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Why Pac-12 Basketball will be a 2 Horse Race

The Pac-12 has a bunch of good basketball teams, but two stand above the rest. Find out who they are, and why they’re better than the rest here.

Arizona v Oregon Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Washington recruited Markelle Fultz, possibly the best freshman in the country. Cal kept Ivan Rabb around for another year. The UCLA Bruins got Lonzo Ball, a 5-star point guard who could already be the best passer in the country. Even the Stanford Cardinal had a decent recruiting class, and they brought in a new coach to kick-start the program. Almost every Pac-12 team got better over the offseason. But that probably won’t matter honestly, because two teams have so much more talent and are so much better than everyone else. And those teams are the Arizona Wildcats and the Oregon Ducks.

Down in Arizona, Coach Sean Miller has gathered an insane amount of talent, and he is bringing in one of, if not his best, recruiting classes of his entire career. Miller was able to get the signature of 5-star point guard/shooting guard Kobi Simmons, a top-25 recruit in his class, Rawle Alkins, a 5-star shooting guard, and Lauri Markkanen, a 5-star power forward. 3 5-star recruits in one class? That seems pretty good to me. But that’s not all that Miller was able to do down in Tuscon. Coming out of junior college is small forward Keanu Pinder. That’s four new players, all of whom have incredible resumes.

2016 McDonald's All American Game Photo by David Banks/Getty Images

There are two questions that the Wildcats face, however. Firstly, how are they going to manage all this talent? Will Kobi Simmons start? Or will Rawle Alkins start? Will Markkanen be the primary big man? What about Kadeem Allen? Where will he fit? Secondly, and possibly even a bigger question, how will they all play together? There are countless examples of college superteams never fully learning how to play together, and no matter how great your individual talent is, if you can’t play together, you won’t be lifting any trophies anytime soon.

To attempt to answer the first question, Sean Miller will probably opt to start Kadeem Allen at point guard. He redshirted his first season at Arizona, but he now has the experience to lead this young team. It is always to have some experience and leadership on the floor, especially if that leadership is in the form of your primary ballhandler. Next to Allen, I would expect Kobi Simmons to start at the 2-guard. Although Simmons has played mostly point guard in his high school career, he is more than capable enough to play 2-guard and he is long enough to guard opposing shooting guards. At small forward, I would look at Rawle Alkins. At just 6-5, he will be smaller than most other small forwards, but with a back court of Allen, Simmons, and Alkins, there is no team in the country that will be able to stop Arizona from scoring. That would also allow Alonzo Trier to come off the bench, where he could be the best super sub in the college game. At the 4 and 5 spots, Miller will probably go with redshirt freshman Ray Smith, a 6-8 power forward who was the 17th ranked recruit in the class of 2015, and Lauri Markkanen, the Finnish freshman.

Arizona v Wichita State Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images

In regards to how all this talent will play together, only time will tell. Sean Miller is well versed in dealing with a boatload of talent, however, and he will figure out the rotation that will work best for him. If he does, the Wildcats could be a serious contender in March.

Now in Eugene, the Oregon Ducks have less incoming talent, but could be an even better team than the Wildcats.

The Ducks were able to recruit three 4-star players, point guard Payton Pritchard, power forward M.J. Cage, and small forward Keith Smith. Now that is not a shabby recruiting class. The only thing, however, is that none of those 3 players will probably crack the top 7 of the rotation.

Yeah, that’s how good Oregon could be this year.

So what makes these Ducks so quacking good? Well, they’re returning a bunch of players from their squad last year, when they won the Pac-12 and nabbed a number 1 seed in the NCAA tournament. Their starters for their last game of the season last year, a loss to Buddy Hield and Oklahoma in the elite 8, were Elgin Cook, Dillon Brooks, Chris Boucher, Tyler Dorsey, and Casey Benson.

NCAA Basketball Tournament - West Regional - Oklahoma v Oregon Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

And the starters that I have projected for the Ducks?

Dylan Ennis at point, Dorsey at shooting guard, Dillon Brooks at the three, Boucher at power forward, and Jordan Bell at center.

Those two lineups look very similar don’t they? One of the two differences is that I have put Ennis at shooting guard, who is coming off an injury that forced him out last year, instead of keeping Benson there. And really that does is puts a great player on the bench, to lead the second unit on an incredibly deep team.

Oregon is more than just a football school. And this year, they could go all the way on the hardwood. The most exciting offense in the state of Oregon has moved from Autzen Stadium and is now being lead by Dana Altman.