Pac-12 Basketball preview

An early look at the 2013-14 Pac-12 basketball season

4/18/13 in NCAABB   |   droth   |   127 respect

Despite producing plenty of NBA talent, the Pac-12 hasn't been a particularly strong basketball conference the last few years.  This season, however, saw a thrilling league title race that went down to the wire followed by two teams, Arizona and Oregon, advancing to the Sweet 16.  Now, with plenty of major recruits coming in, coaching changes to keep an eye on, and teams with veteran leadership that look poised to make a serious statement, next season could be even more exciting.  Here's an early preview of what to watch for in the 2013-14 Pac-12 Men's Basketball season.

The 2012-13 Pac-12 title came down to the final games of the season and three teams, Cal, Oregon, and Arizona, finished just one game behind UCLA for the regular season crown.  

Arizona will likely be picked to win the conference again and for good reason.  The Wildcats have to get over the 
Apr 3, 2013; Chicago, IL, USA; McDonald's All American West guard Aaron Gordon (32) dunks the ball against the McDonald's All American East during the second half at the United Center. McDonald's All American West defeats the East 110-99. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sportsloss of their two leading scorers, departing seniors Mark Lyons and Solomon Hill, but the cupboard is far from bare.  A team that didn't quite live up to its potential will be adding even more talent with two five-star recruits coming in.  

Rondae Jefferson is the #4 Small Forward and Aaron Gordon is the #2 Power Forward in this year's class.  Gordon, a one-man highlight machine, is an early favorite for National Freshman of the Year honors and should be able to replace Solomon Hill's production.  The question with this Wildcat team, like all young and talented rosters, is whether or not they'll put it all together and live up to their potential this time around.

UCLA, the other traditional basketball powerhouse in the conference, is coming off a regular season championship but a disappointing postseason that resulted in Ben Howland losing his job.  Freshman sensation Shabazz Muhammad declared for the NBA draft but the Bruins can still lean on returning contributors like Kyle Anderson, Jordan Adams, and the Wear twins.  Highly-touted point guard recruit Zach Levine should help make up for the loss of senior Larry Drew II, who led the Pac-12 in assists last season. 

But the real key for UCLA this season is how they will respond to the coaching change.  Steve Alford led New Mexico to a 24-9 record his first season on the job and if the Bruins buy into their new coach's philosophy, they could make the Pac-12 a two-team race.

The Wildcats and Bruins definitely represent the top tier of the Pac-12, but there are other teams that will be in the hunt despite not recruiting elite talent.

Since Tad Boyle has taken over as head coach at Colorado, the Buffaloes have three straight 20-win seasons.  Before Boyle showed up, they had four in the school's history.  And if the Pac-12's leading rebounder, Andre Roberson, comes back to school, they will have all five starters returning.  This experienced and well-coached group could definitely give the higher upside, less experienced teams a run for the title.
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