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October 25, 2010 at 12:36 PM

Pac-10 predictions

Today is the deadline for media who cover the Pac-10 conference to submit preseason predictions. This is what I e-mailed the league office over the weekend.
2010-11 Pac-10 race
1. Washington
2. Arizona
4. Arizona State
5. Washington State
6. USC
7. Stanford
8. California
9. Oregon State
10. Oregon
The league didn’t ask for an explanation, but here’s my thinking on the picks.

Washington – This is probably the most complete Huskies team since the 2005-06 season. Despite losing leading scorer Quincy Pondexter, the defending Pac-10 Tournament champions might be better than they were last year. UW has the ability to put many different lineups on the floor depending on the matchup and no team in the conference appears to have as much depth as the Huskies. The major questions: Will a thin front line hold up all season and can Isaiah Thomas carry Washington past the Sweet 16?
Arizona – I was tempted to put the Wildcats at No. 1 because they have arguably the best player in the league with F Derrick Williams and one of the league’s top freshmen in G Daniel Bejarano. Arizona is similar to Washington because the Cats have a deep, athletic roster. The only reason the Huskies gets the nod is because they appear to have a better backcourt. Momo Jones is a first-year starter at point guard and he was a little shaky at times last season. Newcomers Jesse Perry and Jordin Mayes have made strong early impressions and some ‘Zona fans are dreaming of a long postseason run after missing the NCAA tournament last season.
UCLA – Don’t be surprised if the Bruins win the conference crown although they’re probably a year away from returning to glory after falling down hard last season. Still I’m expecting a big rebound after a 14-18 record. They’ve got more talent (Reeves Nelson, Tyler Honeycutt and freshmen Josh Smith and Tyler Lamb) than most teams. Coach Ben Howland has raved about Malcolm Lee’s leadership, but not sure if he’s the answer at point guard.
ARIZONA STATE – It’s a little strange why the Sun Devils aren’t getting more preseason attention. I get it. They’re not exciting enough for most fans. Still, coach Herb Sendek has built a solid program and last year’s conference runner-up is probably adding more firepower in the freshman class highlighted by G Keala King then they’re losing in three departed seniors. ASU has four solid players (Ty Abbott, Jamelle McMillan, Rihards Kusiks and Trent Lockett) to build around. Plus Sendek, a defensive wizard, has a pair of 7-footers (Ruslan Pateev and Jordan Bachynski) to make ASU’s matchup zone even more terrorizing.
WASHINGTON STATE – It’s looking like the Cougars will finish in the top half of the conference and depending on how they perform in non-conference games, maybe they’ll get an invitation to the Big Dance. They have a Player of the Year candidate in Klay Thompson, a Defensive Player of the Year candidate in DeAngelo Casto and an all-conference candidate in Reggie Moore. But after those three, what’s next? Four players transferred and one key reserve graduated, which depletes the depth. Keep an eye on backup G Andre Winston.
USC – A sixth-place finish might be overestimating the Trojans’ potential. But they have a solid front court highlighted by Nikola Vucevic and Alex Stepheson. Everyone else is unproven at the Pac-10 level. USC will begin the season with just nine scholarship players and a new starting backcourt. That’s too much turnover to serious compete for a Pac-10 title. It remains to be seen if the Trojans have figured out an answer against teams that negate their size with a zone defense.
STANFORD – High-scoring Jeremy Green will offset the loss of Landry Fields, the conference’s top scorer last season. Stanford returns four starters, but there’s not much proven talent after Green. The Cardinal also return junior F Josh Owens who sat out last season with an undisclosed injury and it has a top-rated recruiting class. Still, Stanford doesn’t have a senior on the roster and it looks to be at least two years away from seriously competing for conference title.
CALIFORNIA – The Bears lost four starters, including the Pac-10 Player of the Year Jerome Randle and three reserves. They also lost 83 percent of their scoring. Their top returner G Jorge Gutierrez is a stud, but he’s a defensive stopper who doesn’t have a reliable jumper. The freshmen class received high marks from recruiting analysts, but coach Mike Montgomery will win the Coach of the Year award and major kudos if he gets Cal anywhere near title contention.
OREGON STATE – This season we’ll see if coach Craig Robinson has truly installed his system. If the trend continues, the Beavers will finish fifth after a sixth-place finish last season and seventh two years ago. That could be a tall order though. OSU lost G Seth Tarver and F/C Roeland Schaftenaar, which will force it to rely on senior G Calvin Haynes. G Jared Cunningham came on strong in the second half of the season. No one seems to know when or if sophomore G Roberto Nelson will be cleared by the NCAA.
OREGON – There figures to be plenty of empty seats this season when the Ducks open their new Matthew Knight Arena. The roster is depleted because of defections and transfers. G Malcolm Armstead is the best player and he also considered leaving. New coach Dana Altman is installing a new system, which means plenty of tough times ahead for Oregon.

Comments | Topics: Reggie Moore, UCLA


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