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Husky Men's Basketball

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May 1, 2012 at 2:05 PM

Pac-12 preview Part I: Oregon overhyped

Admittedly it’s way too early for predictions, but rosters aren’t going to change too much over the next six months before the start of the season in November.
Most of the big-name recruits are signed. Most underclassmen have declared if they’re going to transfer or opt for the NBA draft. Any upheaval among coaches and their staffs is unlikely at this point.
There’s always the chance of a school picking up a late recruit or an incoming freshman not gaining a qualifying score on an entrance exam or players getting injured.
However, the only real uncertainty in the late spring and summer is whether players and teams use the offseason to improve, stay pat or regress.
We won’t know those answers until the start of the season. Until then, let’s mull over yet another preseason Pac-12 ranking. I’ll break this up in three segments starting with the bottom four and working our way to the top.
Drum roll please …

9. OREGON: If the Ducks land five-star prospect Anthony Bennett, then he’s good enough to make them a title contender. Until then junior forward E.J. Singler is the only sure thing who returns from a roster decimated with the loss of five seniors, three starters and three of its top four scorers. Junior center Tony Woods is the only other returning starter and he played in every game. Reserve junior Carlos Emory also never missed a game and he may slide into the starting lineup. Sophomore guard Johnathan Loyd was one of the first recruits to commit to coach Dana Altman in 2010 when he was hired. However, the 5-8 Loyd appears better suited as a backup. For the second straight year, the Ducks hope to reap immediate gains from a touted guard prospect. Last season Jabari Brown flamed out and transferred. Next season, Oregon will likely give incoming freshman Dominic Artis the keys to the offense. Newcomer Ben Carter, a 6-8 forward and three-star recruit, could also provide help. Still much of the Ducks’ success will depend on Singler’s ascension as one of the top players in the conference. He’s got the potential to be really good, but he’ll have to be great to carry Oregon back to the postseason. The Ducks have garnered early preseason love from national pundits as a Pac-12 favorite, which speaks to Altman’s coaching ability. He took a team of castoffs and transfers and finished tied for second in the conference with a 13-5 record. Oregon was 24-10 overall and advanced to the third round of the NIT before losing to Washington.
10. USC: Senior point guard Jio Fontan (knee), sophomore forward Curtis Washington (labrum), forward Aaron Fuller (labrum) sophomore forward Evan Smith (shoulder) and sophomore forward Dewayne Dedmon (knee) should return from injuries that forced them to miss all or most of last season. Fontan, Smith, Fuller and Dedmon were projected starters and no one will be happier to see them return than 5-7 guard Maurice Jones who had to carry the team during a miserable 6-26 campaign, which was USC’s lowest winning percentage since 1918. The Trojans should improve because quite frankly they can’t get any worse. Aside from Jones, there weren’t many bright spots last season. Freshman guard Byron Wesley proved he could score and 7-1 junior center James Blasczyk was also solid. It will be interesting to see how coach Kevin O’Neill incorporates an incoming class that includes four transfers J.T. Terrell (Peninsula College/Wake Forest), Renaldo Woolridge (Tennessee), Ari Stewart (Wake Forest) and Eric Wise (UC Irvine), Serbian forward Strahinja Gavrilovic and Brendyn Taylor, a guard from Fairfax High in Los Angeles. O’Neill guided USC to a NCAA tourney in 2011, but needs to turn things around quickly because history says he won’t be around much longer. The 55-year-old coach enters his fourth season next year with the Trojans. He’s coached at five different schools and his longest tenure is a five-year stint at Marquette.
11. UTAH: Second-year coach Larry Krystkowiak flipped the roster and it’s going to take time for the Utes to learn how to play with each other. It’s a major indoctrination for Utah, which has five incoming freshmen led by 6-6 forward Jordan Loveridge. The Utes have three remaining scholarships and could bring in eight newcomers. They’ll join the three scholarship players on the roster who sat out last year due to NCAA transfer rules and injury. Former Seattle-area standouts Aaron Dotson (LSU) and Glen Dean (Eastern Washington) are expected to start alongside senior 7-foot center David Foster, who redshirted last season after breaking his foot. That leaves just two scholarship returners in 6-10 junior center Jason Washburn and 6-4 junior wing Cedric Martin. Both started on a team that finished 6-25 and 11th in the Pac-12 at 3-15. After the season, six players (Chris Hines, Dijon Farr, Anthony Odunsi, Kareem Storey, George Matthews and Javon Dawson) were granted their release and senior Josh Watkins was kicked off the team. That’s a tremendous amount of turnover. Utah will have a veteran starting five, but the reserves will be young and inexperienced.
12. ARIZONA STATE: In six seasons, coach Herb Sendek has a 98-96 record, leading the Sun Devils to one NCAA Tournament (2009) and two NIT appearances (2008, 2010). His job appears safe and the school extended his contract two years to 2016. Still, ASU has suffered two straight losing seasons and the trend will likely continue due to the number of defections. The latest is junior star guard Trent Lockett. He’s the fourth player to leave the program this year joining Kyle Cain, Chanse Creekmur and Keala King, who was dismissed during the season. Twelve players have left ASU in the past four years. The Sun Devils signed 14 players from 2008-10. Only junior center Ruslan Pateev, junior guard Carrick Felix and sophomore center Jordan Bachynski remain. Felix, Bachynski and freshman forward Jonathan Gilling are the returning starters. Bachynski and Gilling have all-conference ability while Felix is a serviceable utility man. The best player on the team is likely freshman point guard Jahii Carson, who sat out last season due to academic issues. It remains to be seen if transfer guards Evan Gordan (Liberty) and Bo Barnes (Hawaii) will be able to provide an immediate lift. The Sun Devils also signed three in-state recruits. However, none are considered among the top 100 prospects in the nations, according to the major recruiting services.

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