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Husky Men's Basketball

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

December 26, 2008 at 10:20 AM

Ranking the Pac

Been awhile since I’ve ranked the Pac-10, and for good reason — after six weeks of play, I’m still as confused as everyone else about how this is all going to shake out.
I still stand by UCLA at the top and Oregon State at the bottom. But most of the other eight teams have the looks of potentially finishing just about anywhere.
But with conference play now just a week way — there will be four conference games on Jan. 2 — time to again give it a shot.
1, UCLA — Haven’t always been as impressive as predicted, but seem to have hit a groove the last week as some of the freshmen appear to be getting more comfortable. This isn’t as good as UCLA teams of the past few years, but Darren Collison gives them something few other conference teams have — an experienced, senior point guard who can control games in the clutch. Free throw shooting (at 61.3 percent, behind even UW) could be a concern, however.
2, Arizona State — A couple of close shaves of late make you wonder if this team isn’t a bit overrated. On the other hand, Devils are 10-1 and have the best player in the conference in James Harden. And no team has a greater margin in the difference between its own shooting percentage — 49.3 — and the shooting percentage of its opponents —- 38.3. That indicates ASU is doing a lot right.
3, Arizona — Boy has this team been enigmatic, looking at times like the best team in the conference, and other times completely lost. But you can’t ignore that the Wildcats may have the two best wins in the Pac-10 — over Gonzaga and Kansas — some impressive stats —- the best shooting in the Pac-10 (50.4 percent), best assist-to-turnover ratio, second-best three-point shooting, fourth-best field goal percentage defense. This isn’t a deep team, so fouls will always be an issue. But on any given night, UA will be able to beat anyone.
4, USC — Trojans have been really erratic, and I may be ranking them higher here than they have played to date. But I still just look at their roster and think they will finish in the top half of the conference, and this team should only get better as the young talent begins to fit in with the vets.
5 (tie) — Washington, Washington State — Okay, so I’m wimping out on the two local teams. But can you tell them apart right now (other than the obvious stylistic differences?) From here, if the Pac-10 really gets five NCAA bids this year, the Cougars and Huskies look like the two teams that will battling for that last spot, putting that much more import on their two head-to-head meetings — the first of which is eight days away in Pullman. UW is playing better of late. Still, to me there is one real glaring deficiency — a 30.9 shooting percentage from three-point range, a distant last in the Pac-10. Teams are going to zone the Huskies and against better competition, UW is going to have to make some shots and won’t be able to get away with superior athleticism, as they have at times of late. As for the Cougars, it was to be expected they would drop off a bit this year, and after it looked early like they might not drop as much as some thought, a few more recent losses have showed some holes. Cougars really need Taylor Rochestie to give them more steady play.
7, Cal — If there was a team I thought about moving ahead of UW and WSU it’s the Bears, who have a lot to like — Mike Montgomery is an upgrade at coach and the trio of Jerome Randle, Patrick Christopher and Theo Robertson is healthy and playing a lot better than a year ago. Particularly Randle, who is second in the conference in scoring and shooting 60 percent on threes. Cal’s blowout of UNLV also looks a little better after what the Rebels did to Arizona. It won’t surprise me if the Bears finish higher, but for now, their lack of depth, particularly up front, leads me to still be a little skeptical.
8, Stanford — Cardinal is the only unbeaten team in the conference at 8-0 but hasn’t played anyone — other than Northwestern, the other seven teams Stanford has beaten are ranked 139 or lower in the RPI. Northwestern, which Stanford beat at home 65-59, is 32nd. Still, the record can’t completely be ignored — Cardinal seems to be adjusting just fine to Johnny Dawkins and his more up-tempo style of play, and former Santa Clara coach Dick Davey, now an assistant at Stanford, is surely helping quite a bit in that regard. But this looks like a team whose bubble will burst come Pac-10 play.
9, Oregon — Ducks are 5-6 and have losses to teams like Oakland and San Diego (which is not as good as advertised) at home. Still, wins over Alabama and Kansas State indicate that there is talent here — just young and undeveloped at the moment. Oregon will be dangerous at home and maybe a top five team again next year. But this looks like a rebuilding season in Eugene.
10, Oregon State —- Beavers are getting better, as evidenced by wins in four of their last five games, including victories over Nebraska at home and at Fresno State. The Nebraska win was OSU’s first over a BCS conference team since beating Washington at home late in the 2006-07 season. It will be no surprise here if the Beavers win three or four Pac-10 games this season — and those could be critical for whoever loses them. But hard to see them making a move out of the cellar.

Comments | Topics: UCLA

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