Early Pac-12 power rankings: Allonzo Trier's return gives Arizona a Final Four shot

As college basketball is nuzzles into the middle of its offseason, we're addressing what has happened in the seven major conferences since early April..

The Pac-12 is going through a significant identity change. As you'll see with the now-departed names below, the Pac-12 will be defined by players who weren't stars in the league last season. 

The conference is coming off a four-bid NCAA Tournament campaign and could use a big season. That's no sure thing given the departures. Since 2010, this conference has been the country's fifth-best, on average, according to KenPom.com. 

Given the strength of the ACC, Big 12, Big East and (probably) the Big Ten in 2016-17, the Pac-12 looks like it could hit its norm next season. 

Biggest names returning

  • Allonzo Trier and Rawle Alkins , Arizona Wildcats
  • Payton Pritchard , Oregon Ducks
  • Aaron Holiday and Thomas Welsh , UCLA Bruins
  • Bennie Boatwright , Jordan McLaughlin and Chimezie Metu , Southern California Trojans
  • Reid Travis , Stanford Cardinal

Not a lot of familiar names. However, Trier projects for many as a preseason All-American, though USC may lay claim to more talent on its roster than Arizona. In Eugene, Pritchard could be one of the biggest breakout players in America; the 6-foot-2 sophomore is coming off 9.0 points and 3.1 assists in 17.9 minutes per game at the FIBA U19 World Cup in June. 

Impact players leaving

  • Lonzo Ball and T.J. Leaf, UCLA
  • Lauri Markkanen , Arizona
  • Markelle Fultz , Washington Huskies
  • Dillon Brooks , Tyler Dorsey and Jordan Bell , Oregon
  • Kyle Kuzma , Utah Utes
  • Derrick White , Colorado Buffaloes
  • Ivan Rabb , Jabari Bird and Charlie Moore , Cal
  • Josh Hawkinson , Washington State Cougars

This league will endure arguably the nation's biggest talent drain from last season. Fultz, Ball and Markkannen were lottery picks, with Fultz and Ball going 1-2. Leaf, Kuzma and White went in the first round. Dorsey, Bell, Brooks and Rabb went in the second. The Pac-12 tied the ACC with 14 players drafted, setting a league record. 

Coaching changes 

Mike Hopkins, Washington: Hopkins was the coach-in-waiting at Syracuse Orange for nearly a decade. But with Jim Boeheim no longer eager to give up that throne, Hopkins moved on -- though the news still was surprise. He will attempt to jump-start a program that missed the past six NCAA Tournaments. 

Wyking Jones, California Golden Bears : Cuonzo's Martin's assistant, who has never been a head coach, was promoted after Martin left for Missouri. Jones played at Loyola Marymount in the 90s and was an assistant on Louisville's 2012-13 title team. Fun fact: Jones acted in three movies: "Dope," "The Wood" and " Brown Bears Sugar." 

Three biggest Pac-12 offseason headlines

  1. Life after Lonzo: Steve Alford and UCLA had the country's biggest win turnaround last season -- going from 15 wins in 2015-16 to 31 -- and Ball was a major factor. Without Ball, Leaf and Ike Anigbogu -- another one and done -- UCLA still has talent, but a lot of unknowns. But there will be a downgrade at the point because Ball was a rare college talent when it came to seeing the floor.
  2. Oregon takes a step back: The Ducks' Final Four run boosted the program and Dana Altman's reputation, but that success launched Dillon Brooks, Tyler Dorsey and Jordan Bell into professional waters. In college hoops circles, Dorsey was long presumed gone. The other two? Not necessarily, and their departure changes Oregon's outlook. 
  3. Allonzo Trier's return makes Arizona a national title contender: The Pac-12 was loaded with possible early-NBA departures, and Trier was one of those 50-50 decisions. By coming back, he gives Sean Miller a better shot at his first Final Four. Trier averaged 17.2 points, 5.3 rebounds and 2.7 assists in 18 games last season.  
usatsi-9948650-allonzo-trier-arizona.jpg
Allonzo Trier is a prime candidate to lead the Pac-12 in scoring.  USATSI
Pac-12 Power Rankings
1
Trier's return was big, but Arizona is the country's No. 1 team for a lot of people because of DeAndre Ayton, a freshman center who could be the No. 1 pick in the 2018 NBA Draft. The Wildcats also return Atkins and fun guard/glue guy Parker Jackson-Cartwright .
2
Andy Enfield never has had a team remotely this talented. From Boatwright, Metu, McLaughlin and Shaqquan Aaron to De'Anthony Melton (an overlooked freshman last season, when many freshmen were stars), the Trojans have top-10 potential.
3
It's Aaron Holiday's time to shine. He humbly assumed the sixth-man role last season so Bryce Alford and Ball could work together, but will be tasked with running the offense next season. Freshman Kris Wilkes is another name to know.
4
The Cardinal could sneak up on some people as Reid Travis and Dorian Pickens return, and Jerod Haase brings in a promising recruiting class, though it feels like we've been saying, "this is the year" at Stanford for years.
5
Pritchard is getting a lot of buzz, but if the Ducks are going to reach a sixth straight NCAA tourney, graduate transfers Elijah Brown (guard from New Mexico Lobos ) and MiKyle McIntosh (forward from Illinois State Redbirds ) need to produce.
6
There will probably be a dropoff after Oregon. For Arizona State Sun Devils , getting Shannon Evans and Tra Holder will be huge, because this backcourt had fewest turnovers per possession in the conference last season.
7
Losing Kuzma, who has fared well playing with the Los Angeles Lakers in Summer League, keeps Utah out of the top four. Larry Krystowiak has coached three consecutive first-round draft picks ( Delon Wright , Jakob Poeltl , Kuzma), but that streak likely ends in 2018.
8
Let's have some fun with these picks. Taking Ernie Kent's Washington State team to go from 10th to eighth in this league is one crazy definition of fun.
9
Oregon State Beavers returns a healthy Tres Tinkle (coach Wayne Tinkle's son), who is dark horse all-conference pick. With every starter returning, the Beavers should bounce back from a 5-27 season.
10
Colorado's Tad Boyle is a perennial choice for "one of the nation's most underrated coaches," but without Derrick White and four more departed seniors, it could be a trying season for Boyle.
11
Hopkins figures to endure growing pains in Year One at Washington, but junior wing Matisse Thybulle could produce numbers in Fultz's neighborhood and the Huskies will need them.
12
Marcus Lee transferred from Kentucky, sat out last season, and now looks like the most talented player on a California team that may be three years away from contending for the NCAA Tournament.
CBS Sports Writer

Matt Norlander is a national award-winning writer who has been with CBS Sports since 2010. He's in his seventh season covering college basketball for CBS, and also covers the NBA Draft, the Olympics and... Full Bio

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