Major conference preview: 5 questions for the Pac-12
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It's been 23 years since a Pac-12 school was crowned national champion, but the conference appears to be on the upswing.

Three teams are ranked among the preseason AP Top 25 after a resurgent 2019-20 campaign that saw the Pac-12 projected to earn as many as six NCAA Tournament berths.

Here are five questions surrounding the Conference of Champions this upcoming season in the fifth installment of our six-part college basketball preview:

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Is Stanford a dark-horse candidate to win the Pac-12?

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Stanford might've snapped its six-year NCAA Tournament drought if March Madness hadn't been canceled last season. The Cardinal were one of the nation's stingiest units during the 2019-20 campaign, finishing top 20 in both points allowed (62.5 per game) and opponent 3-point field-goal percentage (29.6%).

Bryce Wills, a member of last year's All-Pac-12 Defensive Team, returns for his junior year to anchor Stanford's rock-solid defense. Leading scorer Oscar da Silva and sharpshooting sophomore Spencer Jones are also back. Tyrell Terry is the only key departure from last season's 20-win squad, and incoming five-star wing Ziaire Williams should be able to replace the scoring and playmaking Terry provided.

Williams' ability to guard multiple positions will also further boost Stanford's elite defense. If the Cardinal can put it together on the offensive end, they'll be right in the thick of the Pac-12 race.

Can Arizona State reach its first Final Four?

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Bobby Hurley has never fielded a better squad in his previous five seasons at Arizona State, as national player of the year candidate Remy Martin returns for his senior season to run an offense loaded with weapons.

Guard Alonzo Verge will move into the starting lineup after averaging an NCAA-leading 16.8 points off the bench last season. He'll be joined by top-15 2020 prospect Josh Christopher and four-star recruit Marcus Bagley, the younger brother of Sacramento Kings forward Marvin Bagley.

Portland State transfer Holland Woods is expected to assume Verge's previous role. The high-scoring guard posted 17.7 points per contest during the 2019-20 campaign as he earned All-Big Sky first-team honors.

There are legitimate questions around the Sun Devils' defense, but Arizona State might be able to run opposing teams out of the gym with its up-tempo offense.

Will transfers affect the Pac-12 title race?

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Arizona State wasn't the only Pac-12 school that used the transfer portal to retool its roster.

Oregon head coach Dana Altman has a history of finding impact players from other programs, and this year seems no different: The Ducks added three double-digit scorers from last season in Eugene Omoruyi (Rutgers), Amauri Hardy (UNLV), and Eric Williams (Duquesne). St. John's 2019-20 leading scorer LJ Figueroa, meanwhile, could join the trio if granted a waiver to play this season.

Arizona also invested heavily in transfers after losing most of last season's offense. James Akinjo, the 2018-19 Big East Freshman of the Year, will likely assume the starting point guard role, while ex-Seattle guard Terrell Brown should add some scoring punch after averaging 20.8 points last season. Former McDonald's All-American Jordan Brown rounds out the Wildcats' list of transfers.

Even UCLA got into the transfer frenzy, with four-star 2019 recruit Johnny Juzang off to Westwood following a disappointing freshman year at Kentucky.

Can Evan Mobley fill the shoes of Onyeka Okongwu?

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USC lost its top four scorers from last season's 22-win squad, most notably Atlanta Hawks first-round pick Onyeka Okongwu. The 6-foot-9 big man was an important player on both ends of the floor in 2019-20, averaging 16.2 points, 8.6 boards, and 2.7 blocks en route to All-Pac-12 first-team honors.

His production will certainly be difficult to replace, but Evan Mobley could be up to the task. The third-ranked recruit in the 2020 class can affect the game in a variety of ways and is projected to follow Okongwu as a one-and-done lottery pick in next year's NBA draft.

One area in which Mobley might have an edge over Okongwu is passing. The McDonald's All-American averaged nearly five assists during his senior year of high school, and he may have more playmaking opportunities in transition this season thanks to his ability to carry the ball upcourt.

Is Utah due for a bounce-back year?

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Larry Krystkowiak's squad has been among the Pac-12's most consistent teams through the majority of his nine-year tenure. From 2014-19, Utah posted four seasons with at least 20 wins and 11 or more victories in conference play. But the program took a step back last season, registering a 16-15 overall mark - including its first sub-.500 record in the Pac-12 since 2013.

One reason for the Utes' struggles was their youth. All but two members of their 2019-20 roster were either freshmen or sophomores, including star forward Timmy Allen. With a year of growing pains under their belts, expect them to at least return to the top half of the conference standings.

Allen is the type of talent who could spark such a turnaround after averaging 17.3 points, 7.3 rebounds, three assists, and 1.2 steals last season. The 6-foot-6 junior also led the Pac-12 in free-throw attempts and finished eighth in field-goal percentage (44.1%).

Major conference preview: 5 questions for the Pac-12
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