The Pac-10 regular season has come to its conclusion and has a new conference champion. A sweep of the Oregon schools allowed the Arizona Wildcats to take home their first Pac-10 title in six years and will enter the conference tournament as the top seed.
A late charge from UCLA made it a close race at the end, but the Bruins lost to Washington last Thursday and ultimately allowed UA to win the title. Here is how I would rank the entire conference based on its overall performance this season.
The Wildcats rebounded from a tough road trip to Los Angeles the previous week by defeating both Oregon and Oregon State in Tucson this past week. The result was UA's first regular season conference title since 2004-05 and the number one seed in the Pac-10 tournament.
In only his second year on the bench for Arizona, Sean Miller has beaten the odds. Not many thought he had what it took (in terms of talent and what he inherited) to bring the Wildcats back to the level they are at in such a short time, but Miller has been able to piece together a very strong team in a relatively short amount of time.
The Bruins had a shot at shot at a conference title, but a loss to the Huskies last week prevented that from occurring. UCLA had an up-and-down first half of the season, but put everything together late and had a legitimate chance at stealing away first place late in the season.
UCLA has a very good chance at winning the Pac-10 tournament. Not only does it boast some of the top talent in the league, but playing in the nearby Staples Center gives the Bruins a home-court advantage over any team they face with the exception of possibly USC.
Many thought the Huskies would win the Pac-10 championship and that looked to be the case half way through the conference schedule. Unfortunately, UW began to struggle right around the time both Arizona and UCLA started to elevate their games and Washington ended up in third place.
UW remains a dangerous team heading in to the Pac-10 tournament. The talent is there and if the Huskies can catch fire next week, they have as good of a shot as anyone to win the conference tournament.
The Trojans were a surprise down the stretch, winning five of their last seven games and looking like a dangerous squad heading into the Pac-10 tournament. USC wasn't the most consistent squad this season, but with Nikola Vucevic and the rest of the team playing very well right now, the Trojans are not a group to sleep on.
The Golden Bears have some momentum heading into this week's tournament as they reeled off four consecutive victories to end the regular season. Cal's inconsistency kept it from hanging in the race for much of the season, but has shown the ability to hang with some of the better teams in the conference. If the Bears can keep games close in the Pac-10 tournament, they certainly can make a decent run and cause some contenders to sweat.
6. Washington State
The Pac-10's most disappointing squad heads into the conference tournament with a 5-6 record over its final six regular season games. The Cougars have the top scorer in the conference in Klay Thompson, a talented big man in DeAngelo Casto and a serviceable supporting cast around them, but Wazzu's inability to put it all together at any point since the beginning of conference play makes it hard to believe that it can run the table in the conference tournament. It wouldn't be surprising to see the Cougars win a game or two games this week, but winning the tournament would be a shocker.
The Cardinal sputtered down the stretch and finished the Pac-10 schedule with a 7-11 record. Not much was expected of Stanford this year, but it appeared to be a much more competitive squad earlier in the campaign than anyone expected. Unfortunately, the Cardinal came back to reality down the stretch, losing five out of its last six in conference play.
The Ducks looked to be on the rise just a couple of weeks ago, but they ended up losing their last four games and finishing up tied for seventh place. Oregon still had a slightly better season than most anticipated, but the struggles at the end of the season prove that the program is stay a ways away in terms of competing for the conference championship.
9. Oregon State
There isn't much to talk about when it comes to the Beavers. Sophomore Jared Cunningham certainly has the attention of the rest of the conference, but the rest of the returning roster must step its game up if OSU wants to transform into a contender in the Pac-12 in the next year or two.
10. Arizona State
The Sun Devils finished the season on a high note by sweeping the Oregon schools at home, but the overall performance of this squad leaves little doubt that ASU was the worst team in the conference.
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