Fun to watch players Bryce Alford and Norman Powell return, and Jordan Adams as well. But Steve Alford needs five stars Kevon Looney and Isaac Hamilton to live up to the hype in order for his second season to be better than his first.
This pick largely hangs on whether or not Spencer Dinwiddie returns. Group him with guys like Askia Booker, Josh Scott, and a solid recruiting class, Colorado has a chance to finish in the top fourth of the lead.
Dwight Powell and Josh Huestis are gone, but Chasson Randle and Anthony Brown return from a team that made the Sweet Sixteen last month. Johnny Dawkins has a recruiting class consisting of one five star and three four stars coming in, which should keep his hot seat lukewarm. The question is though, how high is this team's ceiling with some key Senior leadership lost to graduation?
Some holes in Dana Altman's coaching style were revealed midway through the 2013-14 season, and yet Oregon was a couple rebounds away from a return to the Sweet Sixteen. The pieces are in place for another upper half finish next year, bolstered by a stacked backcourt featuring Dominic Artis and Joseph Young. The Ducks do lose Mike Moser and Richard Amardi down low, however, and need their young bigs to step up to balance the offense.
This will be the year Utah returns to national prominence and makes the NCAA Tournament. Delon Wright, Jordan Loveridge, and Brandon Taylor all return from last year's NIT team, and head coach Larry Krystowiak is one of the top coaches in the Pac-12. If the Utes are able to close out games next season, they will be dancing.
The Golden Bears are a tough team to peg. Do-everything guard Justin Cobbs is gone, his career ending in heartbreak on the floor of Moody Coliseum in Dallas. The backcourt is still loaded with talent, but the question is, how far can guys like Tyrone Wallace and Ricky Kreklow take them? The hiring of Tennessee's Cuonzo Martin is a great one, but it may take a year of tweaking things in Berkeley before they are competing for a Pac-12 title.
The Trojans will make the biggest jump out west in Andy Enfield's second season. And they will do it with a completely new look. USC will be led by a pair of newcomers in the backcourt; UNLV transfer Keith Reinhardt and four star freshman Jordan McLaughlin. The difference between the top seven and the bottom five in this league is large, but Enfield's guys should see their season continue in the NIT next March.
No one on Washington's roster jumps out at you, and while an NCAA bid is far-fetched, there is enough talent stockpiled to compete night in and night out. Lorenzo Romar definitely has his work cut out for him though.
10. Arizona State
It's a good thing Herb Sendek got Arizona State back to the NCAA Tournament while he was on the hot seat, because he now has a massive rebuilding effort in front of him. The Sun Devils lose their top three leading scorers and has seen three players choose to transfer and one declare for the NBA draft since the season has ended.
11. Oregon State
This team will be bad. Oregon State loses its top four scorers from a team that lost in the first round of the CBI, and the starting lineup will likely consist of Hallice Cooke, Langston Morris-Walker, Victor Robbins, Daniel Gomis, and Olaf Schaftenaar. Ouch.
12. Washington State
Did Washington State overpay to get Ernie Kent? Quite possibly. But that doesn't mean it's not a good hire. Kent will be great on the Palouse in time, but the Cougars will still be at the bottom of the conference next season.