It’s like Christmas morning for those of us who love college basketball. Especially in the Pac-12. Every team in the league begins its 2022-23 season on Monday. There’s excitement at the top and hope for improved depth throughout the league.

At the beginning of the season, optimism abounds. But there is going to be a clear hierarchy in the league that emerges in the coming weeks. We’ll keep this Power Ranking updated every week throughout the season.

Here’s how things stand at the outset.

12. Oregon State Beavers

Last season: 3-28

It was a historically bad season for the Beavers one year removed from a magical one. Oregon State marched to a Pac-12 Tournament title and then an Elite Eight. Wayne Tinkle got a contract extension out of it. Then the team fell apart. The defense was an abject failure; out of 358 Division I basketball teams, the Beavers had a defensive rating that ranked 356th. How committed is this brand-new group to that end of the floor? How will they fight when adversity strikes? Eleven players left from last year’s group and already the team is up against it a bit. Oregon State’s big portal addition, Georgia’s Christian Wright, will miss a significant portion of the season with a knee injury, leaving the point guard position to be manned by Dexter Akanno (4.9 points, 37% shooting last season) and true freshman Jordan Pope.

11. California Golden Bears

Last season: 12-20

Cal loses its top three scorers — Jordan Shepherd (14.6 points), Andre Kelly (13.4), and Grant Anticevich (9.7) — from a group that finished the year ranked 222nd nationally in adjusted offensive efficiency (KenPom). The only other guy to average more than five a game, Jalen Celestine, is set to miss an undetermined amount of the season after knee surgery back in the spring. Lots and lots of questions for coach Mark Fox as the season gets rolling, not the least of which is how will guard Devin Askew fare now at his third school in three years.

10. Utah Utes

Last season: 11-20

In terms of season outlook, I’m still in wait-and-see mode with this Utah team. But I do think the Runnin’ Utes will be able to get off to a nice start here in the early going. KenPom likes Utah quite a bit more than the consensus — with a preseason offensive ranking of 64th, the fifth-best of any Pac-12 team. Center Branden Carlson, a rare do-everything kind of player given his size, should be able to feast on weak competition in the early going. KenPom projections actually have Utah starting off 6-0 leading into the early Pac-12 window and 8-2 over its first 10 games. Last year’s group started 5-0 and then won three games over the next two months. We’ll see if coach Craig Smith can find more consistency this time.

9. Washington State Cougars

Last season: 22-15

Wazzu lost its top four scorers from last year’s group —  Michael Flowers (14.2 points), Tyrell Roberts (11.4), Noah Williams (9.5), and Efe Abogidi (8.1). Abogidi in particular was one of the Pac-12’s better end-to-end players, finishing third in PER. There is going to be an awful lot early on the plate of Pac-12 all-freshman forward Mouhamed Gueye (7.4 points) and wing TJ Bamba (7.7 points). The Cougars are one of several Pac-12 teams dealing with early injuries to expected rotation guys, and they’ll face five teams inside KenPom’s top 125 in the first 10 games. I’m curious how this group looks out of the gates.

8. Arizona State Sun Devils

Last season: 14-17

Coach Bobby Hurley hit the transfer portal hard for reinforcements this offseason, bringing in Desmond Cambridge Jr. (16.2 points at Nevada), Warren Washington (10.5 points at Nevada), Devan Cambridge (5.3 points at Auburn), and Frankie Collins (2.8 points at Michigan). There’s size in the frontcourt, veteran leadership throughout the roster, and a deep collection of perimeter players. This was a grating offense a year ago that couldn’t generate easy points for itself. Didn’t get to the free throw line and didn’t hit when it did. Didn’t shoot the 3-ball well. In conference play, it was the worst offense in the Pac-12. I think Hurley has a team talented enough to make an NCAA Tournament run, but they’ve gotta hit shots.

