Calling the Pac-12 basketball offseason turbulent is an understatement.
Roller coasters are more stable. Heart-rate monitors have less fluctuation. A guillotine is more forgiving.
The league was decimated by defection.
Nick Johnson and Aaron Gordon, gone. Maybe expected, sure. Still, gone. Jahii Carson, too, adios. UCLA’s Kyle Anderson, Zach LaVine and Jordan Adams, say goodbye. Spencer Dinwiddie and his questionable ACL, sayonara.
And that’s just the list of early entries to the NBA draft.
There has been so much more, and we’ll take a look at a half-dozen moves that drastically altered the 2014-15 Pac-12 hoops landscape.
1. Rondae returns.
Arizona head coach Sean Miller is already known as the best recruiter in the conference. Now he has solidified himself as the top re-recruiter in the league. Yes, Johnson took off a year early, but he didn’t have much left to prove in college — aside from being the Crown Prince of Tucson next year — so his departure was anticipated since midseason. Gordon has been gone for months, maybe before he even set foot on campus.
But re-upping Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Kaleb Tarczew-ski took Arizona from the class of the conference to the cream of the country’s crop. The Wildcats will be in the top three to start next year, and they’re so far ahead of anyone else in the conference that there might not even be a second place next year.
2. B-Ruined. Anderson, LaVine, Adams.
What is Steve Alford to do? The soon-to-be-second-year coach watched as NBA riches were like the Sirens in “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” singing the sweetest songs to UCLA’s trio of underclassmen. Anderson had to go — he’s not all of the sudden going to gain an outside shot and a 4.2 40-yard dash — but LaVine and Adams?
LaVine played himself down and down the board after a hot start had mock drafters salivating over his athleticism. He’ll still likely be a first-round pick, prognosticators somehow overlooking 14 games in single-figure scoring among his final 18, but Adams won’t. The UCLA leading scorer made a shocking 11th-hour decision to walk away from Westwood, leaving the Bruins scrambling for a replacement.
3. Thanks for the Montmemories. Cal head coach Mike Montgomery was perhaps the most entertaining coach in the league, at least on conference calls. But the decades of college-pro-college basketball, almost exclusively in the Bay Area, wore down the curmudgeonly lovable coach, and Cal went and plucked Tennessee’s Cuonzo Martin to fill the void.
Martin should provide an instant injection of vigor into recruiting, something that Montgomery clearly lacked the past few years. Martin could have the Bears contending for top West Coast prospects in short order.
4. Wright where he belongs. Three years ago, Utah was 6-25 and at the bottom of the Pac-12 barrel, along with USC. The Utes were simply awful, having arrived woefully unprepared for the rigors of the conference after transferring in (from the Mountain West) along with Colorado (from the Big 12).
The Utes are poised to be the conference’s second-best team under Larry Krystkowiak. The return of Delon Wright to a team that had zero seniors last season gives the Utes as good a shot as any to finish five games behind Arizona next year, after UCLA was plucked dry and the other runner-up contenders suffered big losses, too. Wright and Jordan Loveridge give Utah two of the conference’s top four returning scorers.
5. Sendek’s worst nightmare. Arizona State is like a toddler taking its footsteps — it’s about to fall, and fall hard. The Sun Devils knew it was coming, but even they can’t brace themselves for the absence of Carson, Jordan Bachynski and Jermaine Marshall. The trio accounted for well over 50 percent of the Sun Devils’ scoring, and Bachynski’s graduation leaves them with an enormous hole in the defense.
There was one ounce of good news for ASU, though: Second-leading rebounder Shaquielle McKissic was granted a sixth year by the NCAA.
6. Robinson Cooke-d. Craig Robinson was already weeping over the loss of his best-ever recruit, Roberto Nelson, and reliable starters Devon Collier and Angus Brandt. Now he’s going to need another box of tissues because of the loss of three players who could’ve kept the Beavers inching toward the middle of the Pac.
Big man Eric Moreland declared for the NBA draft — why, no one knows — and Challe Barton chose to stay in Sweden to turn pro. But the biggest blow is the transfer of freshman guard Hallice Cooke, who averaged double-figures for the Beavers last season and figured to be an all-conference candidate. Instead, Robinson returns no player who averaged more than four points per game.