Basketball season is getting closer, and closer, and closer. The Pac-12 is putting itself in the argument as one of the elite conferences in college basketball with seven participants during March Madness, though only Oregon made it past the Sweet 16 (Elite 8) and five lost in the opening round. Compared to only four the prior year, granted, three made the Sweet 16. The rich, though, got richer while the gap widened in the conference. 12] Washington State Cougars (9-22, 1-17) The Cougars are in for another long years, as Ernie Kent continues to try to get the program back on track. Milan Acqua from Cathedral High School in Los Angeles was a nice add for Kent's staff, but it won't be enough to make a major impact for the Cougars. Luckily for the Cougs, they don't have a difficult non-conference slate, with Creighton and Kansas State being the most notable names.
11] Stanford Cardinal (15-15, 8-10) Stanford lost Roscoe Allen to the professional ranks, but do bring in Trevor Stanback to man the middle. While many have the Cardinal in the middle of the Pac, I'm not a huge fan of Jarrod Haase taking over, and Stanford has a decent slate, with Miami, Kansas, Southern Methodist & St. Mary's. They will be battle tested by the time conference play kicks off.
10] Arizona State Sun Devils (15-17, 5-13) Arizona State lost Thon Maker to the draft, causing a little nick in Bobby Hurley's solid recruiting class, but the eligibility of Shannon Evans will provide a much needed boost in Tempe. Dates with Purdue, Kentucky, San Diego State, New Mexico State and the Puerto Rico tip-off won't give the Devils early pillow victories.
9] California Golden Bears (23-11, 12-6) Cal went into 2015-16 with a lot of hype, and ended up losing to Hawaii from the Big West during the first round of the Big Dance. They lost Jaylen Brown, Jordan Matthews, Tyrone Wallace, putting more pressure on Jabari Bird and Ivan Rabb. Regardless, Cuanzo Martin just isn't a very good coach. Still, San Diego State and Virginia Tech are the toughest non-conference foes.
8] Oregon State Beavers (19-13, 9-9) Beavs lost Payton part duex, but return Tres Tinkle and Stephen Thompson to go alongside incoming recruits JaQuori McLaughlin and Etan Thompson could get the Beavers back into the top half of the conference. Nevada, Tulsa, Fresno State & Southern Mississippi should provide a test.
7] Washington Huskies (19-15, 9-9) Lorenzo Romar is coming into the campaign losing Marquise Chriss, DeJounte Murray and Andrew Andrews, but does bring in Markelle Fultz and Sam Timmins. Fultz needs to be damn good for the Huskies to keep them within reach of .500 in conference play and a relatively soft OoC slate should help out.
6] Colorado Buffaloes (22-12, 10-8) Colorado had a solid showing, but the loss of Josh Scott, teamed with a seemingly sub-par recruiting class has them looking just outside the top five. Derrick White should provide a boost with George King and Josh Fortune as Tad Boyle looks to get back into the big dance.
5] USC Trojans (21-13, 9-9) Trojans did lose Nikola Jovanovic and Julian Jacobs but bring back Bennie Boatright and Shaqquan Aaron is eligible after transferring from Louisville, with Jonah Matthews and Nick Rakocevic joining as freshman. A solid out of conference, including Texas A&M, Southern Methodist, Brigham Young, San Diego and DePaul should be a nice meter to see where Andy Enfield's side ranks.
4] Utah Utes (27-9, 13-5) Coach Larry K lost a lot of talent with Jakob Poeltl, Brandon Taylor, and Jeffrey Loveridge, but with Kyle Kuzma and Lorenzo Bonam returning alongside incoming transfers and Devon Daniels, a decent recruit. Not the toughest of slates, the Utes should be able to go into conference play with some momentum.
3] UCLA Bruins (15-17, 6-12) Steve Alford had one of the worst seasons the Bruins have had in a while, and they will be looking to bounce back with Aaron Holiday, Thomas Welsh, Isaac Hamilton and Bryce Alford returning to go alongside an incoming flux of talented freshmen, Lonzo Ball, TJ Leaf & Ike Anigbogu. Out of conference features Kentucky, Ohio State, San Diego and Michigan, providing a solid gauge prior to conference play.
2] Arizona Wildcats (25-9, 12-6) Sean Miller had an interesting summer as Terrence Ferguson decided to pursue professional basketball in Australia and then Alonzo Trier's status for the 2016-17 campaign is up in the air. Had Trier been good to go, combined with Ray Smith and incoming froshie's Lauri Markkanen, Rawle Atkins and Kobe Simmons, I'd have the Cats #1 in the conference. As it stands, they fall just short.
1] Oregon Ducks (31-7, 14-4) Lone side to make it past the Sweet 16, Oregon looks to make a run to the Final Four as they retain Dillon Brooks, Tyler Dorsey and Jordan Bell, to go with transfers Kavell Pigby-Williams and Paul White, Dana Altman should have the Ducks running on all cylinders. A relatively tough non-conference awaits, but the Ducks should make it through mainly unscathed.