Spearheaded by senior transfer Mark Lyons, the Arizona Wildcats are one of the top two favorites in the Pac-12 conference along with the UCLA Bruins; this should be a highly contested race.
NCAA basketball betting future odds list the Bruins at +1800 to win the 2012-2013 National Championship, and the Wildcats are a close second at +2500. 

Coach Sean Miller has to like his chances with the addition of Lyons from Xavier University because the point guard brings a toughness that Miller seeks in every player. Let's take a look at the Arizona Wildcats.

Mark LyonsDramatic Improvement

After the transfer of Lamont "Momo" Jones to Iona University last season, the Arizona Wildcats saw their season slip away with the round one loss to Bucknell University in the NIT. The Wildcats had been the number 1 seed and the Bison number eight.

With one of the best recruiting classes in the country and the addition of Mark Lyons, the Wildcats go from pretenders to instant contenders in what should be a highly contested battle with the UCLA Bruins for Pac-12 supremacy.

Recruiting

In terms of recruiting, Arizona ranks number three in the nation with 5 commits and 4 top 100 ESPNU recruits led by center Caleb Tarczewski. 

Although Arizona landed more top recruits than UCLA, the Bruins landed the 2nd ranked prospect in the nation, Shabazz Muhammad, thus taking a little luster off of the Wildcats offseason accomplishments. Nevertheless, the transfer of Lyons softens the blow.

Three top 20 recruits in the nation

Along with Tarczewski, who is ranked 4th in the nation, the Wildcats landed 9th ranked Grant Jerrett and 16th ranked Brandon Ashley. 

These players all have size as both Jerret annd Ashley are power forwards. Grant Jerret is a 6 foot 10 forward with shooting range; plus, he has a nice frame for a youngster with length and soft hands. There's major upside to Jerret as he continues to improve.

Brandon Ashley is another player with length. He is very elusive in the paint with his patented spin move. He has great quickness for his size and great awareness around the basket.

As for the Wildcats' top recruit, Tarczewski has NBA size and a great finishing ability. He sounds like a larger version of Kobe Bryant; the Wildcats would take even a quarter of the Bryant's production from Caleb Tarczewski.

This is a top level recruiting class. One could make the argument that Arizona had the best recruiting class in the nation.

Mark Lyons

As stated before, Lyons brings toughness to the point guard position. Former University of Pittsburgh guard and current Arizona head coach Sean Miller covets that attribute in Lyons.

In a season in which Xavier made it to the Sweet 16 last season, Lyons averaged 15.1 points, 3.2 rebounds, 2.8 assists, and 1.3 steals. So what you're going to get from Lyons is a bonafide scrapper. Mark Lyons will need to stay out of foul trouble for this team to be successful as he's prone to committing fouls.

Returning players

The Wildcats are sad to see the departures of Kyle Fogg (13.5 ppg) and Jesse Perry (12.2 ppg, 7.5 rpg) although Perry has gotten into offseason domestic abuse trouble.

Arizona is ecstatic to see senior forward Solomon Hill return for his senior season. Hill averaged 13 points and 7.7 rebounds last senior and is set to attend the Lebron James Skills Academy along with Mark Lyons. The Cats couldn't ask for more as they have two proactive basketball players in Hill and Lyons.

Hill is a versatile player that can beat defenders off the dribble and that's what a team need's in a highly skilled conference such as the Pac-12.

Nick Johnson returns

Last season looked hopeful with freshman (at the time) guards Nick Johnson and Josiah Turner. Turner has decided to transfer after getting suspended and the Wildcats virtually get to keep the better of the two players.

On the season, Johnson averaged 9 points, 3.2 rebounds, and 2.4 assists per game last season. Johnson will gain more experience and should fit into this much improved offense well. Johnson had a tougher time against the better teams but produced a season high of 20 points against the Washington Huskies on February 18th.

Summary

The Arizona Wildcats are a dramatically improved team. They got rid of some troubled players and filled in the spots with star recruits and a super transfer in Mark Lyons. Coaching is another strength with Sean Miller leading the team as he was a big time player for the University of Pittsburgh a couple of decades ago. UCLA is getting the head billing but don't be surprised if Arizona edges the Bruins out for the Pac-12 Championship.