College basketball is on the horizon, and with the top three teams in the state belonging to different conferences, the question was recently asked of members of the sports staff:

How would the teams in the Pac-12, Mountain West Conference and West Coast Conference stack up against each other?

With local colleges BYU, Utah and Utah State already beginning practice for the upcoming season, we take our best stab at answering that question. Here's our best guess at ranking the teams from their three conferences, from 1 to 33, to see what the Cougars, Utes and Aggies will face this season.

Disagree with how the ranking shook out? Let us know your thoughts.

Email: [email protected], [email protected]; Twitter: @brandonljudd, @earlofhemsley

No. 1: Arizona Wildcats

2012-13 record: 27-8, 12-6 Pac-12

Postseason: Reached NCAA Tournament Sweet 16

The Wildcats enter the 2013-14 season with high expectations, even after losing their top two scorers — Mark Lyons and Solomon Hill — who were both seniors last year. A good portion of this optimism stems from a slew of incoming and young talent.

Arizona will benefit from transfer T.J. McConnell taking over at point guard after averaging 11.4 points, 5.5 assists and 4.4 rebounds in 2011-12 at Duquesne, where he played two seasons before sitting out last year. McConnell will team up in the backcourt with returning leading scorer Nick Johnson (11.5 points per game), who earned honorable mention honors on the Pac-12 defensive team last season.

Other incoming talent includes two freshmen wings — Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Aaron Gordon — in addition to Kansas transfer Zach Peters. The 6-foot-10 forward Peters was recently granted his waiver request by the NCAA and is eligible to play this year.

National link: Athlon Sports Pac-12 college basketball snapshot

No. 2: New Mexico Lobos

2012-13 record: 29-6, 13-3 Mountain West Conference

Postseason: Reached NCAA Tournament round of 64

Longtime assistant coach Craig Neal takes over for Steve Alford, who left to coach UCLA, and will have four starters returning.

While wing player Tony Snell is gone — he was drafted 20th overall by the Chicago Bulls in the 2013 NBA draft — the Lobos return two other key players. Back is junior guard Kendall Williams, the MWC preseason player of the year, as well as junior center Alex Kirk. Both made the all-MWC preseason team, and the media picked the Lobos to win their third straight conference title.

“It’s a compliment to our kids. It’s a compliment to our program,” first-year coach Neal told the Albuquerque Journal's Geoff Grammar.

With senior forward Cameron Bairstow — who played for Australia during the World University Games — also returning, the Lobos will be looking to avenge for losing to Harvard in the first round of the NCAA Tournament last season.

National link: CBS Sports Mountain West Conference college basketball preview

No. 3: UCLA Bruins

2012-13 record: 25-10, 13-5 Pac-12

Postseason: Reached NCAA Tournament round of 64

Steve Alford takes over as coach of the Bruins following Ben Howland's firing. Alford went 155-52 in six years at New Mexico.

Alford inherits a team brimming with talent. Sophomore guard Kyle Anderson earned Lute Olson preseason All-America honors after averaging 9.7 points and 8.6 rebounds per game last season.

Also back are sophomore Jordan Adams (15.3 ppg, 3.8 rpg) and twin seniors Travis Wear (10.9 ppg, 5.2 rpg) and David Wear (7.1 ppg, 5.0 rpg). Among the freshmen joining the Bruins are 6-9 forward Wanaah Bail and guard Zach LaVine.

National link: CBS Sports 5 questions for UCLA in Year 1 with Steve Alford

No. 4: Gonzaga Bulldogs

2012-13 record: 32-3, 16-0 West Coast Conference

Postseason: Reached NCAA Tournament round of 32

Gone are Kelly Olynyk and Elias Harris, the team's top scorers and big men from last year. And the Bulldogs, once ranked No. 1 last season, were stunned in the NCAA's round of 32 by Wichita State.

Still, Gonzaga is led by coach Mark Few, and he should have his team ready to make a run for another conference title and national prominence. According to CBS Sports, the Zags have lost an average of 6.6 times each season during his 14 years with the Bulldogs.

In the backcourt, the Bulldogs return juniors Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell Jr. and senior David Stockton. Pangos (11.9 points per game) and Bell (9.0) are the team's top two returning scorers, while Stockton led the team by averaging 3.4 assists per game in 2012-13.

Senior center Sam Dower and sophomore center Przemek Karnowski will be expected to step up inside.

