Arizona’s superb cast of talented holdovers, led by Allonzo Trier and Rawle Alkins, mixed with their loading recruiting haul, which includes five-star prospects DeAndre Ayton and Emmanuel Akot, gives Sean Miller another insanely-gifted roster. It won’t be easy but the Final Four drought could be over for the ninth-year head coach.
2. USC Trojans
The Trojans grabbed the #8 overall spot in the country in our most recent “Way-Too-Early Top 25”, due to their star-studded group of play-making guards and versatile forward. Jordan McLaughlin, Derryck Thornton (Duke), Bennie Boatwright and Chimezie Metu are frightening enough and that’s without even considering guys like Elijah Stewart and De'Anthony Melton.
3. UCLA Bruins
Steve Alford held onto Aaron Holiday and Thomas Welsh from last year’s squad, who both will be crucial in helping to guide a largely inexperienced roster through the grueling schedule of the Pac-12. The five-star duo Jaylen Hands and Kris Wilkes will need to be immediate impact pieces for the Bruins.
The veteran pick for this upcoming season, Stanford has the most experienced roster in the league returning to Palo Alto, with a wealth of talented upperclassmen in tow. Everything that this team does still revolves around Reid Travis but the bruising forward will have more around him than ever before. Two ESPN Top 60 players in Kezie Okpala and Daejon Davis should only help this team’s growth.
The Beavers may need to win almost twenty more games than they did a season ago to make the big dance, but this is a developing team on a mission, who may only get one more go-round together. Besides the stars in Tres Tinkle, Drew Eubanks and Stephen Thompson Jr., Oregon State should get sizeable help from freshmen Ethan Thompson and Alfred Hollins.
6. Oregon Ducks
The lone regular contributor from last year’s team to return is rising sophomore Payton Pritchard, who needs to discover who his teammates around him will be. The Ducks will be aided by transfers in New Mexico’s Elijah Brown and Georgetown’s Paul White but it’ll be hard to hold onto a top three spot in the league for Dana Altman.
The 2017-2018 campaign will be the last of the transition years for Bobby Hurley at Arizona State, before the fruits of his recruiting labors will pay off for the following campaign. High-scoring guards Tra Holder and Shannon Evans will lead a group of new-to-the-program pieces, punctuated by rookies Remi Martin and Kimani Lawrence.
8. Utah Utes
When looking at Utah on paper, the voids to fill across the board are daunting but with an overwhelming faith in the abilities of Larry Krystkowiak and the culture of the Utes program, Utah may be able to cover face in the Pac-12. Big man David Collette and Long Beach State transfer Justin Bibbins will need to be vital in search of a 5th straight 20+ win season for the program.
The Buffaloes off-season revolved around the news of George King returning to campus, as the rising senior will have to take on the star role after being a third option behind Derrick White and Xavier Johnson last season. To measure Colorado’s inexperience, Tad Boyle’s roster will boast eight players next season who have never logged a minute for the team before.
Washington’s move to fire Lorenzo Romar completely changed the trajectory of this year’s group for the Huskies, most notably as Washington will now not bring one of the country’s best recruiting hauls to the Pac-12. Coming off a nine-win season, the growth of players like Noah Dickerson, David Crisp and Matisse Thybulle will be critical in Mike Hopkins’ first season at the helm.
Like Washington, California will enter the new campaign with a new head coach and Wyking Jones will have his hands-full, with an almost completely new Golden Bears roster. California needs to replace their top five scorers from a season ago, after losing Jabari Bird and Grant Mullins to graduation, Ivan Rabb to the NBA Draft and Charlie Moore and Kameron Rooks to transfer.
Despite head coach Ernie Kent’s new contract extension, Washington State could be next year’s cellar-dweller with some glaring holes on the roster, beginning with the fact that four of their top five scorers from a season ago no longer on campus. Rising sophomore guard Malachi Flynn is a legitimate talent but it’ll take more than him to right the ship in Pullman.