Pac-12, Big Ten start fast

No one should form strong opinions based on early team rankings, but clearly some programs will enter July with far less stress than others.

The Pac-12 had been among the most beleaguered conferences in recent seasons, as traditional powers such as UCLA slumped and the bottom of the league appeared to slide into the abyss.

But last season suggested that the situation is improving, as six squads earned berths into the NCAA Tournament with Arizona drawing a No. 1 seed.

And now the Pac-12 has amped up its recruiting as well. Among our early top 10 hauls for the Class of 2015, Arizona (No. 2 class), Washington (No. 5) and UCLA (No. 10) all represent the conference.

The Wildcats' presence certainly registers as the least surprising. Sean Miller has positioned Arizona into arguably the second-most recruiting prowess nationally among all collegiate programs, after Kentucky. Year in and year out, now, the Wildcats are attracting numerous elite prospects.

Already, top-15 point guard Justin Simon is in place to spearhead the class, and Arizona remains hot after top-five big man Ivan Rabb and others.

Washington wasn't among the Pac-12 schools to make the tournament, but the Huskies should be able to change that within the next couple years. Lorenzo Romar and his assistants have secured pledges from three top-100 prospects: Dejounte Murray, Marquese Chriss (pictured, above) and David Crisp.

The Huskies also signed a solid 2013 haul — led by Donaven Dorsey — and appear to be stockpiling strong, four-year players, although conceivably both Murray and Chriss could blow up at the next level.

UCLA also continues to land its share of players, though the Bruins at this moment hold just one pledge: Aaron Holiday. Getting a point guard from a thin 2015 class at that position takes on extra importance, and Holiday is a good one.

Moving to the Big Ten, Ohio State (No. 4) holds a trio of commitments who will help offset a recent talent drain from Columbus. The Buckeyes obviously weren't satisfied by their NCAA tournament performance this past spring and hope that Austin Grandstaff, A.J. Harris and Mickey Mitchell can help bolster an offense that dipped to a No. 128 adjusted efficiency at KenPom.com in 2013-14.

Harris had some brilliant moments in the spring

Landing Grandstaff helped offset the pain of missing on Ohio product Luke Kennard to Duke, and now the Buckeyes can focus on the frontcourt — which includes Daniel Giddens, who may announce in favor of OSU soon.

Michigan State (No. 7) missed on some key targets the past couple cycles, but the Spartans have made noise early with the 2015 class. Deyonta Davis is a nationally under-appreciated talent who should prove to be a vital addition to the lineup. Kyle Ahrens also addresses a need.

No one suffered through a more depressing fall last year than Illinois (No. 8). The Illini lost Quentin Snider at the last second to Louisville and watched as Cliff Alexander faked them out at his announcement prior to selecting Kansas.

But they've recovered and now are on their way to a potential big 2015 haul, after a small 2014 effort. D.J. Williams possesses major perimeter tools and he'll be flanked on the wing by Aaron Jordan.

More than the rankings and results themselves at this early juncture, the most significant takeaway is that these schools are in line for even bigger things because they'll be able to focus their efforts at other targets — and underclassmen — during the critical July evaluation period.


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