Looking Forward: Catching up on the Pac-12’s offseason

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It’s been a fruitful offseason for Cal (AP Photo)

With the early entry process over and with just about every elite recruit having picked a school, we now have a pretty good idea of what college basketball will look like in 2015-16. Over the next three weeks, we’ll be taking an early look at next season.

Yesterday we took a look at the ACC and the Big 12. Today, we’ll look at the Pac-12.

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MAJOR OFFSEASON STORYLINES

1. California gets hot on the recruiting trail – and may not be done yet either: This has been the biggest change for the Pac-12, which over the last two seasons has been dominated by Arizona. California’s managed to reel in two of the best recruits in the country in power forward Ivan Rabb and small forward Jaylen Brown, with wing Tyson Jolly completing what would be a really good triumvirate. But Cuonzo Martin and his staff aren’t done, as former Michigan State commit Caleb Swanigan still has Cal on his list. The infusion of talent, along with the return of a perimeter trio led by Tyrone Wallace, should make Cal a player both within the Pac-12 and nationally.

2. Significant roster turnover in Seattle ahead of what will be a big year for Lorenzo Romar: When you haven’t been to the NCAA tournament since 2011, the fan base tends to get a bit frustrated. That’s the case in Seattle, and the Huskies’ many roster changes haven’t helped matters. While Romar and his staff did put together a highly regarded recruiting class led by Dejounte Murray, there won’t be many experienced options around to show them the ropes in 2015-16. Among the departures was point guard Nigel Williams-Goss, a two-year starter who transferred to Gonzaga. Given the NCAA tournament drought this is a big year for Washington, and they’ll need the newcomers to grow up in a hurry.

3. Arizona State looking for a boost as Bobby Hurley takes over: There was just one head coaching change in the Pac-12 this spring, as Arizona State athletic director Ray Anderson replaced Herb Sendek with former Buffalo head coach Bobby Hurley. The Sun Devils retain most of their rotation from last season’s 18-16 squad, and they add a talented guard in junior college transfer Andre Spight. Hurley won’t be working with a bare cupboard, and his experience leading Buffalo to 19 wins in his first season there (2013-14) could come in handy when it comes to working with this group.

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KEY ADDITIONS

  • Jaylen Brown and Ivan Rabb, California: They’re the two highest rated prospects joining the Pac-12, and they’ll be key players for a Golden Bear squad looking to make a splash nationally. Brown provides versatility on both ends of the floor for Cal, as he can play on or off the ball and has the size and athleticism to play multiple spots defensively as well. As for Rabb, he’s at his best playing a power forward role and has the skill set needed to be one of the Pac-12’s best interior players immediately.
  • Allonzo Trier and Ryan Anderson, Arizona: A case can be made for Trier being the best scorer in the Class of 2015, as he can score from all three levels (three-point, mid-range and in the paint). He’ll be a valuable asset for an Arizona team that has to account for the loss of four starters from a team that won 34 games last season. As for Anderson, this is his lone season to play after spending three at Boston College. He’ll slide into the role left open by the departure of Brandon Ashley alongside senior center Kaleb Tarczewski.
  • Dylan Ennis, Oregon: With Joseph Young out of eligibility the Ducks were going to be young on the perimeter, with Casey Benson and Ahmaad Rorie being the most experienced players as sophomores. Then they managed to land Ennis, who arrives as a graduate student after playing one year at Rice and the last two at Villanova. He can be a distributor or scorer for Oregon, and that versatility will be key for the Ducks as they look to make a run at a Pac-12 title.

SURPRISING DEPARTURE

  • Nigel Williams-Goss, Washington: Arizona losing three starters with eligibility remaining to the NBA Draft was pretty much expected. What wasn’t expected was Washington losing its starting point guard in Williams-Goss, who transferred to Gonzaga after averaging 15.6 points, 4.7 rebounds and 5.9 assists per game last season. Without him Andrew Andrews and incoming freshman David Crisp will handle the primary ball-handling duties.

PRESEASON ALL-CONFERENCE PREDICTIONS (the conference annually picks ten players; we can’t do that)

  • Tyrone Wallace, California (Player of the Year)
  • Gary Payton II, Oregon State
  • Allonzo Trier, Arizona
  • Ivan Rabb, California
  • Jakob Poeltl, Utah

PRESEASON POWER RANKINGS, IN TWEET FORM

1. Arizona: The combination of some experienced returnees, a very good freshman class and impact transfers makes Arizona the team to beat.

2. California: Cal will definitely be talented, with the freshmen joining Ty Wallace and company, but how will they deal with the increased expectations?

3. Utah: Jakob Poeltl’s decision to return to school is a big deal for the Runnin’ Utes, who lost Delon Wright from last year’s Sweet 16 team.

4. Oregon: No more Joseph Young, but the addition of Dylan Ennis gives Dana Altman valuable experience and Elgin Cook could be a league POY candidate.

5. UCLA: The Bruins lost some key pieces, but the return of Bryce Alford and Isaac Hamilton and the additions of Jonah Bolden and Aaron Holiday will help matters.

6. Oregon State: The Beavers surprised in Wayne Tinkle’s debut as head coach, and they’ll have improved depth thanks to a solid freshman class.

7. Arizona State: A new era begins in Tempe, but the return of some key pieces including point guard Tra Holder should benefit Bobby Hurley.

8. Stanford: The Cardinal will be much younger than they were a season ago, but options such as Reid Travis and Rosco Allen return to Palo Alto.

9. Colorado: Looking to rebound from a disappointing 2014-15, with vets Xavier Johnson and Josh Scott and sophomore PG Dominique Collier being key players.

10. Washington: The lack of experience means that the newcomers need to hit the ground running for the Huskies, who haven’t danced since 2011.

11. USC: Bennie Boatwright and Chimezie Metu certainly help matters, but the Trojans need Jordan McLaughlin to remain healthy as well.

12. Washington State: The league’s most improved player in Josh Hawkinson returns, but losing DaVonté Lacy is a big deal.