Who is it? I want to say Colorado but I could also make arguments for Oregon or UCLA. Not sure if I'm as high on Cal or Stanford as ESPN is but whatever. 1-8 looks pretty solid overall.
Here's an ESPN insider article on the Preseason Pac12 Power Rankings:
1. Arizona Wildcats
Expectations are always high in desert, and this season is no different. Arizona lost two players to the NBA draft -- one unexpectedly in Grant Jerrett -- but Sean Miller has brought in another top flight recruiting class, headlined by Aaron Gordon. The 6-foot-8 power forward is a special talent. He had a great summer entering his freshman season, winning MVP of the U-19 world championships for Team USA as it won the gold medal (all while coming off the bench). He has a nonstop motor and is a high-level athlete who also possesses a great feel for the game. Another top newcomer is the very versatile Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (imagine a Stacey Augmon-type forward), who is expected to make a big impact at either forward spot for the Cats.
However, the guy who could play the most pivotal role for this team is guard T.J. McConnell, a junior transfer from Duquesne. McConnell, a pass-first point guard, shot over 40 percent from the 3-point line during his sophomore season at Duquesne. He also will set the tone on the defensive end for this team, as he was third in the country in steals per game before heading to Tucson.
Miller's returning group of players isn't too bad either, and that cast is led by Nick Johnson. The junior guard is one of the best athletes in the country, but he's also more than that. He shot 39.3 percent from the 3-point line last season and also led the team in assists. He will be looked upon to score more this season. Sophomore guard Gabe York has made great strides this offseason and should contribute on the perimeter.
In the post, both Brandon Ashley and Kaleb Tarczewski had solid freshman seasons, and playing with Gordon, they will make up one of the best front lines in the nation. If Gordon has the type of season many expect him to, the pieces are in place for the Wildcats to win the league and get to the Final Four.
2. Colorado Buffaloes
Tad Boyle has done one of the best coaching jobs in the nation over the past three seasons. He took the Buffaloes to an NIT Final Four and back-to-back NCAA tournament appearances. In doing so, he has really raised the level of expectations in Boulder and this season the Buffaloes are one of the favorites to win the conference. Despite losing the nation's second-leading rebounder to the NBA draft in Andre Roberson, Colorado's roster could be as deep as it has ever been. The team will be led by 6-6 point guard Spencer Dinwiddie, who is an excellent passer, can score when needed and is the team's best defender. His backcourt mate is Askia Booker, a pure scorer. If he can be more selective in his shot attempts, Booker will become a much more effective player.
Xavier Johnson had a tremendous freshman season -- especially once he was inserted into the starting lineup -- and is expected to have a much bigger role on this team. He has the capability of leading the Buffaloes in scoring and rebounding. Sophomore center Josh Scott is arguably the best back-to-the-basket player in the league, as he is ambidextrous when he gets the ball on the block. With added strength, he will become more of a threat down low.
Boyle had the luxury of redshirting two guys in Wesley Gordon and Chris Jenkins last season. Both should now be the benefactors of Roberson's departure, considering they are expected to see more significant minutes in 2013-14. Incoming recruits Tre'Shaun Fletcher and Dustin Thomas are both talented enough to contribute as freshmen.
3. UCLA Bruins
The Steve Alford era has begun in Westwood, and it's not too bad of a team to start with. This is a roster loaded with talent. It will start with sophomore guard/forward Kyle Anderson, one of the best passers in all of college basketball. The 6-9 Anderson might start at point guard, but he's better suited as a point forward where he can expose mismatches. He will be distributing to fellow sophomore Jordan Adams, as smooth of a player as there is in the country. Adams was the least-heralded of 2012's No. 1-ranked recruiting class (according to ESPN's RecruitingNation), but he had the biggest impact of them all last season. He was second on the team with 15.3 points per game.
Travis Wear and David Wear are as solid as they come, and with the way Alford has used his post players in the past at New Mexico, the twins should have an excellent season. The Bruins will need to get more out of sophomore Tony Parker, as he should compete with the Wears for minutes in the post. If Anderson starts at the point, expect Norman Powell to start on the wing. He's an excellent athlete that could provide some scoring punch on the perimeter with more minutes.
One of the toughest tasks when taking over a program is not only retaining the returning players, but also the incoming recruits. Alford was able to keep 6-5 combo guard Zach LaVine in the mix, and he will help the Bruins this season. Bryce Alford was able to follow his father to Westwood after getting out of his commitment to New Mexico. He's an exceptional shooter (maybe not as good as his dad, although he is a much better athlete). The pieces are in place for UCLA to compete for a conference title and make a run in the NCAA tournament.
4. California Golden Bears
Gone is last season's Pac-12 player of the year Allen Crabbe, but insert McDonald's All American Jabari Bird, and you can see why coach Mike Montgomery should feel very happy about his team. Bird is the key piece to a big-time recruiting class brought in by the Bears. He's a local product who is very skilled and can score the ball from all over the floor. Bird will play in a backcourt alongside Justin Cobbs, a second-team All-Pac-12 performer last season. Montgomery will have more depth in 2013-14, especially with a healthy Ricky Kreklow and the continued emergence of Tyrone Wallace.
