The Pac-12 is coming off a disastrous season as a conference, but the talent-rich league is ready to rebound in a big way. A combination of superlative recruiting—including two of the nation’s top three freshman classes—and the return of key veterans will give the Pac-12 the star power fans expect from one of the nation’s most prestigious conferences.
One of the headliners among the returnees is California shooting guard Allen Crabbe. The Golden Bears boast the best guard play in the conference, and the high-scoring junior is a crucial reason why.
Herein, a closer look at Crabbe and the rest of the top talents on each of the Pac-12’s teams this season.
Even with one of the nation’s best transfers—ex-Xavier standout Mark Lyons—joining the roster, there won’t be a more talented player wearing a Wildcat uniform next season than Kaleb Tarczewski.
The 7’0” freshman is a surefire one-and-done with the offensive game to dominate as a scorer, even against Pac-12 big men.
Tarczewski will also be a huge boon to the formerly undersized Wildcats as a rebounder, and his 255-lb frame will keep him from getting pushed around by the conference’s veterans.
He’s not a game-breaking defender like Kentucky freshman Nerlens Noel, but he’s still a solid shot-blocking presence in the paint.
On a roster that’s been absolutely gutted by departing transfers, there’s not much talent left in the returning-player pool. That makes it even more imperative that top freshman Kenny Martin hits the ground running in his Sun Devil debut.
The 6’8” Martin—the top-ranked recruit in the state of Arizona this year—is a high-energy power forward with a smooth shooting stroke.
He’s not the most polished freshman, but he’s so active on both ends of the floor that he makes up for many of his rough edges.
Even without the graduated Jorge Gutierrez, Cal has the Pac-12’s most dangerous backcourt. The best of the Golden Bears’ perimeter weapons is 6’6” junior Allen Crabbe.
Crabbe poured in 15.2 points a game last season, decidedly a team high, while hitting more three-pointers (83) than all the other players on Cal’s roster combined.
He’s by no means a one-dimensional shooter, either, having averaged 5.7 rebounds and 2.1 assists per contest.
He hardly looks the part at 6’7” and 210 lbs, but Andre Roberson was the fifth-best rebounder in college basketball last season.
The then-sophomore PF pulled in 11.1 boards a game while also placing second on the Buffaloes’ roster with 11.6 points per contest.
The agile Roberson is also a first-class defender who racked up 1.9 blocks and 1.3 steals a night last year. If anything, his numbers should rise now that he’ll be playing alongside a bona fide center (6’10” freshman Josh Scott).
He hasn’t had the teams around him that big brother Kyle did, but E.J. Singler has developed into a very similar caliber of versatile, highly-skilled forward.
Overshadowed last year by sweet-shooting Devoe Joseph, Singler should step into the starring role for an Oregon squad laden with juco transfers.
Singler led the Ducks in rebounding last year with 5.6 boards a night, and his 13.6 points per game leads all the returnees.
He’s also the top returning three-point threat—he shot .368 from deep a season ago—and should improve on his total of 49 treys with promising freshman PG Dominic Artis joining the backcourt.
Although the Beavers will have enviable size in 2012-13, the most dangerous weapon on the roster is the team’s smallest player. At 5’9”, Ahmad Starks is a lockdown defender who leads all Beavers returnees with 1.7 steals per contest.
On the other end of the floor, Starks is a work in progress as a distributor (2.7 assists a night), but he’s a serious threat as a scorer despite his lack of height.
He drained a team-high 79 treys (hitting at a .371 clip), piling up 12.1 points per game in the process.
If there’s anything Stanford coach Johnny Dawkins knows, it’s the value of a multi-talented combo guard. Now, he’s got one at the heart of his rebuilding project in Palo Alto thanks to the rise of sophomore Chasson Randle.
The 6’1” Randle led last year's NIT champs with 13.8 points per game while still dishing out 2.1 assists a night. He’s also the Cardinal’s returning leader in steals (1.1 per contest), not to mention a jaw-dropping three-point shooter (85 treys with .438 accuracy).
Ranked as the second-best freshman in the country behind Kentucky’s Nerlens Noel, Muhammad is a 6’6” swingman with NBA-level athleticism.
Although Muhammad has a big-time jump shot, he’ll get most of his points around the rim. He’s also a terrific defender, a trait likely to endear him to coach Ben Howland.
Among several iffy contenders for the Trojans’ top spot, Dewayne Dedmon stands out for the same reason he does on the court.
The USC junior is hard to miss at 7’0”, 255 lbs, and his physical tools give him the potential to add appreciably to his indifferent 2011-12 stats.
Dedmon, who made his Trojans debut a season ago, averaged 7.6 points and 5.5 rebounds (second-best on the team) per game.
With ball-hawking Mo Jones out of the picture, Dedmon is also the closest thing USC has to an impact defender, having blocked 1.0 shots a night.
Between trying to bounce back from a dismal 6-25 season and facing a full year without dynamic PG Josh Watkins, Utah isn’t exactly brimming with optimism for 2012-13.
What hopes the Utes do have will rest heavily on physical senior center Jason Washburn.
The 6’10”, 242-lb Washburn displayed a solid all-around game in his debut as a starter last year.
He won’t make Utah a winning team—even if he improves on his 11.4 points, 6.2 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per contest—but at least he can help the Utes hold their own in the paint.
As much attention as Tony Wroten grabbed, he wasn’t the only major addition to the Huskies’ starting backcourt last season.
C.J. Wilcox turned in an impressive year of his own and, unlike Wroten or Terrence Ross, Wilcox is back to lead the Washington offense in 2012-13.
The 6’5” Wilcox is the team’s leading returning scorer at 14.2 points per game, and he also pulled in 3.4 rebounds a night.
Although he’s a threat as a penetrator, he does his best work from long range, knocking down 73 treys at an impressive .403 clip.
If Brock Motum had a viable team around him, the high-scoring forward would likely be in contention for All-America honors. As it is, he’ll have to settle for providing the few highlights Cougar fans can hope for as he enters his final season in Pullman.
The 6’10” Australian import averaged 18 points a game (not to mention 6.4 boards a night) in a breakout performance for last year’s 19-18 WSU squad.
With his length and shooting touch (.397 from beyond the arc), he’ll be auditioning for a NBA draft position even if he can’t salvage a Cougars team that lost its only defensive playmaker with the graduation of Faisal Aden.