7. Colorado Buffaloes

Last season: 21-12

In trying to replace Jabari Walker (the Pac-12’s rebounding leader last year) and Evan Battey, Colorado appears set to rely on Tristan da Silva and Lawson Lovering in the frontcourt. Da Silva will have a pretty significant scoring burden on his shoulders, so you wonder how he also handles banging on guys at the defensive end. The 7-foot-1 Lovering played just 10 minutes a night in his 18 appearances last season, and when he was on the floor he had per-40 averages of seven fouls and four turnovers. Colorado had a top-50 defense last season, per KenPom’s adjusted efficiency metric. I’ll be watching the interior closely to open the season.

6. Washington Huskies

Last season: 17-15

Noah Williams had 10 assists in the Huskies’ 95-64 exhibition win last week. That caught my eye. Only six Huskies played more than 15 minutes in the exhibition — another thing that caught my eye. How deep does this group go? I like the pieces coach Mike Hopkins brought to town, namely former Kentucky forward Keion Brooks Jr. If he can step into that leading role and average something close to the 19 points he put up in the exhibition win, UW could be dangerous.

5. Stanford Cardinal

Last season: 16-16

Something has just been missing with Stanford. The Cardinal enter the season once again expected to make some noise in the Pac-12 thanks to the talent coach Jerod Haase has been able to bring to Palo Alto, but the results simply haven’t matched perception of the program. Stanford was able to bring back the Pac-12’s Freshman of the Year in 2021-22 — Harrison Ingram, who put up 10.5 points, 6.7 boards, and 3.0 assists a game last season. It also gets one of the Pac-12’s most lethal shooters back in Spencer Jones. They have the talent, they’re just going to have to go do it. Stanford has been to one NCAA Tournament since Trent Johnson left the program. Turnovers were a major concern last season; Stanford had the highest turnover rate of Pac-12 teams in league play, and that seriously compromised the defense.

4. USC Trojans

Last season: 26-8

Boogie Ellis (12.5 points), Drew Peterson (12.4), and Reese Dixon-Waters (4.8) power an intriguing and potentially dynamic backcourt. Ellis has been a score-first guard. Peterson is a late-game bucket-getter. The offense will go as they take it. USC built its success a year ago on defense, though, and it remains to be seen how much of a step back will be taken on that side of the floor with a much younger frontcourt.

3. Oregon Ducks

Last season: 20-15

Oregon was a mediocre shooting team last season, connecting on 32.6% of its 3s in conference play. That was the eighth-best mark in the Pac-12. Lead guard Will Richardson returns, and he was the team’s best shooter a year ago (39%), but spot-up opportunities for him are going to be limited. Oregon needs him to make plays with the ball in his hands. With a talented frontcourt and the potential for coach Dana Altman to roll out multi-big lineups, the shooting is going to be of paramount importance for Oregon this season. Quincy Guerrier shot 33% last season. Keeshawn Barthelemy shot 35%. Those guys have to shoot it well, particularly Guerrier. We’ll see how the J.C. newcomers translate their game to this level. Oregon cranks out 20-win seasons, so it’s just not smart to bet against Altman at this point.

2. Arizona Wildcats

Last season: 33-4

The defending Pac-12 champions have some questions to answer early in the season. Is Oumar Ballo ready to anchor a top-flight defense the way Christian Koloko did last season? Is there someone who can fill the go-to scorer role Bennedict Mathurin excelled in last year? Do we need to be worried about Azuolas Tubelis’ performance late in last season’s NCAA Tournament?

1. UCLA Bruins

Last season: 27-8

Tyger Campbell scored 32 in a closed scrimmage against San Diego State and then put up 25 points on 19 shots in the team’s exhibition win. Coach Mick Cronin wants to see “Steph Curry mode” from his point guard this season, hunting shots and searching out his own offense first. UCLA also returns the Player of the Year frontrunner in forward Jaime Jaquez Jr., a 14-points-per-game scorer a year ago who could flirt with 20 a night this year. If he and Campbell — a 41% 3-point shooter last year — are both flirting with 20 a game, UCLA is going to be a national championship contender. It has a pair of freshmen in Amari Bailey and Adem Bona who could be among the better newcomers in college basketball. Cronin has the best team he’s had yet.