National link: USA Today college basketball countdown

No. 5: Colorado Buffaloes

2012-13 record: 21-12, 10-8 Pac-12

Postseason: Reached NCAA Tournament round of 64

The Buffaloes are aiming for a third straight NCAA Tournament berth this season, and they will have four of their top five scorers back.

Guards Spencer Dinwiddie (15.3 ppg) and Askia Booker (12.4 ppg) are back, as is forward Josh Scott (10.9 ppg, 5.7 rpg).

“It’s all about attacking,” Colorado coach Tad Boyle told's Anthony Lepine. “We want to attack on offense; we want to attack on defense."

Where Colorado will need some help is in replacing the rebounding of Andre Johnson; he averaged 11.2 boards per game last year, 5.5 rebounds more than the next-best player on the team.

No. 6: BYU Cougars

2012-13 record: 24-12, 10-6 WCC

Postseason: Reached NIT semifinals

More than half of the players on this year's BYU basketball team weren't on the roster last year. Still, with guards Tyler Haws and Matt Carlino returning, the expectations that the Cougars can build off their NIT run last season could be met.

Haws led the Cougars with 21.7 points per game last season, helping him earn Lute Olson preseason All-American honors. Carlino, meanwhile, averaged 11.5 points and 4.8 assists per game and at times took over games.

While BYU will miss the inside presence of Brandon Davies, the hope is freshman Eric Mika will be able to pick up the college game quickly. Kyle Collinsworth also returns from his two-year LDS mission.

National link: CBS Sports West Coast Conference college basketball preview

No. 7: Stanford Cardinal

2012-13 record: 19-15, 9-9 Pac-12

Postseason: Reached NIT second round

There is little turnover for the Cardinal squad this season, and Stanford will hope that this experience can help it reach the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2008. Forward Dwight Powell is the team's top returning player, after averaging 14.9 points and 8.4 rebounds last season. Chasson Randle (13.6 ppg) and Josh Huestis (10.5 ppg, 9.0 rpg) also are back.

No. 8: Boise State Broncos

2012-13 record: 21-11, 9-7 MWC

Postseason: Reached NCAA Tournament round of 64

The Broncos were picked to finish second in the league in the MWC media poll, and a big part of the reason is because Boise State returns all five starters. Two juniors — Anthony Drmic and Derrick Marks — were named to the preseason all-MWC team. Drmic, who led the Broncos with 17.7 points per game last season, told the Idaho Statesman he worked with former Utah star Andrew Bogut during the offseason and is looking to become a better rebounder.

No. 9: Oregon Ducks

2012-13 record: 28-9, 12-6 Pac-12

Postseason: Reached NCAA Tournament Sweet 16

Oregon will need to re-tool if it wants to replicate a Sweet 16 run, as the Ducks have eight newcomers on this year's team. Sophomore Damyean Dotson is the leading returner, having averaged 11.4 points and 3.5 rebounds per game in 2012-13. Among the newcomers is forward Mike Moser, who is transferring from UNLV.

No. 10: UNLV Rebels

2012-13 record: 25-10, 10-6 MWC

Postseason: Reached NCAA Tournament round of 64

Former BYU assistant coach Dave Rice will have to find some new scorers, after losing nearly 70 percent of last year's scoring, according to USA Today. That includes replacing forward Anthony Bennett, who was taken first in the NBA draft by the Cleveland Cavaliers, and backcourt starters Katin Reinhardt and Anthony Marshall. The Rebels will benefit from UConn transfer Roscoe Smith, who started on the Huskies' 2011 national title squad.

No. 11: San Diego State Aztecs

2012-13 record: 23-11, 9-7 MWC

Postseason: Reached NCAA Tournament round of 32

Steve Fisher's squad had an underachieving 2012-13 season, ending with a loss to Florida Gulf Coast in the NCAA Tournament, and he will have to replace a pair of top scorers in Jamaal Franklin and Chase Tapley. Transfers Josh Davis (from Tulane) and Angelo Chol (from Arizona) will help, and sophomore Winston Shepard (5.7 ppg, 3.5 rpg and 2.0 apg) could take on a bigger role after starting two games last season. Though it won't help this year's team, the Aztecs received a commit from five-star forward Malik Pope on Wednesday, according to the San Diego Union Tribune.

