While the Pac-12 conference is one of the most dominating college football conferences, the basketball side has been falling behind considerably. Outside of UCLA, no team has made more than one trip to the Final Four, and no team has brought home a national title. The Bruins, the Arizona Wildcats, the Colorado Buffaloes and the Oregon Ducks are the squads best prepped to reverse this trend for the conference.
As for the Oregon State Beavers, the Washington Huskies and the Washington State Cougars, strong recruiting and a wide-open conference thanks to early NBA entries mean that hope is never extinguished until the season ends.
Washington State Cougars (13-19, 4-14 in conference last season)
Key Players: Royce Woolridge, DaVonte Lacy, Que Johnson
Junior guard Woolridge is the Cougar's top returning scorer, averaging eleven points per game last season, while fellow junior Lacy averaged ten and a half. The Cougars hope to see Johnson, a highly-prized 6'5 guard who redshirted last season, become the scorer scouts predicted when he joined the team. He is recovering from a stress fracture in his foot, and the Cougars will likely be careful with him for the first few weeks of the year.
Outlook: If Johnson becomes the scoring threat his talent level suggests, the Cougars could definitely contend late into the year, and save Coach Ken Bone's job. If not, the Cougars could find themselves on the bottom of the Pac-12 again. Miss Tournament
Washington Huskies (18-16, 9-9 in conference last season)
Key Players: C.J. Wilcox, Desmond Simmons, Nigel Williams-Goss
The Huskies do have the benefit of returning one of the best senior players in the nation in C.J. Wilcox, who led the Huskies in scoring last season. His supporting cast will be significantly different, but Williams-Goss, one of the top point guard prospects in the country, will be a major help to take pressure off and secure the passing lanes.
Outlook: Wilcox and Williams-Goss have the potential to take the Huskies into the Big Dance, though how long they stay is a matter of debate. NCAA Tournament: Round of 32
Oregon State Beavers (14-18, 4-14 in conference last season)
Key Players: Roberto Nelson, Devon Collier, Eric Moreland
Of all the teams in the Pac-12, the Beavers have the greatest potential for improvement. Their top two players, Nelson and Collier, returned for their senior seasons, and leading rebounder Moreland comes back to Corvallis for his junior season. With that level of experience, it is hard to imagine the Beavers not finishing .500 in conference this season.
Outlook: With so much experience leading the way in a very open Pac-12, the Beavers could find themselves dancing in March. NCAA Tournament: Round of 64
Oregon Ducks (28-9, 12-6 in conference last season)
Key Players: Damyean Dotson, Dominic Artis, Mike Moser
While the Ducks lose some key players from the NCAA Tournament run a year ago, Oregon still has one of the best teams in the country, let alone the Pac-12. Dotson is still a fantastic scorer, Artis is one of the best passing guards in the nation, and the addition of 6'8 forward Moser, who transferred from UNLV, will be a major help on the rebounding side of things.
Outlook: If Coach Dana Altman puts things together for the Ducks, they could certainly wind up playing well into April. NCAA Tournament: Elite Eight