CAL

  • LAST SEASON: 21-12, 12-6 (tied for second in Pac-12)

  • COACH: Mike Montgomery, sixth season at Cal, 109-59; 32nd season overall, 657-302

  • KEY PLAYERS: Senior guard Justin Cobbs (15.1 points, 4.8 assists), senior forward Richard Solomon (8.9 points, 6.8 rebounds, junior forward David Kravish (7.9 points, 6.9 rebounds), sophomore guard Tyrone Wallace (7.2 points, 4.4 rebounds).

  • SCOUTING REPORT: For the second year in a row, the Bears start over without the reigning Pac-12 Player of the Year. Following Jorge Gutierrez's departure after the 2012 season, Allen Crabbe left early last spring for the NBA. But four starters return, led by Cobbs, who has recovered from a summer foot injury and should be one of the the Pac-12's best players. ... There is depth in the backcourt with Wallace returning, junior Ricky Kreklow healthy and three freshmen apparently ready to contribute. Among those, former Salesian High star Jabari Bird, Montgomery's top local recruit to Cal, and Jordan Mathews will add scoring punch. Bird was a top-25 national prospect and Mathews, the son of former USF coach Phil Mathews, has been the team's best perimeter shooter in practice so far, Montgomery said.

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    Freshman point Sam Singer also is in the mix. ... Returning post players Solomon and Kravish have added strength, but Cal's biggest question mark will be frontcourt depth. Expect Montgomery to go small at times with 6-6 Kreklow or 6-7 freshman Roger Moute a Bidias sliding to power forward when the Bears need to substitute.

  • BOTTOM LINE: The Bears have advanced to the NCAA tournament four of five seasons under Montgomery and seem positioned to do so again. The strong freshman class provides greater depth that should allow Cal to compete in the upper half of an improving Pac-12 Conference.

    -- JEFF FARAUDO

    STANFORD

  • LAST SEASON: 19-15, 9-9 (tied for sixth in Pac-12)

  • COACH: Johnny Dawkins, sixth season at Stanford, 94-74; sixth season overall

  • KEY PLAYERS: Senior forward Dwight Powell (14.9 points, 8.4 rebounds), senior forward Josh Huestis (10.5 points, 9.0 rebounds), junior guard Chasson Randle (13.6 points)

  • SCOUTING REPORT: It's a make-or-break season for Johnny Dawkins, whose senior-heavy roster is fueling hopes of advancing to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2008. The Cardinal returns all but two members of last season's team that showed promise but ultimately fell short of the Big Dance. The team lost Andy Brown, who suffered his fourth ACL tear in July to end his career. But Stanford welcomes the return of 6-6 forward Anthony Brown, who missed last season because of a hip injury. "We know we have some components that are proven," Dawkins said. "And we have some kids who can potentially support those guys." Two of those players are sophomores Rosco Allen and Christian Sanders, who start the season with injuries. Dawkins hopes freshmen twins Malcolm and Marcus Allen (no relation to Rosco Allen) give the team front-court depth along with vastly improved senior Robbie Lemons. ...The nonconference schedule includes back-to-back road games in December against No. 18 Connecticut and No. 7 Michigan, last season's NCAA runner-up. The Cardinal opens the season Friday against NCAA tournament school Bucknell, followed by BYU and Northwestern at Maples Pavilion.

  • BOTTOM LINE: Stanford needs to finish near the top of the Pac-12 and reach the NCAA tournament for the first time in the Dawkins era to survive a coaching change.

    -- ELLIOTT ALMOND

    Contact Elliott Almond at 408-920-5865 and follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/elliottalmond.

    SAN JOSE STATE

  • LAST SEASON: 9-20, 3-14 (tied for eighth in Western Athletic Conference)

  • COACH: Dave Wojcik, first season

  • KEY PLAYERS: Senior forward Chris Cunningham (10.7 points, 9.0 rebounds), junior guard D.J. Brown (9.2 points, 3.7 assists)

  • SCOUTING REPORT: The Spartans in 2013-14 are all about change -- new conference (Mountain West), new coach (Wojcik) and a roster with six freshmen and one junior college transfer. Of San Jose State's four returning players, only Cunningham, the team's lone senior, and Brown logged significant minutes. With the Spartans joining a conference that sent five teams to last season's NCAA Tournament, Wojcik felt a roster overhaul was in order. "I know our league, and I felt we needed an upgrade in our talent level," the former Boise State assistant coach said. "Hopefully I did that." Wojcik also wants players who fit his style of play, sharpshooters who can push the ball offensively and play pressure defense. He has that in junior guard Devante Wilson, who shot 40.6 percent from the field (39.8 percent from 3-point range) at Lee College in Texas and can guard multiple positions. The same can be said of freshman forward Brandon Mitchell. Four other freshmen -- 7-foot center Matt Pollard and guards Jalen James, Rashad Muhammad and Isaac Thornton -- are expected to contribute heavily. One thing that won't change from last season: Cunningham will be central to the Spartans' success. "He averaged nearly a double-double last year, and hopefully he can do the same in the Mountain West," Wojcik said. "It's three levels up from the WAC, but he has the ability to do that."

  • BOTTOM LINE: SJSU was ranked last in the Mountain West's preseason media poll. The young Spartans are a work in progress and may not be ready to contend right away.