No. 12: Arizona State Sun Devils

2012-13 record: 22-13, 9-9 Pac-12

Postseason: Reached NIT second round

The Sun Devils' top player last season, point guard Jahii Carson, is back for his sophomore season. Carson, who averaged 18.5 points per game while shooting 47 percent from the floor, recently received medical clearance to return to the court after dealing with a stress reaction in his right tibia, according to AZcentral sports' Doug Haller. The program's other top two scorers are gone, though, and Arizona State will be looking for bigger contributions from 7-2 senior Jordan Bachynski and wing player Jonathan Gilling.

No. 13: California Golden Bears

2012-13 record: 21-12, 12-6 Pac-12

Postseason: Reached NCAA Tournament round of 32

Things did not look good for Cal when senior guard Justin Cobbs, the team's leading returning scorer at 15.1 ppg, fractured his foot in August. According to CBS Sports, however, he should be back for the start of the season. The Golden Bears will need to replace leading scorer Allen Crabbe, who left school early to enter the NBA draft, but Cal is looking for big things out of freshman Jabari Bird. David Kay of compared the five-star recruit Bird to Crabbe, citing his 6-6 size and stroke from the perimeter.

No. 14: Utah State Aggies

2012-13 record: 21-10, 11-7 WAC

Postseason: Eliminated in first round of WAC tournament

The Aggies will be looking to move on and improve in their first year in the MWC after injuries riddled the second half of their 2012-13 season.

Utah State started last year 14-1 before injuries knocked out key contributors like guard Preston Medlin and forward Kysiean Reed. That came after Danny Berger collapsed during practice and went into cardiac arrest, being saved by the quick actions of a team trainer. The Aggies went 7-9 down the stretch, at one point losing four straight.

That finish contributed to Utah State being picked to finish fifth in the MWC this season.

But with Medlin back, as well as senior forward Jarred Shaw and senior guard Spencer Butterfield, the Aggies will have some depth and the chance to prove they learned from last year's trying season.

No. 15: St. Mary's Gaels

2012-13 record: 28-7, 14-2 WCC

Postseason: Reached NCAA Tournament round of 64

St. Mary's over the last three years has established itself as an elite basketball program that draws players from local and international courts, most notably from Australia. Patty Mills and Matthew Dellavedova are both from down under, but Mickey McConnell and newcomer Kerry Carter are American. recently did a Q&A with Carter. Read it here.

No. 16: Utah Utes

2012-13 record: 15-18, 5-13 Pac-12

Postseason: Eliminated in semifinals of Pac-12 tournament

It's been a long road back up the hill of respectability for Larry Krystkowiak and the Utes. But a successful run at the end of last season that included winning four of five and reaching the semifinals of the conference tournament have things looking up for the Utes.

Now, Utah needs to build upon that success to return to a postseason tournament, and the Utes have a bona fide young star who could lead the way. Sophomore forward Jordan Loveridge is one of two returning starters, point guard Brandon Taylor being the other, on a team that brings back seven players from last season.

“I’m really confident that we’re going to be able to pick up the tempo offensively and defensively because of their commitment and also hand-in-hand with that is the fact that we’re going to be a lot deeper,” Krystkowiak told the Deseret News' Dirk Facer when the team opened practices two weeks ago.

With 11 of their first 12 games in the friendly confines of the Huntsman Center, the hope is the Utes will get rolling early and build some confidence that carries over into the conference season.

No. 17: San Diego Toreros

2012-13 record: 16-18, 7-9 WCC

Postseason: Eliminated in semifinals of WCC tournament

Don Norcross of the Union-Times of San Diego wrote a terrific story about San Diego basketball on Sept. 27.

According to the report, there is a framed picture that hangs in the office of San Diego basketball coach Bill Grier's office. A New York Daily News cover, it was printed shortly after San Diego upset UConn in the first round of the 2008 NCAA tournament.

The headline? UGONE.

That was not only the last time the Toreros won a tournament game, but also the last time they had a winning season. San Diego is looking to right that ship.

Read more about the Toreros on

No. 18: Washington Huskies

2012-13 record: 18-16, 9-9 Pac-12

Postseason: Reached NIT first round

The Huskies have gone to the NIT the past two seasons, including falling to BYU in Provo last year, and will be looking to return to the NCAA Tournament. Leading the way for Washington is Pleasant Grove native C.J. Wilcox, a senior guard who dealt with a left foot injury near the end of last season, according to CBS Sports. Now healthy, Wilcox will have the chance to improve upon his 16.8 ppg average. While point guard Abdul Gaddy is gone, the Huskies will benefit from having San Francisco transfer Perris Blackwell join the team after sitting out last season.

