ppg), along with the departures of key players Garrett Sim (12.2 ppg) and Olu Ashaolu (9.2 ppg, 5.2 rpg) as well.

Altman does have the ability to lean on senior E.J. Singler but he is really their only true offensive threat heading into this season. There’s a lot of hype surrounding incoming freshmen Dominic Artis and if he can step up and play to his potential the loss of Joseph and Co. might not be felt as much.

If Altman somehow gets this team to another 20 wins and possibly an NCAA Tournament berth, it will say a lot about his coaching ability.

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6. Washington Huskies

Huskies
Kirby Lee- US PRESSWIRE

Last season 24-11 (14-4 in Pac 12)

As mentioned in the first slide, the Huskies became the first regular season conference champ to miss out on March Madness, instead they had to settle for the NIT. Getting bounced in their first game of the conference tournament didn’t help their case, which was seen as weak to begin with due to the national perception of the Pac 12.

Heading into this season an NCAA berth seems even more out of reach with the departure of their two best players, Tony Wroten and Terrance Ross, to the NBA. It seems like the Huskies will still be competitive but probably not quite good enough to earn an at-large bid.

C.J. Wilcox is still there so he will be their main offensive threat but it’s on the defensive side of the ball that the Huskies will be exposed. They weren’t very good last season and this year figures to be the same as they allowed over 70 ppg last year.

This could be a rebuilding year for Washington but you can never fully count them out not to make a run and earn a surprise berth.

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5. Colorado Buffaloes

Buffs
Kirby Lee- US PRESSWIRE

Last season 24-12 (11-7)

Surprisingly, Colorado was the class of the conference in just their first season as a new member. Winning the Pac 12 Tournament and getting a win in the NCAA Tournament saved face for the conference but it will be much harder to fly under the radar again this season. The other teams have taken notice and the Buffaloes will not be able to surprise anyone this year.

Under head coach Tad Boyle, Colorado continues to get better as they posted back-to-back 24 win season for the first time in school history.

Boyle preaches defense and rebounding and that’s exactly what the Buffs rode to success last year and they were led by their do-it-all forward Andre Roberson. He finished last season as the nation’s third leading rebounder (11.1 pg) and he is one of the early favorites for both the Pac 12 MVP and Defensive Player of the Year awards.

Roberson won’t have to do everything himself this year as key returners, Spencer Dinwiddie and Askia Booker, along with highly touted freshmen, Josh Scott and Xavier Johnson, will be there to help.

They will be extremely young which could lead to a slow start but look for Colorado to once again be around in March and competing for their second straight NCAA Tournament appearance.

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4. Stanford Cardinal

Stanford
Kirby Lee- US PRESSWIRE

Last season- 26-11 (10-8 in Pac 12)

It could be said that the Cardinal had the best postseason last year out of any team in the Pac 12. Although they didn’t make it to the NCAA Tournament they still had something to play for and they went on to win five games en route to their NIT championship. The NIT run added to their impressive 26 win total but now their goal is to get into the postseason tournament that truly matters.

They have two of their top players returning this season as Chasson Randle and Aaron Bright make up one of the best backcourts in the conference. Stanford was the top three-point shooting team in the Pac 12 last year, mostly due to Randle and Bright but that will once again be one of their strengths heading into this season.

Their frontcourt will likely be their main weakness and teams will take advantage of that. If they can somehow get that fixed as the season progresses they should be in the hunt as one of the better teams in the conference.

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3. Cal Bears

Cal
Kirby Lee- US PRESSWIRE

Last season- 24-10 (13-5 in Pac 12)

The Bears were the lone other squad to earn a bid to the NCAA Tournament but they were embarrassed in the opening game. Although they had a unceremoniously exit from March Madness and lost Jorge Gutierrez and Harper Kemp, the Bears have some reason for optimism this season.

Potential Pac 12 POY Allen Crabbe and Justin Cobbs will lead one of the most effective and unselfish offenses in the country. They led the Pac 12 in assists (15.9 pg) and field goal percentage (47.6%) a season ago, which also ranked 12th and 20th respectively in the nation. Crabbe and Cobb make up the top returning backcourt in the country but an unproven front court will be the difference in whether or not the Bears make it back to another NCAA Tournament appearance.

If they can get solid production out of the likes of David Kravish and Richard Solomon they should be in good shape.

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2. UCLA Bruins

UCLA
Kirby Lee- US PRESSWIRE

Last season- 19-14 (11-7 in Pac 12)

As the recently renovated Pauley Pavilion is reopened the Bruins will hope to conjure up some magic from team’s past in order to return to their former glory. It hasn’t been that long since UCLA was in the Final Four but to Bruins fans it seems like an eternity, especially after last season when they only finished with 19 wins.

Despite their lackluster season the Bruins hauled in one of the best recruiting classes in the country, headlined by Shabazz Muhammad. He was the top rated recruit in the 2012 class and is an elite scorer that should contribute right away. His eligibility is still up in the air, which is a concern for head coach Ben Howland but their other top recruit is a different story.

Kyle Anderson was recently cleared by the NCAA and is ready to play this season after a lengthy investigation clouded his future. Perhaps the biggest addition for UCLA that has gone somewhat under the radar is transfer Larry Drew from North Carolina. He should lead a very talented offense that has a lot of different options.

It should be a revival year for UCLA this season and they would like to ring in the unveiling of their renovated stadium with another championship banner to hang from their storied rafters.

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1. Arizona Wildcats

Zona
Kirby Lee- US PRESSWIRE

Last season- 23-12 (12-6 in Pac 12)

All seems right in the Pac 12 when teams like Arizona and UCLA occupy the top two spots. Rightfully so, after the recruiting class that Sean Miller brought in, the Wildcats are predicted to win the Pac 12 in the preseason media poll.

The addition of one of the top 2012 recruiting classes to a quality roster should add up to a championship caliber squad that is a legitimate national title contender. Solomon Hill and Xavier transfer Mark Lyons will be joined by top freshmen Brandon Ashley (6 feet 8), Grant Jerrett (6 feet 10) and Kaleb Tarczewski (7 feet).

Although Arizona has failed to make the NCAA Tournament twice in Sean Miller’s three season, there’s no doubting his ability to recruit. This year it should be a much different story for the Wildcats as they return to where they belong and make a serious run at a national championship.

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