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Pac-12 preview: Can anyone stop Stanford?

Stanford is the clear-cut top team, but the conference will not be easy, with Oregon and Arizona waiting in the wings.

UConn v Stanford University
Cameron Brink (jersey #22)
Photo by Don Feria/ISI Photos/Getty Images

We continue our conference preview series with the Pac-12. For the Pac-12, we slotted the teams into tiers and broke down what each tier means and what teams to watch in each tier. This tier system was created using the preseason coaches poll.

S Tier No. 2 Stanford Cardinal

In a class by themselves, the Cardinal are the cream of the crop in the Pac-12, and, with Haley Jones and Cameron Brink returning, there's no reason to think they won't be dominant again. Winning the conference is the first step on the road to the Final Four. While Stanford is favored to do so again, it'll likely be facing stiffer competition than it had last year when it went undefeated in the Pac-12.

UConn v Stanford
Haley Jones (jersey #30)
Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

A-Tier No. 20 Oregon, No. 19 Arizona, UCLA

Despite the dominance Stanford has displayed, a couple of teams are ready to take a shot at the crown. Oregon and Arizona are interesting in particular. The coaches poll has Oregon ahead of Arizona, but in the AP poll they are flipped. It will be interesting to see that battle later in the season. Can Oregon take a step forward with Te-Hina Paopao taking a leap? Will Arizona get a healthy Cate Reese all season and can fifth-year senior Jade Loville help fuel the offense? The top might be settled before we start, but the race for second will be eventful.

UCLA is just underneath these three teams, and for a good reason. The Bruins are back on the rise with Charisma Osborne leading the way. She averaged 16.4 points, 5.1 rebounds and 3.9 assists last season and the Bruins finished 8-8 in the Pac-12. That's unlikely to be good enough to place fourth, so growth will have to happen.

NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament - First Round - Arizona
Cate Reese
Photo by Simon Asher/NCAA Photos via Getty Images

B-Tier Utah, Oregon State, Washington State, Colorado

This is the middle of the pack. Lots of quantity, decent quality. Will they be contending for the conference title? No, but the games will be competitive, and they will be tough outs in the conference tourney. I'm very curious to see how the Oregon State Beavers look this season. They have a lot of turnover and their top talent from last season was freshman guard Talia von Oelhoffen, who should be even better in her sophomore campaign. Colorado features last season's Pac-12 Sixth Women of the Year, Quay Miller, and Washington State will have Charlisse Leger-Walker commanding the offense and taking the Cougars as far as she can.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: FEB 18 Women’s - Stanford at Oregon State
Talia Von Oelhoffen (with ball)
Photo by Brian Murphy/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

C-Tier USC, Washington, California, Arizona State

USC and Washington are the highest in the group, which is surprising, with Washington only getting two conference wins and USC not fairing much better with just five conference victories in 2021-22. Cal and Arizona State will focus on getting a handful of conference wins and developing their talent for future seasons.

USC v Arizona
USC head coach Lindsay Gottlieb
Photo by Rebecca Noble/Getty Images