Pac-12 Basketball: 12 Questions for the Pac-12 Off-Season

USA TODAY Sports

It should be an interesting off-season for the Pac-12.

1. Can Steve Alford fulfill the sky high expectations at UCLA?

Regardless of whether or not Ben Howland deserved to be fired, the end to the uncertainty that permeated around him at the end of his tenure has to feel good for the Bruins. Alford inherits about as talented of a team as a first year coach could, but it's a double-edged sword as he'll be expected to have instant success with the hand he has been dealt.

2. Which players are declaring early for the draft?

I wrote an article last week outlining which players are likely considering going, but until the declaration deadline comes and goes, no team in the conference can rest easy about what their roster is going to look like going into next season.

3. Where is Aaron Gordon going to sign?

One of the nation's top undecided prospects for the Class of 2013, Gordon is a one-and-done type talent at forward that is winding down his decision between Arizona, Kentucky, Oregon and Washington. Gordon supposedly is favoring either Arizona or Washington and whoever gets his signature will get a huge boost in their stock heading into next season.

4. Who is going to coach USC?

There's a few names out there, but it's still unknown who will be the Trojans' new head coach will be. The Trojans have the money and location to draw a big name and could generate some excitement around the stale program if they do.

5. Can Oregon rebuild their frontcourt?

The Ducks go from probably having the conference's best, to maybe the most uncertain overnight with the graduation of E.J. Singler, Arsalan Kazemi, Tony Woods and Carlos Emory. The Ducks will have a talented backcourt, but will have a tough time competing for the Pac-12 championship again unless their less experienced big men can develop or they can reel in Aaron Gordon.

6. Who is on the hot seat, who isn't?

Ben Howland was the only coach not to survive, but nearly half of the coaches in the conference have to be at least a little bit uncertain about their future. Ken Bone and Craig Robinson almost assuredly have to have good seasons in 2012-13 to keep their jobs, but what about Herb Sendek, Johnny Dawkins and even Lorenzo Romar?

7. Can Arizona's hyped young frontcourt develop?

It looked like the Wildcats were going to become instant juggernauts inside when they signed three five-star big men last year, but not one of the hyped trio was able to make the Pac-12 All-Freshman team. Can Kaleb Tarczewski, Brandon Ashley, Grant Jerrett, or class of 2011 stud Angelo Chol develop into All-Conference level players?

8. What transfers will play a factor?

What players that transferred into the conference that will be eligible next year will make a difference and which players will soon be departing the Pac-12?

9. Can a Pac-12 team turn into a national championship contender?

The conference has clearly improved, but there hasn't been a Pac-12 team that was a legitimate national title contender come tournament time since UCLA in 2008. UCLA and Arizona should have the talent to maybe get to that level next season, but can they take the next step?

10. Can Oregon State put it all together?

The Beavers have flirted with consistent success throughout Craig Robinson's tenure, but have yet to make it to even an NIT. The Beavers should return the bulk of their starters next season, including standout seniors Roberto Nelson, Devon Collier and Ahmad Starks. They should have talent and experience next season, now can they finally have a good season? Unfortunately the unnecessary early departure of sophomore Eric Moreland is a bad sign.

11. Is Oregon ready to become a basketball power?

The Ducks are already a football powerhouse, but with their Nike ties, it would make more sense if they were actually a basketball school. But with a Sweet 16 appearance now under their belt, and an elite coach, is next season when the Ducks start becoming an elite basketball school too?

12. Can Washington reignite the flame?

It has looked like the Huskies were ready to become one of the premiere programs in the Pac-12 a couple of times during Lorenzo Romar's tenure in Seattle, but after missing the NCAA Tournament the past two seasons and a lack of young stars on their roster, there isn't much excitement around the program right now.

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