College Basketball: Pac-12 men's preview
Non-conference record: 12-0. RPI: 7.
Getting here: The Wildcats have by far the most impressive resume in the conference, with wins over Florida, Clemson and San Diego State. They have the most talented roster, the biggest team in the league and the most depth.
Will succeed if: Point guard Mark Lyons keeps everyone interested and involved. Solomon Hill has to continue his leadership as the lone four-year guy in the rotation.
Will struggle if: A number of talented freshmen wilt under the glare of conference play. It's hard to see that happening, though. They passed a number of difficult challenges in November and December.
Non-conference record: 10-3. RPI: 43.
Getting here: Westwood is the home of drama for the Bruins. Ben Howland is on the hot seat. Shabazz Muhammad is still getting into shape after losing time via eligibility issues. Big man Josh Smith has left the program. Through it all, a win over top-10 Missouri Friday was huge.
Will succeed if: Muhammad continues to round into shape. He is a lethal scorer, and the freshman has been playing much better of late. Senior guard Larry Drew has done a good job at the point as well.
Will struggle if: Howland tries to go back to his traditional style of methodical, defensive basketball. He has a squad that can score, but will struggle defensively. Howland has to coach to the strength of his roster.
Non-conference record: 10-2. RPI: 5.
Getting here: Meet the team with the best strength of schedule in the conference. The Buffaloes already has three top-50 RPI wins: Baylor, Colorado State and Murray State. Andre Roberson is one of the best players in the league, and a second straight trip to the NCAA Tournament is likely.
Will succeed if: They continue to take care of the ball. Colorado has a talented core which includes Roberson and Spencer Dinwiddie. This is a team that can compete with anyone.
Will struggle if: Roberson regresses as a scorer in the paint, and the jumpers from Dinwiddie refuse to find the basket. This isn't an overly deep team.
Non-conference record: 10-2. RPI: 64.
Getting here: A win over UNLV is the calling card for the Ducks. But that's the only marquee victory they have. The drop-off from the conference's top three starts here.
Will succeed if: E.J. Singler plays like the player he is: One of the best in the league. Oregon has a talented cast of freshmen, and Tony Woods provides a defensive presence in the paint.
Will struggle if: Woods can't lock down the lane with his shot-blocking. Oregon isn't a great defensive team, but Woods is an athletic seven-footer with a defensive mindset.
Non-conference record: 9-4. RPI: 70.
Getting here: Maybe the Pac-12's biggest disappointment early. The Cardinal lost to Minnesota, Belmont, Missouri and N.C. State. Stanford is going to have a lot of work to do in order to save coach Johnny Dawkins' job.
Will succeed if: A talented group finds its stride. A team with Chasson Randle, Aaron Bright, and Dwight Powell shouldn't be having this much trouble. NBA scouts love Powell and Josh Huestis.
Will struggle if: Teams keep exposing them defensively. Bright is one of the best point guards in the league, yet Dawkins now brings him off the bench because of his lack of defense.
Non-conference record: 8-4. RPI: 74
Getting here: Another team that struck out in its attempt to get a good non-league win over a good opponent. The Bears lost to Wisconsin, as well as Creighton, as well as UNLV. A good league showing is essential. The good news? Allen Crabbe is can carry the Bears with his scoring.
Will succeed if: Crabbe continues to be one of the elite players in the conference. California has more than him, though. Justin Cobbs is a very good point guard, and Richard Solomon is a solid big man.
Will struggle if: Crabbe has to do too much on his own every night. He takes, and makes, a lot of shots. Better shot selection would help.
7. Oregon State
Non-conference record: 9-3. RPI: 203.
Getting here: The Beavers played one of the weakest non-coference schedules in the league. That's not good for postseason at-large chances. Losing to Towson State wasn't good. But scheduling teams like Grambling and Niagra was worse.
Will succeed if: Coach Craig Robinson's uptempo style of play succeeds. There's a lot to like about this team, a lot of talent. Ahmad Starks is one of the more fun guards to watch in this league.
Will struggle if: The Beavers don't fortify depth in the paint. While this is a guard/slashing league, the best teams all have big guys who can do damage at both ends.
Non-conference record: 8-5. RPI: 95.
Getting here: Picking the Huskies here is out of respect for the talent on hand, C.J. Wilcox, and the coaching of Lorenzo Romar. In reality, the Huskies haven't been very good this season at all. They beat St. Louis, but they lost to Nevada.
Will succeed if: The talented perimeter trio of Abdul Gaddy, Wilcox and Scott Suggs can carry them. Wilcox is one of the best shooters in the country. The Pleasant Grove native is also an NBA prospect.
Will struggle if: One of the three can't get it done on a given night. The Huskies are talented enough to beat anyone, and thin enough to lose to anyone.
9. Arizona State
Non-conference record: 11-2. RPI: 73.
Getting here: Tempe is the home of Jahii Carson, one of the truly dynamic point guards in the league. But outside of him and Carrick Felix, who scores the basketball? Jordan Bachynski is a near-dominant defender, and the Sun Devils mustered wins Texas Tech and Arkansas. But ASU still has a lot of work to do.
Will succeed of: The Sun Devils plays to their strengths. Let Carson do his thing, funnel all help towards Bachynski on defense and allow Felix to get up and down the floor in transition.
Will struggle if: Teams find a way to neutralize Carson and Felix. There are few scoring answers beyond those two. That makes match-ups with the top of the league a tough task.
Non-conference record: 8-4. RPI: 125.
Getting here: Oh, what could've been for the Utes. Losing double-digit leads in three losses likely cost Utah an 11-1 start and a sub-100 RPI ranking. Who knows where that oculd have led? As it is, Utah's biggest goal should be to simply make the postseason.
Will succeed if: The Utes grind things out. They are legitimately one of the better defensive teams in the league. That will keep the Utes in a lot of games, and should keep them competitive in league play.
Will struggle if: They can't find a way to score and they keep turning the ball over. Glen Dean and Jarred DuBois have to keep the offense running smoothly. Can they?
11. Washington State
Non-conference record: 9-4. RPI: 176
Getting here: The Cougars have feasted on sub-par competition, but narrow losses to Gonzaga and Texas A&M suggest this team isn't that far away from being pretty good. The Cougars are more competitive than first thought when point guard Reggie Moore was kicked off the team.
Will succeed if: They get the ball to Brock Motum and get out of the way. OK, the Cougs are a little deeper than that. But Motum is one of the premier players in the league, and another guy that can carry a team.
Will struggle if: Motum has an off night, or the guards can't handle Pac-12 pressure. There isn't a pure point guard on this roster. That will hurt, sooner than later.
Non-conference record: 5-8. RPI: 151.
Getting here: This is the only Pac-12 team with a losing record. But, talent is there, as a win over Texas would suggest. The Trojans have a roster full of transfers and talented castoffs, so they haven't gelled just yet. Eric Wise is coming into his own, however.
Will succeed if: Jio Fontan can round into his pre-ACL surgery form. The New York native was once one of the better point guards in the country. Now, he seems to have lost a step and is just another guy. Can he get it back?
Will struggle if: The chemistry continues to struggle. USC hasn't shared the ball the way good teams do, and it's cost them dearly. If anything, though, the Trojans have challenged themselves.
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