On Wednesday afternoon, Ryan Greene of The Dagger put out a list of the top teams out west.
UCLA heads the list, and while I have my reservations about the Bruins next season, it’s tough to argue against the ranking given the amount of talent on Ben Howland’s roster. That said, Arizona has quite a bit of talent on their roster, and if they end up landing Mark Lyons, a Xavier transfer that could fill the void at the point guard spot, the Wildcats have the kind of talent — and balance — that will make them a serious contender for the Pac-12 title.
Arizona was third on Greene’s list, behind San Diego State. The Aztecs return their top four scorers from last season — including their loaded back court and Mountain West Player of the Year Jamaal Franklin — while adding three impact transfers (Dwayne Polee from St. John’s, J.J. O’Brien of Utah and James Johnson from Virginia) and top 50 recruit Winston Shepard.
That should be enough to make SDSU the favorite in a loaded Mountain West over UNLV (who will be a top 15 team even without bringing in top ten recruit Anthony Bennett) and New Mexico. To get a feel for how good that conference will be next season, think about this: Colorado State — who made this year’s NCAA tournament — returns essentially their entire rotation, changed out Tim Miles for Larry Eustachy (which, with all due respect to Tim Miles, is certainly not a downgrade) and added Minnesota transfer Colton Iverson to bolster the interior and former top 50 recruit and Arizona Wildcat Daniel Bejarano.
And how much hype do the Rams have heading into the summer?
Not a whole lot.
Basketball on the west coast — and the Pac-12 in particular — has been down the past couple of seasons. In the 2012 NCAA tournament, there wasn’t a team in the Sweet 16 from farther west than Waco, TX, where Baylor is located.
I think it’s safe to say that won’t be happening in the 2013 edition of the Big Dance.
Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.