Pac-10 Preview

In what has already been a dreadful season for the Pac-10 conference after multiple years of high end competition and elite individual efforts, 2010 will be a year of rebuilding and discovery for the most powerful West Coast conference.

Cal

To win a conference championship, the team must be steady in all facets of the game, and this Bears team comes pretty close to that.

Jerome Randle, Patrick Christopher, Theo Robertson, and Jamal Boykin are all great players that not only produce on the stat sheets, but are also veteran players who have played together for a few years and know what it takes to win.

In Randle and Robertson, their outside shooting is nearly unstoppable while Christopher is a great slasher who can score with the best of them . On top of all that is Boykin, the former Duke Blue Devil, who has stepped up his scoring to go along with his great physical inside presence that makes him a great rebounder. The leadership and experience make the Bears a favorite to take home the Pac-10 championship.

Washington

So far it's been a two-man show in Seattle with Quincy Pondexter and Isiahah Thomas leading the charge. The two veterans are combining to score nearly 40 PPG with Pondexter pouring in 21.9 PPG so far on his own.

Although they do most of the scoring, it doesn't start and stop with Pondexter and Thomas – the Huskies also have senior guard Venoy Overton, arguably the most annoying defender in all of college basketball and solid center Matthew Bryan-Amaning. Washington has the luxury of depth, something very few Pac-10 teams have. With the two stars leading the way, the Huskies are in good shape to go far in 2010 and are a lock to make the tournament.

Washington State

To win college basketball games, there are three things you must have: a go-to guy who can score in a bevy of ways, a big man who can finish, and a heady PG who doesn't make mistakes. The Cougars have all three of those.

After years of slowing down the pace under the Bennett family tutelage, new coach Ken Bone has the Cougs pushing the ball and seeing immediate results. Klay Thompson is an NBA type player with a plethora of skills. Big man DeAngelo Casto is a double-double waiting to happen and newcomer Reggie Moore has proved to be a stabilizing presence at PG.

Those three players to go along with a progressive new system under Bone, the Cougars have a chance to take the Pac-10 title this year.

USC

The Trojans have picked a good time to be really top heavy. With Dwight Lewis returning, Alex Stephenson in the mix, Mike Gerrity finally playing, and Nikola Vucevic breaking out – it's not hard to envision the relatively thin Trojan squad to make a postseason run.

After those four, there isn't a whole lot in the tank. Marcus Johnson and Leonard Washington are good ballplayers that help round out the rotation but they aren't winning games for Kevin O'Neill, the first year coach who has come to the rescue of a program in turmoil (See: OJ Mayo).

Lewis, the shooting guard, has seemingly been in college forever and is a streaky shooter. Stephenson is a UNC transfer that is instantly the best big man in the Pac-10. Gerrity is playing for his third program and is a savvy playmaker that rarely makes mistakes.

Vucevic and Washington are both good big men that can prove to be mismatches in a league that lacks interior players. The Trojans will be dangerous if they can remain healthy. Just ask Tennessee, the 9th ranked Vols left the Galen Center with a 22-point defeat.

ASU

With the Sun Devils, there is good news and there is bad news. Since we always want the bad news first, James Harden and Jeff Pendergraph are gone and so are their combined 36 PPG from last season.

While that stings, there is seriously some good news: the Devils return everyone else including point guard Derek Glasser, shooting guard Ty Abbott, small forward Rik Kuksiks, and rest of the gang. Also good news, the freshmen aren't half bad. Trent Lockett has been a real asset with his athleticism on the wing and forward Victor Rudd is still getting his feet wet after academically being cleared late but could be a real contributor as the season progresses.

The wild card is center Eric Boateng. Much like Danny Sullivan on the gridiron, Boateng has waited patiently for his chance to shine and while he has had some incredible games thus far, he has also disappeared a few times. If Boateng can make an impact down low on a regular basis – the Sun Devils can compete for the crown but if he can't be consistent – the Devils will struggle.