    -- RAY HACKE

    SAINT MARY'S

  • LAST SEASON: 28-7, 14-2 (second in WCC)

  • COACH

    : Randy Bennett, 13th year, 263-125

  • KEY PLAYERS: Senior guard Stephen Holt (11.6 points, 5.4 rebounds), junior forward Brad Waldow (10.2 points, 6.0 rebounds), senior forward Beau Levesque (10.6 points, 4.4 rebounds)

  • SCOUTING REPORT:

    Saint Mary's must move on without its floor general and all-time leading scorer, Matthew Dellavedova, but a solid core remains in Moraga. The returning group is headlined by Stephen Holt, a two-year starter who will shift to point guard in Dellavedova's absence and try to lead the Gaels to a third consecutive NCAA tournament berth. Coach Randy Bennett, who has guided the Gaels to six straight 25-win seasons, isn't as worried about replacing Dellavedova's production on the court as he is about the leadership factor. "He's one of the best players we've ever had here, so we're going to miss him in some ways we don't even understand yet," Bennett said. "I like our leadership, but they're replacing the best."... Forward Brad Waldow joins Holt as the Gaels' only returning starters, but Beau Levesque, Jordan Giusti and James Walker III are back after making significant contributions off the bench last year. ... Former starting guard Jorden Page will forgo his senior season after suffering a knee injury in the WCC tournament. ... A strong group of newcomers includes Garrett Jackson, a USC transfer who will battle Levesque for minutes at forward, Australian true freshman Dane Pineau and junior college transfer Kerry Carter. ... Bennett will miss five games at the start of WCC play, including a road game at rival Gonzaga, as a penalty for NCAA violations. He is not ready to name an interim coach for those games.

  • BOTTOM LINE: Saint Mary's may take a small step back after graduating one of its all-time greats, but should have enough firepower to remain one of the WCC's top teams.

    -- STEPHANIE HAMMON

    SANTA CLARA

  • LAST SEASON: 26-12, 9-7 (fourth in West Coast Conference)

  • COACH: Kerry Keating, seventh season, 100-102

  • KEY PLAYERS: Senior guard Evan Roquemore (12.0 points, 5.2 assists), junior guard Brandon Clark (7.2 points, 2.7 assists)

  • SCOUTING REPORT: The Broncos start this season in a rebuilding stage, as school all-time leading scorer Kevin Foster and Marc Trasolini (No. 5 on the Broncos' all-time scoring list) were seniors last season and combined for 34.7 points per game. In addition, Roquemore, the top returning scorer from last season, has a lower back injury and in all likelihood is out for the opener. He should be ready by the San Jose State game on Nov. 12, Keating said. "You are really rebuilding every year," Keating said. "What we are really trying to do is build to get to a higher level." ... The Broncos have five returners with starting experience, including the 6-foot Clark. He led the Broncos with 17 points, seven assists and two steals in their exhibition opener, an 89-60 win over San Diego Christian on Nov. 2. Besides Roquemore and Clark, senior forward John McArthur (De La Salle High), and junior guards Denzel Johnson and Julian Clarke also have starting experience. ... Santa Clara has five freshmen or redshirt freshmen on a junior and freshman-dominated roster. "We have 10 guys that will be in this program next year," Keating said. "I think our future is bright." ... Santa Clara will face an early-season test when it travels to Notre Dame for a game on Nov. 22. The Irish are ranked 21st in the Associated Press preseason poll. The Broncos open WCC play at Gonzaga on Dec. 28.

  • BOTTOM LINE: The Broncos will need to find a way to replace the scoring of Foster and Trasolini in order to be near the top of the WCC at the end of the season.

    -- PHIL JENSEN

    USF

  • LAST SEASON: 15-16, 7-9 WCC

  • COACH: Rex Walters, sixth season at USF, 77-82

  • KEY PLAYERS: Senior forward Cole Dickerson (15.2 points, 9.8 rebounds), senior guard Cody Doolin (12.2 points, 5.6 assists)

  • SCOUTING REPORT: USF coach Rex Walters returns nine players from last season, including preseason All-West Coast Conference team selections Dickerson and Doolin. Dickerson, a 6-foot-7 senior forward, recorded 13 double-doubles last season. Doolin has started 99 games for the Dons. USF leads the WCC with two preseason All-Conference selections. ... Last season, a young Dons team lost its first five games and lost seven games by six points or fewer. Walters expects that a more experienced team will be better-suited to avoid those defeats. USF ranked fifth in the nation in three-point field goal percentage last season. Walters said that much of his offense was simplified to catch-and-shoot opportunities for his young players, and that it will be a different offense this season that will be more versatile. Walters is counting on a few transfers to improve his frontcourt depth and rebounding this season, including 6-foot-7 forward Kruize Pinkins, who transferred from Chipola College in Marianna, Fla., and 6-foot-5 forward Matt Glover, who transferred from Penn State. The Dons have one of the top backcourts in the WCC and, with improved versatility and experience, should compete near the top of the conference this season. The nonconference schedule includes road games against Montana, St. John's and No. 19 Oregon.

  • BOTTOM LINE: The Dons return much of their roster this season and should improve on a near .500 record from last season and compete near the top of the WCC.

    -- WES GOLDBERG