Parker Baruh - writer for The Ralphie Report. Buffnik - moderator here on AllBuffs JGIsland - AllBuffs resident "stat nerd" PacHoops - the only non-Buff fan invited, and writer for the best Pac-12 hoops blog on the internet RumblinBuff - the man who runs the best Buffs basketball fan blog out there William Whelan - Assistant Editor for BuffStampede.com on Rivals Jon Woods - Editor-In-Chief of The Ralphie Report. Tyler Ziskin - Special Contributing Writer for BuffStampede.com on Rivals Who is the one team/player that is going to surprise or disappoint this season? PacHoops: I somehow feel like this question is bating me into ripping on UCLA, am I right? But look, they’re ultimately going to be a solid team and compete for a top 4 finish in the conference. Ho-hum. I’m going to single out Dwight Powell as a surprise player. He’s got NBA athleticism and is 100% healthy once again. To see what this big Canuck can do to supplement Aaron Bright and Chasson Randle should be exciting for Cardinal fans. And just might get Johnny Dawkins to smile. Tyler Ziskin: Without a doubt, my surprise team this season is the USC Trojans. As I’m writing this up, I see that Ken Pomeroy has the Trojans projected to finish 10[SUP]th[/SUP] in the Pac 12…I think that’s crazy talk, they could very well finish ahead of the Buffs. People tend to see last year’s results and forget they played without their 2 best players (DeWayne Dedmon and Gio Fontan) for basically the entire season. They also have three quality transfers coming in with Ari Stewart, JT Terrell, and Renaldo Woolridge. They’ve got talent this year, and I definitely expect them to finish somewhere between 4[SUP]th[/SUP]-6[SUP]th[/SUP] in the Pac12. From a player standpoint, I really have to resort back to the Buffs. Spencer Dinwiddie just doesn’t get enough respect around the Pac12 and nationally. The fact that Spencer isn’t considered a Top 75 sophomore by most national publications is absolutely ludicrous, and he isn’t projected to be a member of any Pac 12 All Conference teams right now. I fully expect him to perform on the level of a 2[SUP]nd[/SUP] team All Conference player this season, here is to hoping I’m right! Buffnik: Everyone around the Pac-12 conference is going against the national media and picking UCLA to be disappointing this year. I'm going the other way. This is the year Howland rights the ship and gets back to the Final Four. Josh Smith is going to play his way into the NBA Lottery. On the disappointing side, Stanford is going to be what they have been. A solid team that wins 20+ games and makes the NIT but can't take the next step. They are going to miss Josh Owens and Andrew Zimmerman from their frontcourt much more than everyone is anticipating. They won't be able to create the same kind of matchup problems this year and will be much more guard-oriented. JGIsland: I know they have all the talent in the world but I think UCLA is going to disappoint. Ben Howland has already proven he can’t control the locker room, now you insert 2 of the top recruits in the country one who hasn’t even been cleared to play yet, a disgruntled North Carolina transfer, an injury to Tyler Lamb (3[SUP]rd[/SUP] surgery on same knee) and a still out of shape Josh Smith, no way in my mind does that adds up to success. Due to the sheer amount of talent on the roster they will win a good amount of games, but nothing close to some of the projections out there. I did just read that UCLA looked good in a scrimmage against UNLV, so there is a very good chance I could be completely wrong, but I am just not buying into all the hype, a lot needs to gel and fall right for UCLA to be a top-5 team. Goose: I really want to say The Mayor here, but I’m going to keep it away from the Buffs. Just know that he was my first choice. That said, I’m going with Stanford’s Chasson Randle. The sophomore guard put up some damn good numbers last year, and if Stanford is going to be as good as I expect them to, he’s going to need to take the leap from “good” to “great”. I think he does it this year. Last year he had an offensive efficiency of 108.8 on a 22.4% usage rating which is pretty solid. This year, I expect them to go up. And Randle’s eFG% of 54.9% was good enough for 265[SUP]th[/SUP] in the nation. This year I expect him to be first team All-Pac-12 and someone that national talking heads discuss regularly. William Whelan: If we're talking team, I think people are really going to be surprised at USC and how much they will improve. They are a mercenary group, largely made up of transfers, but they have some talent and most importantly depth. Not sure I'm as high on them as others, but I could definitely see them sliding in somewhere between 5-8. A player to watch this year is definitely C.J. Wilcox up in Seattle. He has the pure talent to be a first team all-conference selection but does he have the right mindset? If the Huskies are to remain in the top half of the conference, they will need Wilcox to be an efficient scorer. Parker Baruh: As my surprise team, I'm going with the USC Trojans. Although almost everyone is picking them to surprise and possibly steal an NCAA Tournament bid, they have good chance of doing so. The Trojans have a healthy Jio Fontain, J.T. Terrell is back after sitting out a year after transferring from Wake Forest, and DeWayne Dedmon is a legitimate seven footer who will cause problems. The Trojans new look team leads them to a 5th place finish in the Pac-12 as the team nervously watches on Selection Sunday to see if they can get a spot in the field of 68. RumblinBuff: Washington should fall back a little bit. Losing Wroten and Ross to the NBA is