Man, what a blah Final Four.
Watching Florida and UCLA slog through that game Monday night only added to the disappointing feeling that the Huskies really blew a golden opportunity.
But while that’s certainly true, I think the tournament also should comfort UW fans with the knowledge that the difference among the top 20 or so teams in the country these days is thinner than ever. Just get yourself in that group of teams that’s consistently in the top 20-25 and an NCAA tournament run can come at any time.
And I think that’s right where the Huskies are now — a consistent top-20 program that can be expected at any time to make a long tournament run.
The national favorites heading into next season will likely be Florida and UCLA, assuming neither team has some mass departures of underclassmen to the NBA. But other than that, it will be a crapshoot (though I’d expect big things out of North Carolina as well), one that the Huskies can easily find themselves in come February and March if Spencer Hawes, Quincy Pondexter and the rest of the youngsters progress as well as everyone assumes they will.
Florida and UCLA each showed that youth — which will be Washington’s main question mark next season — is no impediment to making a long tournament run.
That said, here’s my early guess on the Pac-10 rankings heading into next season:
1. UCLA: Even if the Bruins lose a player or two — which I actually doubt now — they’ll be the favorite.
2. Cal: This is assuming Leon Powe returns, and I’d guess he doesn’t, so this could easily change. Cal will move to fifth or so in my book if Powe leaves. But until he says he’s gone, I’ll put Cal here.
3. Arizona: Sorry, but Chase Budinger looked really good in the McDonald’s game and if the rest of the underclassmen come back, this is a loaded team.
4. Washington: But the Huskies should have no problem getting into the NCAA tournament, which will be the most important thing for a young team that should be at its best come March.
5. USC: The team to watch with everyone back in Tim Floyd’s second year. Could challenge for best backcourt in the conference with Pruitt, Young, Stewart and Francis.
6. Oregon: Maybe the most interesting team in the Pac-10 with Ernie Kent’s job almost certainly depending on an NCAA tournament berth. Everyone apparently is coming back.
7. Stanford: The Lopez twins arrive, but something seems amiss on The Farm.
8. Washington State: I don’t think the loss of Akognon hurts that much, because he didn’t really fit, and everyone else should be a lot better. They may respond better this year to the lack of coaching uncertainty, as well.
9. Arizona State: Herb Sendek is an interesting choice, and if everyone returns there’s enough talent on hand to be dangerous.
10. Oregon State: Beavers lose most of their best players to graduation and this season seemed like a big step back as it was.
• Maybe the Huskies won’t be losing any of their assistants, after all. Here’s a story that says Portland is looking at three assistants for its head coaching job, none of whom are Cameron Dollar and Jim Shaw.
• Here’s another story about the Montana State job that Shaw pulled himself out of recently that also includes the news that Montana’s Larry Krystowiak could be a candidate at Pepperdine, where it was thought Dollar might be involved. It’s also still rumored that Gonzaga assistant Bill Grier is in the mix at Pepperdine.
Man, what a blah Final Four.
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