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Husky Men's Basketball

The latest news and analysis on Husky men's hoops.

December 12, 2005 at 3:55 PM

Taking stock of the Pac-10

One of the fun things of attending an event such as the Wooden Classic is talking with other basketball people – reporters, scouts, assistant coaches, etc.
In those conversations, a consensus on the Pac-10 so far began to emerge – which teams are better or worse than a year ago? So here’s a look in alphabetical order:
Arizona – So far, worse than a year ago. Finding it hard to replace Frye and Salim and getting erratic play at point guard. Despite what that ESPN magazine article says this week, Mustafa Shakur is still struggling to be an elite-level point guard. And Arizona is getting little consistent perimeter shooting. Talent alone will get them to the NCAA tourney, but could be a 12-6-type conference team instead of 15-3.
Arizona State – Obviously way worse than a year ago with Ike Diogu gone. And any doubt about the future of Rob Evans seems cemented after the embarrassing home loss to Utah Valley State Saturday. Talk already is of who replaces Evans. Dan Monson anyone?
California – Better than a year ago and likely to keep improving as the season wears on – though the Kansas loss indicates there’s still a ways to go. Leon Powe looks healthy, and that alone should put Cal on the bubble for an NCAA tourney bid. But the Bears will need more than Powe long-term.
Oregon – Worse than a year ago and a mess right now, with whispers already building about Ernie Kent. Illinois is good but Oregon was never competitive – and given how they were billing this team before the season started, that’s a surprise. There doesn’t appear to be any on-court leadership, with Aaron Brooks still seeming to be searching to become a true point guard. Getting erratic play from some of the young kids – Bryce Taylor, Chamberlain Oguchi, Ray Schaefer – billed as having gotten a lot better.
Oregon State – Worse than a year ago as David Lucas is apparently harder to replace than everyone thought. It figured that Nick DeWitz would be able to fill Lucas’ shoes. Instead, DeWitz seems to be struggling with the added defensive attention that last season went to Lucas and no one else is picking up the slack. Losing to Portland can happen, given the nature of that game, but losing decisively was a surprise.
Stanford – Way worse than a year ago and the biggest disappointment in the conference, if not the country. There doesn’t appear to be much depth and none of the three seniors seems to be playing as well as expected. Hard to know exactly what blame falls on Trent Johnson, but he’s only in his second year and has a stellar recruiting class coming in next season.
UCLA – Better than a year ago and suddenly looming as the chic pick – along with Washington – to win the conference. The Bruins have been somewhat erratic but a lot of that is due to injuries. People who watched them beat Nevada on Saturday were impressed with their athleticism and the fact that they seem to be buying in more to coach Ben Howland’s grind-it-out style. Jordan Farmar is finally getting healthy and playing so well that there is already talk he will leave after this season. As one person said watching Saturday’s game, “He could play as well as Luke Ridnour right now.”
USC – Better than a year ago if only because of the coaching stability. And their perimeter guys are good enough to carry them to a few upset wins, particularly at home.
Washington – Good, maybe better than people thought they’d be right now, but not better than a year ago. As one person said, “They’re not as dynamic as a year ago,” when Nate Robinson or Tre Simmons could just go off. But that could change as the new players continue to develop. And with their schedule, could easily be 14-0 before they next hit the road.
Washington State – About the same as a year ago, which in its own way is a victory since Dick Bennett has been telling everyone that the third year of a rebuilding process is the toughest and that he expected a dropoff this season. Instead, some of the new guys appear to be players and the returnees are another year better at running Bennett’s system. Anytime they can keep the game in the low 60s they are a threat to win, particularly at home. If they get to the Pac-10 season at 7-2, a postseason bid of some sort is a real possibility.
Moving on up
The Huskies moved up to 10th in coaches’ poll and 11th in the AP poll.
UW update
The Huskies are off today and will have as light a schedule as possible this week with players taking finals.

Comments | Topics: UCLA

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