the cost of doing business, but the non-arrival of McLaughlin will really hurt. They still have some nice pieces, but there are some teams, like USC, who have the talent to jump up the standings at their expense. Player: E.J. Singler – Oregon. The guy can do it all. I think his team will struggle, but he’s capable of filling the stat sheet. Jon Woods: I expect another disappointing season for the Bruins, especially relative to some of the preseason hype. Something around that program seems to be a bit rotten and I don't know that bringing in the blue-chippers that they have will be enough to fix it. What are you most looking forward to watching this season in the Pac-12? Buffnik: Definitely the conference tourney in Las Vegas. That town knows how to put on an EVENT. And I suspect that other Pac-12 programs are going to emulate CU and bring student sections to the tourney. Should be rocking in Vegas and be one hell of a great time. JGIsland: I hate to say it, but I am looking forward to watching what Arizona can do this season. They seem to have the right mix of incoming talent, incoming transfers and guys returning to do something special. The Pac-12 needs a marquee team nationally, the Buffs could be a couple years away, UCLA has the talent but it is on Arizona this year to make some noise nationally. Woods: The three five-stars at Arizona. Brandon Ashley, Kaleb Tarczewski and Grant Jerrett represent one of the best recruiting hauls that we have seen out west in a long time (I'm not counting UCLA until everyone is ruled eligible) and they are being added to a roster full of plenty of talent. Watching Sean Miller be the maestro of so many talented pieces should be a lot of fun. Whelan: I'm really looking forward to seeing how the conference does in the OOC slate. UCLA has a ton of marquee match ups and they will need to win a few of them to help the rep of the Pac-12. Can CU go into Lawrence and make it a game? Those are intriguing story lines. Most important though, can the top six avoid any embarrassments? I look for teams like Stanford, Oregon, USC and Washington to have some success before conference play begins. Baruh: I'm most looking forward to seeing UCLA this year. Kyle Anderson was just declared eligible, but as of now, Shabazz Muhammad is ineligible and injured. Ben Howland is still the coach of this team and anything can happen this year. They could make the Final Four; they could miss the NCAA Tournament; they could win the Pac-12. Whatever happens, it's going to be very interesting watching the UCLA Bruins this year. Goose: Good basketball. The Pac-12 isn’t back yet, but it’s on its way. And with the Pac-12 network (provided both they and DirecTV remove their heads from their asses and get a deal done), I’m excited for every Wednesday & Thursday night along with Saturday & Sundays. Ziskin: Staying away from the Buffs here… I just want to see the conference improve overall. Last year’s non-conference record was absolutely abysmal, beating literally no quality opponents throughout the entire conference. With Arizona and UCLA bringing in monster recruiting classes, the league will have a bunch of youth this year. Only five players from the 1[SUP]st[/SUP] and 2[SUP]nd[/SUP] All Pac 12 teams from last season return, and the freshman will have a lot to say about where teams end up in the standings. The conference overall, is improving, and I believe the depth of the conference will be its strength this season. It’s not conceivable that outside of Arizona, there are 5-6 teams that could make a reasonable bid to finish in those 2[SUP]nd[/SUP]-4[SUP]th[/SUP] positions in the Pac-12 standings. RumblinBuff: The return to respectability. Last year was disastrous for the conference. 10[SUP]th[/SUP] in overall RPI, the national perception was a pox on everyone’s house. USC and Utah were a conference-wide case of ebola, strong team’s like Cal and Washington couldn’t win must-have games, and traditional powerhouses like Arizona and UCLA were inconsistent at best. I look for a big turnaround year, starting at the top. The only teams in the conference to boast a better recruiting class than CU were UCLA and Arizona (#’s 1 and 5 respectively), and that’ll help them regain their mojo. USC will be improved, and mid-table teams like Stanford are ready for prime time. Look for the conference to land some big scalps in marquee non-conference games. PacHoops: Good basketball! It’s going to be so much better than last year and we won’t have to try and defend – at least quite as hard – how awful “our” league is. Specifically I’m excited about the crop of seniors in this league. Jio Fontan, Solomon Hill, Abdul Gaddy, Scott Suggs, EJ Singler, Brock Motum, and I’m sure I’m missing others. Maybe they’re not the best players, but special things happen during senior years and I love seeing that. Pac-12 Pre-Season Poll (First Place Votes) 1.) Arizona (7) 2.) UCLA (2) 3.) Stanford 4.) Colorado 5.) California 6.) USC 7.) Washington 8.) Oregon 9.) Oregon State 10.) Washington State 11.) Arizona State 12.) Utah Player of the Year: Solomon Hill, Arizona Freshman of the Year: Shabazz Muhammad, UCLA All-Pac-12 Team: Allen Crabbe, Cal Solomon Hill, Arizona* Brock Motum, Washington State Chasson Randle, Stanford Andre Roberson, Colorado* * - unanimous decision That sums up the AllBuffs 2012-13 Men's Basketball preview. As always, I want to thank everyone for their help with this. I can't encourage you enough to check out their sites -- The Ralphie Report, The Rumblings of a Deranged Buffalo and PacHoops. I also recommend that you check out BuffStampede - if you enter the code Buffs30, you get 30 days free.