Deep Pac-12 ready for rise in prominence 

Once one of college basketball’s best conferences, the Pac-12 Conference hasn’t gotten a whole lot of respect the past few years. That could change this season.

With some of the best teams in the country near the top and more talent across the conference, the Pac-12 appears to be on the rise again.

“We have never had more depth than we have this year as a conference,” Arizona coach Sean Miller said. “I think that some of the teams that have been at the bottom are much, much improved. As a matter of fact, they might even be near the top.”

The Pac-12 has not had much luck with the NCAA tournament selection committee in recent years, getting just two teams into the bracket twice the past four seasons. Washington was left out in 2012 despite winning the regular-season conference title and Oregon felt slighted last season when it was a No. 12 seed despite winning the conference tournament.

This season should be different.

No. 6 Arizona is the favorite to win the title and make a deep NCAA run, adding freshman phenom Aaron Gordon and veteran point guard T.J. McConnell to a group of returning players who went to the Sweet 16 last season.

Colorado lost Andre Roberson, but returns four starters, including Spencer Dinwiddie, one of the conference’s best players. No. 22 UCLA had one of the nation’s best recruiting classes a year ago and is loaded with talent.

Oregon is the returning conference tournament champion and went to the Sweet 16, Arizona State has one of the nation’s best point guards in Jahii Carson, Cal has been to the NCAA Tournament four times in five years and Stanford is experienced and a program on the rise.

Even USC, which labored through the 2012-13 season, will be a tough out after new coach Andy Enfield brought “Dunk City” from Florida Gulf Coast.

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