Arizona

It hasn't been a pretty start to the Sean Miller era but could you imagine if he hadn't taken this job? This team would be at the bottom of this list. Miller flip-flopped his decision and left Xavier for the beautiful Tucson desert with very little to work with.

Luckily for the Wildcats, the USC program was in turmoil in the preseason and Miller swooped in to grab Derrick Williams, Solomon Hill and Momo Jones after Tim Floyd was given his walking papers. With Williams, Hill, and Jones entering along with prized foreign big man, Kyryl Natyazhko – the Wildcats had some exciting youngsters to pair up with Senior point guard Nic Wise, the uber-talented floor general playing for his fourth coach in as many years.

This season has had its up and downs already with wins over NC State and Colorado but controversially escaping Lipscomb at home in OT before getting blown out of their own building with a 30-point loss to BYU has the Wildcats in true rebuilding mode. The streak of 26 straight tournament appearances is in serious jeopardy.

UCLA

Take a good look at the record as it stands today – 5-7. They are 12 games deep with seven losses. The mighty Bruins have lost to powers such as Cal State-Fullerton, Long Beach State, and the Pilots of Portland.

It's a weird year in Westwood indeed.

The team sorely lacks both confidence and leadership – two things that departing point guard Darren Collison possessed. UCLA also lacks the swagger and versatility that Jrue Holiday provided. While both players have moved on, it's not like the cupboard is bare.

The Bruins returned Malcolm Lee – a talented swing man that is still developing his raw abilities. Freshman Reeves Nelson has proved to be dominant in the post as his minutes have increased in light of the Drew Gordon transfer and the Nikola Dragovic arrest.

Speaking of Dragovic, the Bruins need more out of the veteran who has looked out of shape and passive in the opening month of the season. Overall, UCLA is still UCLA and could easily right the ship and shoot up the standings but as it stands now, this team has no identity and no leadership.

Oregon

It's said just about every season now, Ernie Kent better win or else. In what seems to becoming his M.O., Kent is building a young team that is learning in a trial by fire mode but is also learning together.

Relying heavily on freshmen and sophomores in 2009, the Ducks had a trying season thus far but 2010 could be very, very different if Michael Dunigan can harness his aggressive tendencies and channel that talent into positive results.

Dunigan was big-time get for Kent and early on this season has shown an ability to not only score and rebound at a high rate but also has stayed out of foul trouble; an issue that plagued his freshman campaign.

Also returning for Oregon are the diminutive scorer, Tajuan Porter and versatile point guard Garrett Sim.

As many pundits say; games are won in the paint, at Oregon - the backcourt is just as important. Porter is the one of the country's best pure scorers and if he can find his stroke consistently and stop his pouting, he will be a real force. The Ducks are talented without a doubt but their inexperience will continue to rear its ugly head more often than not. A year from now – they may be at the top of this list but right now, they still have work to do.

Stanford

Entering his second year, Johnny Dawkins is still being dealt a tough hand.

However, Landry Fields is an elite talent that can not only score in a variety of ways but can create for his teammates on both ends of the floor.

Losing Josh Owens to illness has really hurt the frontcourt presence. Sophomore guard Jeremy Green is poised to break out after a solid freshman season.

The Cardinal are still in rebuilding mode and seriously lack depth but with Fields and Green in the mix, this team is truly capable of beating any team in the conference this year on a given night. Unfortunately, in the long run, this team lacks the size and experience to challenge the upper echelon teams.

Oregon State

In his first year, the First Brother In Law, Craig Robinson, led Oregon State to the CBI (That's the tournament after the NIT) Championship and a world of promise heading toward the future. However, that future came crumbling down with losses to NCAA doormats Texas A&M-Corpus Christi and Sacramento State.

With a solid nucleus of Seth Tarver, Calvin Haynes and Roeland Schaftenaar returning, the Beavers had what a lot of Pac-10 teams didn't: veteran talent and leadership. Unfortunately, the team has stumbled out of the blocks and highly touted freshman Roberto Nelson has yet to be cleared to play. All in all, the Beavers have a beacon of hope with an exciting young coach and talented players coming in but the time to shine is still a year or two away.


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