"Animal House" in Pac-12
Throughout all of the change on the national scene in college basketball realignment, including the addition of Colorado and Utah to the conference, one thing will remain consistent- the Arizona Wildcats finishing atop a rejuvenated Pac-12 conference.
Minus Derrick Williams, one of the games' top two or three players last season, Arizona has reloaded with three returning starters, four significant contributors and four Top 100 freshmen. This year's recruiting class for Sean Miller is a sign of things to come, highlighted by his new starting backcourt- electric open-floor leader Josiah Turner and combo-guard Nick Johnson. Both can handle the ball and will have no trouble racing up the court in transition or finding shooters like Kyle Fogg or Kevin Parrom. The bigs aren't overwhelming, in fact, they are mostly undersized, so Miller will have to rely heavily upon two more from his recruiting class- Angelo Chol and Sidiki Johnson.
But the Wildcats will be challenged by both the Washington Huskies, Cal Bears and UCLA Bruins. Washington, fresh of back-to-back conference tournament titles, lose four starters, including junior guard Isaiah Thomas and senior forward Matthew Bryan-Amaning (32 points per game between the two), but they return four talented guards, including likely All-Pac-12 performer, Terrence Ross, but also a six-man recruiting class highlighted by two more talented guards.
UCLA has an advantage that really no other team out West has- a dominating frontcourt. The Bruins have some of the best forwards in the nation, led by Reeves Nelson, the leading-scorer and rebounder (13.9 points, 9.1 points) on last season's team and a potentially stellar center in hefty Josh Smith; If Smith can keep his weight and conditioning in check, Smith's per minute production is amongst the country's best. Ben Howland adds depth with the addition of transfers David and Travis Wear and rising-junior Brendan Lane.
Cal rounds out the conference's elite competitors with a solid mix of talent infused in the backcourt and frontcourt. Tenacious guard and leader Jorge Gutierrez is again at the helm, running the offense and setting the clamps down on opposing guards. One of the Pac-12's best young players, wing Allen Crabbe, could explode onto the national scene if he can build off his freshman year scoring. And then in the frontcourt, Harper Kamp is another rugged Bear playing for Mike Montgomery and will have his hands full with the graduation of Markhuri Sanders-Frison.
By President Corey Ruff - 10 - 16 - 11