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October 27, 2009 at 5:22 AM

My Pac-10 predictions: 3-6

Got to confess when counting down the Pac-10, this group is the most difficult to predict because the conference appears to be in flux. The traditional powerhouses look to be sliding down while other teams appear on the rise.
But before we get to 3-6, let’s recap. Here’s the start to my preseason predictions: 7. Washington State, 8. USC, 9. Arizona State, 10. Stanford.
3. UCLA: It’s the respect for a program and its coach Ben Howland, which pushes the Bruins to such a high spot in this preseason ranking. Because on paper, UCLA is a mess. The Bruins lost four starters and the lone returning starter 6-9 F Nikola Dragovic is more of a three-point threat than a low-post scorer. And the Bruins have been hit hard in the preseason by injuries. Still, UCLA should remain competitive because Howland knows how to recruit for his system and he’s brought in a five-star class. Sophomore G Malcolm Lee didn’t make much of a impression last season and yet he’s being tabbed for preseason all-conference honors.
4. Oregon State: The Beavers, which finished eighth in the conference last season, are everybody’s trendy pick to make a push for the conference crown. No Pac-10 team had a better finish last season than Oregon State, which posted a 5-1 record in the College Basketball Invitational to win the tournament. The Beavers lost just one player in the rotation (Rickey Claitt) and 6-11 C/F Roeland Schaftenaar might be the best big man in the conference. Throw in G Calvin Haynes, a reserve who led OSU in scoring, the senior Tarver brothers (Seth and Josh) and a highly-touted recruiting class and second-year coach Craig Robinson looks as if he’s turned things around in Corvallis, Ore.
5. Oregon: The Ducks have the talent to make a worst-to-first leap and they should be motivated because they’ll likely have to advance to the NCAA tournament to save Ernie Kent’s job. Every starter returns including C Michael Dunigan and if not for Washington and Cal, Oregon trio of Tajuan Porter, LeKendric Longmire and Garrett Sim would be considered the best backcourt on the west coast. If Oregon falters early, then new associate head coach Mike Dunlap will probably take over before conference play begins.
6. Arizona: New coach Sean Miller might have salvaged the season in the offseason when he convinced Nic Wise to return for his senior season. Miller also brought in five freshmen who are expected to play immediately, however, the early departures of Jordan Hill and Chase Budinger will make it difficult for the Wildcats to extend their streak of 26 consecutive NCAA tournament appearance. Keep an eye on the other returners Kyle Fogg and Jamelle Horne.
The gives its first Pac-10 preseason report.
Ryan Fagen at caught up with Cal’s Jerome Randle in this Q&A.
Los Angeles Times reporter David Wharton writes about The Knight Commission, which surveyed college presidents and identitied the rising cost of sports programs is the No. 1 concern.
— In case you missed it, the LA Times also filed this report after USC’s intrasquad scrimmage Sunday.

Comments | Topics: UCLA


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