This past Pac-12 basketball season could not have gone any worse. Two NCAA tournament bids, with the lone at-large getting bounced out and knocked out. The talent was so weak that the consolation brackets ended up being the last place of refuge for many conference teams to strut their stuff, proving they could be the best of the not-so-good.
Lucikly, the traditional powers have been working hard outside the basketball hardwood, and the result is momentous for the conference:
The Pac-12 now owns two of the top 3 best recruiting classes in the country, as both UCLA and Arizona are in line to pick up four of the top 100 recruits each.
- UCLA landing Shabazz Muhammad gives them the slashing talent they've lacked since the days of Josh Shipp and Aaron Afflalo. UCLA landing Jordan Adams gives them a combination at small forward the Bruins haven't seen SINCE Shipp and Afflalo were teammates.
- UCLA also brings in the intriguing Kyle Anderson, who has the unusual distinction of being a 6'8" point guard that can also shadow as a power forward. Anderson gives the Bruins an elite point talent on offense, something sorely missed since the days of Darren Collison. Whether Anderson can defend guards is a matter worth revisiting, but it's safe to say the Bruins should feel comfortable on offense.
- UCLA also stands a high possibility of landing Tony Parker, a legitimate big with loads of potential to complete the talent. Parker would probably backup Josh Smith or redshirt while Anthony Stover provides veteran savvy, but either way it ensure the Bruins fill up the coffers.
- Muhammad and Anderson are consensus top five recruits in this class and are potential one-and-done prospects, but Adams is a top-100 prospect who can take over and become a two/three year player if either of those two Bruins leaves early, and if he commits, Parker could do the same.
- While the Bruins stack up on wings, Arizona meanwhile brings in another fresh bunch of prospects to grind in the paint. The Wildcats really have lacked consistent post presences and have relied on the athleticism of their bigs off the dribble to generate points, and they've been held in check by teams with solid big men.
That changes with this class.
- Kaleb Tarczewski is going to provide the Pac-12 with a much-needed talent injection at center. He's learning how to be effective at both posting up and facing up and has shown flashes of his court vision. With the talent he gets to work with in Arizona, he'll make the Wildcats that much more dangerous.
- Brandon Ashley and Grant Jerrett could start at power forward on almost any Pac-12 team not named Colorado next year. One of them is going to be a backup. Bit of a frightening thought.
- Even with Josiah Turner gone, Arizona has a three combo guard rotation of Nick Johnson, Jordin Mayes and Gabe York. Highly talented group, even if none of them are traditional ball-handlers.
It's not just Arizona and UCLA either.
- Oregon landed two top 100 talents to help ease the pain of losing three senior starters: point guard Dominic Artis and athletic forward Ben Carter should be instant contributors.
- Stanford continues to augment their depth with the additions of Rosco Allen and Grant Verhoeven, which should do more than enough to offset all the big men the Cardinal lost, particularly Josh Owens.
- Colorado brings in two more big men to continue upgrading the frontline of the Buffs with Andre Roberson and Spencer Dinwiddie set to lead them.
- Cal inserts a very talented guard in Tyrone Wallace to help ease the loss of Jorge Gutierrez.
- Oregon State can't possibly replace Jared Cunningham, but another talented Bay Area wing in Langston Morris-Walker will try to make his mark felt.
- Washington State brings in DeMarqise Johnson to try and give the Cougars some talent at the wing position.
- Even Utah brought in a top recruit in Jordan Loveridge, who should instantly make the Utes a much pluckier squad to deal with.
The talent is slowly starting to flow back into the conference. And it couldn't have come at a more critical time. The conference looked moribund and on the verge of mid-major status. Now it suddenly has two dark horse national champion contenders and a host of solid squads that should give them a run for their money, which should mean more bids and better pitches for head coaches throughout the Pac.
Add in the new Pac-12 TV contract kicking in this season to increase visibility for future recruiting classes, and suddenly basketball for the conference is looking better than ever. Not at all the state of affairs you would've imagined a month ago, but UCLA and Arizona are ready to carry this conference back to the top of people's minds once more.