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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Column: Pac-12 will be back next season

Rebecca Noble

Arizona men’s basketball head coach Sean Miller yells during Arizona’s 81-78 loss on Saturday at Wells Fargo Arena. The Pac-12 Conference, as a whole, will be better next season behind an influx of talent.

It’s safe to say West Coast basketball runs through teams such as Arizona, Gonzaga and UCLA. One could argue Pac-12 Conference teams like Stanford, Oregon and California are in the second tier, but with a down season from the Pac-12 as a whole, one could also argue there really isn’t enough depth to even have a second tier.

When you look at the season standings in the conference, there are more questions than answers. It’s not a stretch to say only three Pac-12 teams will be in NCAA tournament. Arizona is a lock, Utah is a lock and Stanford looks like a safe bet. Other than that, there are a few teams that have a chance to advance to March Madness.

Among those teams with at least a chance are Oregon State, UCLA, Washington and Cal. They might have to win the Pac-12 tournament just to make it, but they at least have a sliver of hope, however small that may be.

The real issue here is a lack of talent on teams not named Arizona, Utah, UCLA or Stanford. It’s such a far cry from just a few years ago. Heck, even from last season.

Here’s a list of guys who left the conference after last season: Nick Johnson, Aaron Gordon, Spencer Dinwiddie, Kyle Anderson, Jahii Carson, Justin Cobbs, Richard Solomon, Mike Moser, C.J. Wilcox, Jordan Adams and Zach LaVine.

For those counting, that’s seven NBA draft picks lost and several premier players for their respective teams. Thus, it’s not surprising to see a drop in production across the board. What’s troubling is the lack of future talent coming into the league to the teams below the top recruiting programs of Arizona and UCLA.

Apart from those who signed with Arizona and UCLA, only five players from ESPN’s 2014 100 signed to three different Pac-12 schools. USC and Stanford each signed two players, and Utah signed one.

It wasn’t nearly the influx of talent the conference needed after such an outpouring of talent. Thus, the conference is struggling to field talented teams this season and likely will send just three teams to the tournament.

Next season’s expected newcomers will be a bit deeper than this season, though. Washington, USC, Oregon and Oregon State have each signed two ESPN 2015 100 players, and Stanford signed one player. Add those to Arizona’s four signees and UCLA’s two signees, and that’s a pretty solid haul of recruits for a conference.

That doesn’t even include top recruits such as Ivan Rabb, Jaylen Brown, Stephen Zimmerman and Caleb Swanigan, who still have Pac-12 schools in consideration. Have a guy like Rabb commit to Cal, Brown commit to UCLA and Arizona get Zimmerman, and boom: Everything is normal again.

So, hold tight, folks. This season hasn’t been pretty so far and won’t get much better over the last month or so of the regular season. Just be patient for a year, and Pac-12 basketball will be back at the level it should be at.


Follow Roberto Payne on Twitter.

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