Cal Bears are real Pac-12 favorites

Updated: August 18, 2011, 3:56 PM ET
By Doug Gottlieb

They are not sexy, they may not get to a Sweet 16 and they're benefiting in large part because their league just lost yet another set of stars to the NBA, but the California Golden Bears are the smartest pick to win the Pac-12.

"At the end of the season, Cal was the best half-court offensive team we played" Arizona Wildcats coach Sean Miller told me. "They were a machine."

I know that the UCLA Bruins have better big men; Josh Smith, Reeves Nelson and the Wear twins can all score and make up a deeper front line than any in the league. The Washington Huskies bring in Tony Wroten, while Arizona brings in Josiah Turner, and both teams return solid supporting casts to play alongside their athletic freshman studs. But Cal is quietly a dangerous team with a deep bench and a bevy of scoring talent. While Washington, Washington State, Stanford, USC, Colorado and Oregon all losing their top scorers, and UCLA losing two of its top three scorers, Cal returns its top three scorers in the Pac 12.