It wasn’t long ago when what was the Pac-10 had teams that ran out rosters with multiple NBA stars-in-the-making. The 2008 NBA Draft class contained 12 players from the Pac-10, and that meant there was the talent and notoriety for the league to send more than half of its teams to the NCAA Tournament.
The UCLA Bruins were the dominating factor, making the Final Four for three consecutive seasons from 2006-08. Kevin Love, Darren Collison and Russell Westbrook beat up on squads with guys like O.J. Mayo and Jerryd Bayless. But since then, those talents have been bleeding into the NBA, leading to a weak reputation and poor postseason showings.
We’re months away from the Pac-12 Conference’s basketball tip-off, but the league that’s been atrophied by NBA defection over the past couple of years needs more than a rebranding effort to put itself back amongst the respected basketball leagues in the nation.
There’s upside for getting back on that track. With the fresh additions of Utah and Colorado, there’s also a fresh outlook on the Pac-12s first official recruiting class. It begins and ends with an incredibly talented guard class.
Two of the most-talked about McDonald’s All-American snubs are future Pac-12 point guards. Josiah Turner, who is headed to Arizona, and Tony Wroten Jr., a commitment to Washington, have the potential to be program-changers. Following a learning experience of playing for the USA U19 squad this summer, point guard Jahii Carson will debut at Arizona State, bringing a swagger and bump in the tempo for the Sun Devils.
There’s excitement in the two-guard spot also. On an up-tilt behind Dana Altman, Oregon pulled in shooting guard Jabari Brown out of Oakland, Calif., while Arizona scooped up dunk-machine Nick Johnson to go with Turner.
So is the talent-pool being repopulated enough to elevate the league to the glory days of a few years ago? All of the players mentioned above are arguably Top 30 in the 2011 recruiting class, with Carson as a fringe Top-30 guy being the lowest-ranked of them all.
During the past two seasons, it was a debate as to whether the Pac-10 could even stack up against the Mountain West and Atlantic 10 conferences, let alone be on par with the ACC, SEC, Big Ten, Big 12, and Big East. Now the question is whether these flashy guards can pull the Pac-12 back into respectable bounds, worthy of being called a Big Six conference.