Two other freshmen should also help immediately. Kameron Rooks, a 7-foot center (and son of former NBA player Sean Rooks), will be effective in a reserve role, and Jordan Mathews can really stretch the defense with his 3-point shooting. If post players Richard Solomon and David Kravish pick up where they finished off last season, Cal will be a very tough team to beat.
5. Stanford Cardinal
After two consecutive NIT appearances, it's time for this Cardinal team to take a step up to the next level, get an NCAA bid and win a game or two while they are there. This will be Johnny Dawkins' most talented, experienced and deepest team since taking over in 2008. All five starters should be upperclassmen if wing Anthony Brown gets the starting nod after redshirting last season due to injury.
Dawkins has two potential pros in Josh Huestis and Dwight Powell at the starting post spots. Huestis is a high-level athlete who has improved his perimeter skills each season. Powell has become very polished during his time at Stanford, while also spending summers working with the Canadian national team. He's 6-10 but can put it on the floor and is an improved 3-point shooter.
The success of the Cardinal could ultimately hinge on the backcourt play of Aaron Bright and Chasson Randle. Both guards' shooting percentages took a dip last season as compared to their previous campaign, and they will have to play at a high level more consistently to compete for the league title. The team lost its heart and soul in Andy Brown recently to a fourth ACL injury. But while Brown's career is over, more minutes for Rosco Allen should lead to a breakout season from him. Malcolm and Marcus Allen will also help in the backcourt.
6. Oregon Ducks
Dana Altman's squad surprised a lot of people in 2012-13. The Ducks led the conference standings for a majority of the season before ending in a three-way tie for second place. After being underseeded in the NCAA tournament, Oregon advanced to the Sweet 16 before bowing out to eventual national champion Louisville.
This Ducks team will look drastically different, however. The backcourt will be the same, with Dominic Artis and Damyean Dotson resuming their roles as starters, but that's where it ends. Altman was able to secure a commitment from UNLV graduate transfer Mike Moser, a Portland native who, if he returns to his form of two seasons ago when he was a double-double machine, can help Oregon contend for the conference title. Another transfer who could be a huge difference-maker for the Ducks is Joseph Young from Houston. Young, currently waiting to see if he will receive a waiver to play immediately, averaged 18 points per game as a sophomore.
If Young doesn't receive the waiver, it will hurt the Ducks' depth. However, another option is junior college transfer Elgin Cook, who should get minutes right away. He's an elite athlete who will affect the game on both ends of the floor. Altman also has a freshman in Jordan Bell from Long Beach Poly who should see time immediately. He's especially strong on the defensive end and was one of the best shot-blockers on the West Coast.
7. Arizona State Sun Devils
The Sun Devils are maybe the hardest team to place at this point. Herb Sendek has arguably the most dynamic player in the league in Jahii Carson and modified his entire offense to the point guard's strengths. It nearly paid off in an NCAA tournament bid last season, as ASU hovered around the bubble until the last couple of weekends.
One issue for the Sun Devils is that they were not an incredibly deep team in 2012-13 and lost their second- and third-leading scorers in Carrick Felix (NBA) and Evan Gordon (transfer). Carson will now be paired with Jermaine Marshall, a transfer from Penn State who averaged 15 points per game last season and will be an instant impact player.
Jordan Bachynski will hold down the paint for the Sun Devils. He was the fifth-best shot-blocker in the nation last season at 3.5 per game. Bachynski was also much improved offensively and will command attention when he has the ball in the post. Junior Jonathan Gilling is a nice pick-and-pop option at power forward, and Valpo transfer Richie Edwards will push him for minutes down low. Much of the team's success will ride on Carson's shoulders, but the good news for Arizona State fans is that he's more than capable of leading this team to the NCAA tournament.
8. Washington Huskies
The Huskies lost three starters from last season's team, which went 9-9 in conference play and failed to make the NCAA tournament. Coach Lorenzo Romar did a nice job on the recruiting trail, though, and landed McDonald's All American point guard Nigel Williams-Goss from Findlay Prep (Henderson, Nev.). I had the chance to coach Williams-Goss in AAU last spring and summer, and he is as good as advertised. He's as tough as they come and is an absolute winner. Williams-Goss can pass with the best of them and always wants to take the challenge of guarding the opponent's best player.
C.J. Wilcox, the Huskies' leading scorer from last season at 16.8 points per game, is back but is returning from offseason foot surgery. If Wilcox comes back 100 percent, then Washington has one of the best backcourts in the league. Incoming freshman guard Jahmel Taylor is also a big-time scorer who can play either guard spot for the Huskies.
On the inside, San Francisco transfer Perris Blackwell will man the post area. Blackwell is a very good back-to-the-basket player who will need to score to free up guys on the perimeter. Shawn Kemp Jr., after being inserted into the starting lineup in late January, doubled his scoring average and is capable of building on that this season with more floor time. There's enough talent here for the Huskies to finish in the upper half of the conference, but it will be tough.