Stacked Pac-12 enters what could be its final basketball season

The Pac-12 conference has a rich history, producing legendary teams and some of the greatest college basketball players. UCLA, under John Wooden, dominated the sport with stars like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Bill Walton. The conference also saw the likes of Reggie Miller, Gail Goodrich, Gary Payton, Sean Elliott, and Jason Kidd. However, after 108 years, the Pac-12 could be nearing its end.

Next season, ten of the conference’s schools will be leaving, leaving the remaining two with uncertain futures. This unfortunate turn of events has transformed the once-revered “Conference of Champions” into a conference on the brink of collapse.

North Carolina’s Caleb Love (2) drives to the basket as Notre Dame’s Dane Goodwin defends during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Feb. 22, 2023, in South Bend, Ind. Through the transfer portal, Arizona added former North Carolina guard Caleb Love. Credit: AP/Michael Caterina

Despite the impending dissolution, the Pac-12 teams have one last opportunity to compete against each other. The conference had four teams qualify for the 2023 NCAA Tournament, and this season could potentially see an equal or higher number of teams making the bracket.

Arizona, ranked 12th, has strengthened its roster with the addition of former North Carolina guard Caleb Love. Southern California, ranked 21st, boasts the return of Boogie Ellis and one of the nation’s top recruiting classes, featuring guard Isaiah Collier and the son of NBA great LeBron James, Bronny.

UCLA, with a roster full of new players, might take some time to find their rhythm, but coach Mick Cronin has brought in a talented international recruiting class. Colorado, led by power forward Tristan da Silva, looks poised to have its most talented team in over a decade under coach Tad Boyle.

Arizona State and Utah both have strong players in Bobby Hurley and 7-foot center Branden Carlson, respectively. Similarly, Oregon features N’Faly Dante as their powerful big man. Washington has shown improvement under coach Mike Hopkins, while Stanford combines a veteran team with five-star freshman Andrej Stojakovic, son of NBA player Peja Stojakovic.

Southern California guard Boogie Ellis (5) shoots as Arizona center Oumar Ballo (11) defends during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game March 2, 2023, in Los Angeles. Credit: AP/Mark J. Terrill

If this is indeed the Pac-12’s final hurrah, it promises to be a memorable one. Despite the uncertain future, the coaches and players are determined to make the best of the situation. Oregon coach Dana Altman appreciates the competitiveness and quality of the Pac-12, even during supposedly “down” years.

One notable transfer that Arizona made is acquiring Caleb Love, who became a star during the 2022 NCAA Tournament. Love’s shot selection has received criticism, particularly during the Tar Heels’ challenging season, so coach Tommy Lloyd will need to integrate him effectively into the Wildcats’ system.

Anxiously awaited freshman Bronny James, son of NBA superstar LeBron James, faced uncertainty when he experienced cardiac arrest during an offseason workout. USC coach Andy Enfield has provided updates on James’ progress and hopes he will be able to play this season.

While most Pac-12 teams are already transitioning to new conferences, Oregon State and Washington State are still figuring out their futures. Oregon State had an incredible Elite Eight run in 2021 under coach Wayne Tinkle but struggled in the past two seasons. Washington State, under coach Kyle Smith, has displayed consistency but is yet to make it to the NCAA Tournament.

Despite the challenges, both schools are determined to find solutions and embody their respective identities. Oregon State coach Tinkle expressed surprise at the conference’s breakup but remains optimistic about overcoming this hurdle.


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