No. 19: Santa Clara Broncos

2012-13 record: 26-12, 9-7 WCC

Postseason: Won the CBI tournament

The Santa Clara Broncos are looking at heightened expectations this season after winning the CBI tournament a year ago. Basketball coach Kerry Keating says the summer has been a productive one. The Broncos have upgraded some facilities, and the program's incoming freshmen got on campus at the beginning of the summer.

No. 20: Wyoming Cowboys

2012-13 record: 20-14, 4-12 MWC

Postseason: Reached CBI quarterfinals

The Cowboys will need to overcome the loss of their top three scorers and going 7-14 after a 13-0 start last year. Wyoming is hoping that a pair of transfers at guard — Charles Hankerson (from Alabama) and Jerron Granberry (from North Florida) — can step in and take over the backcourt for Wyoming. In the post, junior Larry Nance Jr. returns after averaging 10.7 points and 6.9 rebounds per game last season. There is optimism inside the program that is now filled with young players.

“I’m excited about this season because I really love being with these guys on a daily basis,” Wyoming coach Larry Shyatt told the Casper Star-Tribune's Jack Nowlin. “I’m also excited about it because many of our top players are going to return next year. I think whatever we put in the bank this year is going to pay dividends down the road.”

No. 21: Fresno State Bulldogs

2012-13 record: 11-19, 5-11 MWC

Postseason: Eliminated in quarterfinals of MWC tournament

The Bulldogs are picked to finish eighth in their second year in the MWC, and a pair of offseason events made the road ahead tougher for Fresno State. First, center Robert Upshaw was "dismissed for violation of athletic department policy," according to the Fresno Bee. Upshaw had started five games and averaged 4.1 ppg and 3.8 rpg last season and was expected to take on an expanded role. Then in September, injuries suffered in a car accident forced forward Braden Anderson out for the season. While guard Tyler Johnson returns after leading Fresno State with 12.1 ppg last season, the Bulldogs will have to deal with a lack of frontcourt depth.

No. 22: Oregon State Beavers

2012-13 record: 14-18, 4-14 Pac-12

Postseason: Eliminated in first round of Pac-12 tournament

While the Beavers struggled last season, they have plenty of returning stat leaders. Back are Roberto Nelson (17.1 ppg, 3.3 rpg) and Devon Collier (12.6 ppg, 6.0 rpg), and Angus Brandt returns after playing just four games last season before suffering an ACL tear. He averaged 11.3 points and 8.5 rebounds in limited action. Oregon State was dealt a blow recently, though, when it was announced Collier will miss one game and Eric Moreland 14 games for violating team rules. Moreland averaged 9.4 points and 10.6 rebounds a game in 2012-13.

No. 23: Colorado State Rams

2012-13 record: 26-9, 11-5 MWC

Postseason: Reached NCAA Tournament round of 32

This is expected to be a down year in Fort Collins after the Rams reached the NCAA Tournament for the second straight season. The main reason is all five starters are gone, including Colton Iverson, who led the team with 14.2 ppg and 9.8 rpg. Colorado State has been picked to finish sixth in the MWC, but will benefit from the return of Daniel Bejarano, who was the league's sixth man of the year in 2012-13. Still, coach Larry Eustachy is confident this isn't a rebuilding year.

"This year, we have all new wood to build a house and try to get the same product out there," he told the Denver Post's Tom Kensler.

No. 24: San Francisco Dons

2012-13 record: 15-16, 7-9 WCC

Postseason: Eliminated in first round of the WCC tournament

San Francisco provided Cougar fans with two of the most intense games of the 2012-13 season. In the first game between BYU and USF, the Cougars had to rally from a 14-point deficit, largely without Brandon Davies due to foul trouble. USF rallied from a 15-point deficit of its own and bounced BYU out of the gym in the second contest.

Now in his sixth year, USF head coach Rex Walters hopes to lead his team to a better postseason berth this season. He sat down with for a Q&A. Read it here.

No. 25: USC Trojans

2012-13 record: 14-18, 9-9 Pac-12

Postseason: Eliminated in the first round of Pac-12 tournament

The recent memories of O.J. Mayo and the Trojans making national noise must seem long gone. This year, USC returns only two players who have starter-like playing time in J.T. Terrell (11.7 ppg) and Byron Wesley (10.2 ppg). USC has gone out and recruited some help, though, as transfers Pe'Shon Howard (point guard, from Maryland) and D.J. Haley (center, from VCU) will join the Trojan roster this season.

