2012-2013 PAC 12 PREVIEW: CONFERENCE LOOKING FOR A REBOUND
By Raphielle Johnson
After three seasons of poor performance the Pac-12 and its fans are hopeful that 2012-13 is the beginning of a turnaround for the league. The conference has claimed just eight NCAA tournament bids in those three years, but given the amount of talent in the league (both newcomers and transfers) the Pac-12 should grab at least three bids this year. But who gets them? That’s a question that will be answered throughout the season of course, but there are some teams better positioned than others to answer that question in the affirmative.
Both Arizona and UCLA welcome Top 5 recruiting classes but only one knows that they’ll have all hands on deck come November. That’s Arizona, which received a much-needed infusion of talent inside while also landing Xavier transfer Mark Lyons to run the point. As for the Bruins they’re still awaiting news on Kyle Anderson and Shabazz Muhammad, two freshmen who are talented enough to be game-changers for Ben Howland’s program. But even with the talent at those two schools, by no means is this a two-team race.
Defending Pac-12 tournament champion Colorado returns three key figures from last year’s team, and the cupboard certainly isn’t bare at Stanford either as the Postseason NIT champions return most of their major contributors. USC has a number of transfers eligible and returnees such as Jio Fontan and Dwayne Dedmon are healthy after having to deal with injuries in 2011-12. California can argue that they have the best back court in the Pac-12 in Allen Crabbe and Justin Cobbs, while Washington, Oregon, Oregon State and even Arizona State will all have reasons for optimism.
Washington has made the move from a motion offense to one of the high-post variety in order to take advantage of senior point guard Abdul Gaddy and junior shooting guard C.J. Wilcox. With Terrence Ross and Tony Wroten Jr. in the NBA Lorenzo Romar will need these two and redshirt freshman Andrew Andrews to be assertive offensively. If that happens the Huskies can be a surprise in the Pac-12, and the return of senior wing Scott Suggs will help matters as well.
As for the two Oregon schools they were among the better offensive teams in the conference last season. While Oregon State led the Pac-12 in scoring offense to be frank they were bad defensively, as they ranked at or near the bottom of the league in points allowed and defensive efficiency. Jared Cunningham is gone but the Beavers return some talented players led by guards Roberton Nelson and Ahmad Starks.
As for Oregon they’ll be young outside of E.J. Singler and Tony Woods, but they’ve got some good freshmen (Dominic Artis and Damyean Dotson being two) and a junior college transfer in Waverly Austin who will be heard from. And if the NCAA declares Rice transfer Arsalan Kazemi eligible to play, look out. Guards Jahii Carson and Evan Gordon will look to help Herb Sendek account for the departure of Trent Lockett, and they should at least be more entertaining in 2012-13.
As for Washington State and Utah, this could be a tough season for both teams but for different reasons. The Cougars have one of the Pac-12′s best players in senior forward Brock Motum, but the loss of point guard Reggie Moore (dismissed from the program) puts Ken Bone in a tough spot at the point. Maybe they hand the ball to sophomore DaVonte Lacy, but he spent much of his time playing off the ball last season.
For Utah, Larry Krystkowiak’s win total may increase but that will likely be due to a weak non-conference slate. The good news is that freshman Jordan Loveridge can be a star in the Pac-12 down the line, and transfers Aaron Dotson (LSU) and Jared DuBois (LMU) make the Utes better on the perimeter. They’ll also have center Jason Washburn back, but the loss of David Foster hurts their depth in the paint.
As a whole the Pac-12 should be better in 2012-13, but there are a number of variables that can go either way. Are Arizona’s freshmen bigs ready to be factors? What happens at UCLA? Can Gaddy and Wilcox be more assertive offensively for Washington? Those are some big questions to answer, but unlike the last three years the Pac-12 is capable of answering them in the affirmative.
9. Oregon State
10. Arizona State
11. Washington State
All-Conference Team (* denotes Player of the Year)
G Chasson Randle (Stanford)
G Allen Crabbe (California)
F Solomon Hill (Arizona)*
F Andre Roberson (Colorado)
F Brock Motum (Washington State)
All-Rookie Team (* denotes Rookie of the Year)
G Shabazz Muhammad (UCLA)*
G Jahii Carson (Arizona State)
G Kyle Anderson (UCLA)
F Brandon Ashley (Arizona)
C Kaleb Tarczewski (Arizona)
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