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January 8, 2007 at 9:13 AM

Ranking the Pac-10

Either on TV or in person, I was able to see all 10 Pac-10 teams in action over the last few days. What follows is my ranking of the teams, with a few thoughts culled from all those hours of viewing:
1, UCLA — I think Arizona’s starting five is more talented than UCLA’s, but the Bruins are deeper, which could make the difference in the long run. One thing I’m not sure gets appreciated enough about UCLA is what a blue-collar team it really is. These guys work hard.
2, Arizona — One scout told me over the weekend that all five of Arizona’s starters have legitimate NBA hopes. Arizona is hardly using its bench at all, however, which could prove costly down the road. The maturation of Mustafa Shakur is making a huge difference and Arizona just seems a more together team this season.
3, Washington State — The most amazing thing about WSU’s win over Arizona was that the Cougars didn’t really shoot it all that well. Leading scorer Derrick Low was 1-12 and WSU was 28-65 overall, so it’s not as if it was simply a case of the Cougars doing everything right. Almost as impressive was that they blew a seven-point lead in the last minute yet then showed the resilience to win in overtime. They look like they are for real.
4, USC — Another team that appears to be for real. USC is now 13-4, but the Trojans are a much better team now that Gabe Pruitt is fully back in the fold. If Lodrick Stewart keeps shooting the way he did Saturday (28 points) USC could stay in this thing all the way. One Oregon State player was quoted as saying the Trojans may be more talented than UCLA.
5, Oregon — Everyone always knew they had talent. Now all those players have matured, and the biggest difference to me seems to be how hard they are playing — diving on the floor for loose balls, etc. The chemistry just seems a lot better. Oregon’s game at Arizona Sunday night will tell a lot more.
6, Washington — No choice but to downgrade the Huskies a bit after the 0-3 start to the conference season. Still, if UW had beaten USC, which obviously was well within reach, the Huskies would probably be right about where everyone thought heading into the season. Huskies at least showed they could beat a team playing a zone Saturday, something they can probably expect to see more of in coming weeks as teams try to take away Spencer Hawes. Next three games, all on the road, will determine whether Huskies can stay in Pac-10 race.
7, Cal — Bears looked dead after the loss to injury of center DeVon Hardin, but rebounded by winning two of first three Pac-10 games, all on the road. Bears now have five of next seven at home. Loss of Hardin could be critical against UW this weekend, however.
8, Stanford — I had them here and then the Cardinal went and won at Virginia Sunday. Still, considering Stanford just lost at home to Cal, it’s hard to rank them higher than the Bears. But with the Lopez twins rounding into shape, this is a dangerous team, and with one last non-conference game against Gonzaga later this month, one that can still make a run at the NCAA Tournament.
9, Arizona State — Not a lot of talent on hand, but Herb Sendek has them playing hard and they will win a few games on effort alone.
10, Oregon State — Same can’t be said of the Beavers, who looked like a team that had quit in their loss to USC Saturday. That was the kind of game that makes you wonder about the future of Jay John, who in his fifth year, doesn’t appear to have the Beavers in any better shape than when he took over.

Comments | Topics: UCLA

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