The Pac-10 isn't looking to be very strong yet again, but there will be a marked improvement over last year and the conference as a whole will see a jump in the number of tournament teams this year.
How we see the conference standings shaking out:
*Washington-Simply put, UW is the only team in the league that is balanced and talented. An experienced and talented back court with Thomas, lockdown defender Overton, and Gaddy to go along with some talented bigs in Bryan-Amaning and N'Diaye make UW the league favorite. It'll be closer than we think, but UW has both the talent and experience to win the Pac-10 and make another good NCAA run. Junior guard Isaiah Thomas will make a run for Pac-10 Player of The Year.
*UCLA-Really the only team in the league outside of UW not facing a dearth of quality bigs. Led by Reeves Nelson, UCLA has a frontline capable of winning a league title and leading UCLA to a tournament bid. Howland's switch to an uptempo open court style will make future 1st round pick Tyler Honeycutt that much more lethal and should suit Malcolm Lee's style better and allow him to do more with the ball in his hand. Had UCLAs guard situation been a bit better, UCLA would be right up there with UW.
*Arizona-Unlike UCLA, Arizona's guard situation is quite attractive and there are some quite capable players in the backcourt, however Arizona's post is lacking and besides freshman sensation Derrick Williams, the Wildcats still don't have a proven guy who can play alongside Derrick Williams downlow and that's where teams like UCLA and UW will do the most damage. Derrick Williams will be the favorite for Pac-10 Player of The Year.
*Arizona State-ASU lost a good amount of experience from last years team and added 7 new guys, but don't be fooled. The players coming in will inject a large dose of athleticism to a team that relied on the outside shot to win its games. Not to say that Sendek will move completely away from his Princeton style 3 point barrage, but ASU wants to run and can with new guys like Carrick Felix, Keala King, and Brandon Dunson. With Kuksiks opting to come back and play at ASU, the Sun Devils will have a ton of good wings to work with and will have two upperclassman manning the guard position. Like Arizona however, ASU lacks quality proven bigs and will need Canadian big man Jordan Bachynski and second year center Ruslan Pateev to progress quickly and help relieve Kyle newcomer Kyle Cain.
*Washington State-With Klay Thompson and DeAngelo Casto back and ready to go, one would expect WSU to be a legitimate threat in the conference, which they are. However, Ken Bone's switch from Bennett's system to a more uptempo system may have been premature as WSU saw a good number of talented guys transfer midway through or at the end of last season and Wazzou will be hurting on the bench. Reggie Moore will lead the offensive attack coming off a season in which he averaged over 12 points and 4 assists per game as a freshman. WSU will need a couple of guys to contribute off the bench in order to make a run at their longtime rival for the conference crown. Junior Klay Thompson will make a run for the Pac-10 Player of The Year.
Pac-10 Preview: Part I
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