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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Basketball Guide 2014: Pac-12 Power Rankings: Arizona leads conference in week one

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Arizona men’s basketball head coach Sean Miller yells during Arizona’s 78-55 win against Mount St. Mary’s in McKale Center on Friday. Miller and the Wildcats start the season at the top of our Pac-12 Conference power rankings.

1. No. 2 Arizona

While the Wildcats are the overwhelming favorite to win the Pac-12 Conference, not everyone believes they will repeat as conference champions. The Wildcats received 31 of the 32 first-place votes in the preseason media poll. Former UA and USC head coach Kevin O’Neill, now an analyst for the Pac-12 Networks, said the aberrant voter “was drunk that day.”

2. Colorado

The Buffaloes are probably the only team that can challenge Arizona. Colorado features point guard Askia Booker, who could become the first CU player to go to four NCAA tournaments. The Buffaloes lost Spencer Dinwiddie to the NBA but have a good core with Booker, forward Josh Scott and guard/forward Xavier Johnson.

3. UCLA

The Bruins won the Pac-12 tournament title last season, but don’t expect them to win the real league championship this year. UCLA lost four starters and its sixth man from a Sweet-Sixteen team. However, the Bruins did bring in what Rivals ranked as the eighth-best recruiting class in the country.

4. No. 25 Utah

After going 3-15 in the conference in his first season and then 5-13 and 9-9 last year, Utah head coach Larry Krystkowiak has the Utes on the incline. Krystkowiak returns almost everyone from a 21-12 squad except Princeton Onwas, who averaged 4.8 points per game. Plus, the Utah-Colorado road swing is without a doubt the toughest in the league, and many tired teams will fall victim.

5. Stanford
The Cardinal finally broke through and made the NCAA tournament last year for the first time under head coach Johnny Dawkins. The seventh-year coach lost stars in Josh Huestis and Dwight Powell, but unlike most Pac-12 skippers this year, returns many of his players.

The Cardinal added McDonald’s All-American Game power forward Reid Travis, who has been compared to former Stanford basketball star and Los Angeles Lakers dancing star Mark Madsen.

6. California

The Golden Bears begin a new era in Berkeley, Calif., as Cuonzo Martin takes over from retiring coach Mike Montgomery. Martin inherits a solid team but one that lost its best player in Justin Cobbs. Cal should get more from former McDonald’s All-American Jabari Bird, who was hurt last year, and it adds in a graduate transfer from Cornell, Dwight Tarwater.

7. Oregon

The Ducks looked like they would be a solid team until a rape scandal rocked the team.

Damyean Dotson, Dominic Artis and Brandon Austin were banned from the school for at least four years for alleged sexual assault. On the basketball court, Oregon returns just four players from its 2014 NCAA tournament team.

8. Washington

The forecast isn’t sunny in Seattle, as the Huskies haven’t made the big dance since 2011.

Washington used to compete with Arizona for Pac-12 dominance, and now head coach Lorenzo Romar is on the hot seat. Center Robert Upshaw is good, but he has a lot of baggage, as he was kicked off of Fresno State and kept away from the Huskies during his redshirt year last season. How long can he last?

9. USC

It’s the second year of the Andy Enfield era, but the Trojans aren’t quite in Dunk City yet.

Actually, after winning 11 games last year and losing its top-four scorers, USC isn’t even Dunk Town yet. The Trojans added the 23rd-best recruiting class in the country, according to Rivals.

10. Oregon State

The last time the Beavers were good, Gary Payton played for Oregon State. Naturally, OSU fans hope junior Gary Payton II with be the answer to their woes. Like many sequels, the younger Payton isn’t as good as the original, but he was a second-team NJCAA Division I All-American last year. New head coach Wayne Tinkle will try to make the Beavers No. 1, but it’ll take a while before he’s known for more than just pee jokes.

11. ASU

The Sun Devils enjoyed a banner year in 2013-2014, beating big brother Arizona and making it to the NCAA tournament. But that’s where the good news ends, as the Sun Devils lost their three best players from last year: Jahii Carson, Jordan Bachynski and Jermaine Marshall. Things were so bad for ASU in the offseason that Carson left early for the NBA draft and didn’t even get picked.

12. Washington State

Jokesters in the 20th century used to describe Washington as “first in war, first in peace and last in the American League” when talking about the Senators baseball club.

Washington State is also a joke, as it is at the bottom of the football and basketball power rankings. New head coach Ernie Kent was good at Oregon, but how much of that success was due to the Ducks’ sugar daddy Phil Knight, and can he get good players to Wazzu? Pullman, Wash., isn’t exactly the most popular place in the Pac-12.

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Follow James Kelley on Twitter.

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