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Husky Men's Basketball

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October 28, 2009 at 5:12 AM

My Pac-10 predictions: 1-2

Here’s a recap from earlier in the week: 3. UCLA, 4. Oregon State, 5. Oregon, 6. Arizona, 7. Washington State, 8. USC, 9. Arizona State, 10. Stanford.

Before Washington won the Pac-10 title last season, UCLA won three in a row. I’m not predicting a three-peat for the Huskies, but this season’s champs will be …

1. Washington:
The Huskies may not be the best team in the Pac-10 title on paper, heck they may not be able to beat California again this season, but coach Lorenzo Romar has built an unorthodox team that should win enough games to claim a second straight conference championship. There’s so much to like about Cal, however, the Bears are reliant on the three-pointer and prone to scoring droughts and losing streaks. And Cal doesn’t play defense. At least not like the Huskies, which was near the top of the Pac-10 in three-point defense (second), defensive field goal percentage (fourth), steals (third) and rebounding margin (first).
UW also led the conference in scoring and free throw attempts. Isaiah Thomas should keep the Huskies at the top of both categories again this season with dribble drives and acrobatic baskets. Still, the Pac-10 Freshman of the Year in ’08-09 will need to improve last season’s 68.6 percent free throw shooting, which was 22nd among conference guards. Quincy Pondexter, however, is the key to the season. He had six of his highest scoring games last season after Feb. 1, which suggests he played better in the big games. Romar should be able to coax enough production from a quartet of undersized big men to replace Jon Brockman, UW’s all-time leading rebounder and second leading scorer. And heralded freshman Abdul Gaddy figures to start, but it will be interesting to see if Romar allows the 17-year-old pass-first-point guard to finish games or put the ball in the hands of defensive stalwart Venoy Overton whose 0.9 assists/turnover ratio ranked 27th among Pac-10 guards last season.
2. California: The Bears are good. There’s no denying that. In fact many college basketball analysts believe second-year coach Mike Montgomery has assembled a Final Four contender in Berkeley, Calif. (Notice very few people say that about UW.) But here’s the thing about Cal, it may advance deep into a tournament as arduous as the NCAA tourney, but the Bears haven’t shown the toughness and consistency to win each week in the Pac-10. And it’s going to take at least 14 victories to win the title. No team has had fewer than 14 in the past 16 years.
In many ways, Cal is Washington’s mirror image. It has three all-conference caliber guards in Jerome Randle, the conference’s leading returning scorer, Patrick Christopher and Jorge Gutierrez. The only difference, Cal’s backcourt are deadly three-point marksmen. And the Bears have a scrappy undersized frontcourt. The only difference, Cal is led by a pair of senior forwards in Theo Robertson and Jamal Boykin rather than one. And the Bears also have a talented newcomer. The only difference, he’s 7-3 center Max Zhang. There’s just one freshman and four returning starters for a team that tied for third with Arizona State last season in the conference. Cal is loaded, perhaps more than any team in the Pac-10. There’s no denying that. Still, it’s hard to ignore how the Bears finished last season. While battling for the conference crown, they lost three of their last four regular-season conference games. They also lost five of their last five of their last seven games.
In the final minutes of big games, Cal is looking for Randle and Christopher, the star of last season’s 88-85 3OT thrilling win over the Huskies, to hit clutch three-pointers while UW’s Thomas or Pondexter are driving to the rim for a basket or a foul. I’ll play the percentages here and take Washington to win a few more games over the course of Pac-10 season.
—- Pondexter will be available to talk about the 2009-10 season in a live chat Wednesday from noon to 1 p.m. on
— And we’re hosting our first Husky men’s basketball live chat of the season Friday at noon from Los Angeles. I’ll be in LA for Thursday’s media day so chime in with questions and comments. More details to come.
— Here’s our story on Tyreese Breshers.
— The Pac-10 released its men’s basketball TV schedule.
—- Not sure why, but this story fascinates me. I’ve been linking to stories about the Knight Commissions report on big-time college athletics and the San Francisco Chronicle has this report, which says Cal’s athletic department is running a $6M deficit this year.

Comments | Topics: Abdul Gaddy, UCLA


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