No. 26: Portland Pilots

2012-13 record: 11-21, 4-12 WCC

Postseason: Eliminated in first round of WCC tournament

The Portland Pilots did something very different from every other team in the West Coast Conference. They took their preseason camp on the road to Spain, playing five games against international competition.

More recently, the Pilots and the Portland State Vikings put on a basketball clinic for the local boys and girls clubs. See the Oregonian's photo gallery of the event for more.

No. 27: Pacific Tigers

2012-13 record: 22-13, 13-5 Big West

Postseason: Reached NCAA Tournament round of 64

Before going to look up last year's bracket to make sure this team really did make the tournament, rest assured that they did. The Tigers won the Big West basketball tournament to earn their bid to the big dance.

This season, the Tigers bring depth to the West Coast Conference. It's Pacific's second stint with the league. Originally a founding member of the WCC, Pacific left for what became the Big West, but is now returning.

No. 28: Nevada Wolfpack

2012-13 record: 12-19, 3-13 MWC

Postseason: Eliminated in first round of MWC tournament

The Wolfpack turned a once-promising season into one to forget last year, as the team lost 11 of its final 12 games. Now, Nevada will try to keep that poor finish from carrying over into this season. The Wolfpack will return a pair of seniors to their backcourt, though. Point guard Deonte Burton is back after averaging 16.3 ppg last season, while Jerry Evans Jr. put up 7.5 points and 5.4 rebounds per game in 2012-13. Two sophomores — Cole Huff and Marqueze Coleman — also return after earning starts as freshmen.

No. 29: Washington State Cougars

2012-13 record: 13-19, 4-14 Pac-12

Postseason: Eliminated in first round of Pac-12 tournament

Gone is Brock Motum, the Cougars' leading scorer last season at 18.7 ppg, meaning this could be another long season in Pullman. A pair of transfers — Brett Kingma from Oregon and Jordan Railey from Iowa State — will hit the court for Washington State this season, after sitting out last year. They will try to earn playing time alongside returning starters D.J. Shelton, DaVonte Lacy and Royce Woolridge.

No. 30: Air Force Falcons

2012-13 record: 18-14, 8-8 MWC

Postseason: Reached Tournament second round

While the Falcons finished above .500 and looked like they could be an NCAA Tournament bubble team for a time last year, repeating that feat could prove difficult after Air Force lost its top six scorers. This has led to the Falcons being picked to finish 10th in the MWC. Still, despite the fact he will be dealing with a lot of new faces on this year's team, Air Force coach Dave Pilipovich signed a new five-year contract this summer.

No. 31: Loyola Marymount Lions

2012-13 record: 11-23, 1-15 WCC

Postseason: Eliminated in semifinals of WCC tournament

The Lions turned heads when they made their run in the WCC tournament. Now LMU hopes to capitalize on those good vibes to build its way back to the WCC tournament and hopefully a WCC title.

"We had a lot of enthusiasm like I'm sure, what is it, 345 Division 1 teams in the country," LMU head coach Max Good told the LMU Sports Network. "The first day of practice is always with a lot of enthusiasm and, you know, positiveness. The truth of the matter is you got to keep building to get better day after day after day after day."

No. 32: San Jose State Spartans

2012-13 record: 9-20, 3-14 WAC

Postseason: Eliminated in first round of WAC tournament

After a dismal 2012-13 season, the Spartans won't find the sledding any easier in their first year in the MWC. First-year coach Dave Wojcik will have two significant returnees, though, as Chris Cunningham (10.7 ppg, 29 starts in 2012-13) and D.J. Brown (9.2 ppg, 28 starts) come back. The real story of San Jose State's offseason, though, was putting five large Spartans at midcourt on its home floor.

No. 33: Pepperdine Waves

2012-13 record: 12-18, 4-12 WCC

Postseason: Eliminated in first round of WCC tournament

Pepperdine is starting it's third season under head coach Marty Wilson, and thus far, things have not been smooth to say the least.

Don't tell that to the coach, though. He's high on the Waves this year, largely because of a different recruiting strategy.

"We've completely changed the culture," Wilson said. "We are recruiting the right kind of guys. We have a term: 'OKGs' — our kind of guys. We have to look for OKGs in our program. These are the guys we want around."