Pac-10 Halfway point analysis

The Pac-10 has been wild and wacky so far this year, as we approach the second half of the Pac-10 season. Absolutely no game is a guarantee for any team, as demonstrated by Washington State this past Saturday. Here's a breakdown of the Pac-10, team by team.

ArizonaEveryone knows that Arizona has the potential to be an elite team in the country. What they are looking for now is a solid sense of consistency and focus. The Wildcats have been handed tough losses by Stanford and Washington State, and are trying to get back on their feet. If they want to win the Pac-10, they have to beat Washington in Washington—otherwise, they would need to clean the table on the rest of the Pac-10, which is doable, but very unlikely. Arizona has a chance at the Final Four. All it takes is for a team to start playing well at the right time, and that time is March.

Arizona StateEven though at the beginning of the year the Devils were projected to be last in the conference, their 4-5 record should be considered a disappointment. ASU entered the Pac-10 season with an 11-1 record, and expected to fair better than .500 against Pac-10 foes. However, the Devils still have a shot at anywhere up to third place, and will make a run for an NCAA tournament spot. When I saw ASU play the Wildcats in the first half, I was almost sure they were good enough to be third in the conference. With one of the best big men in the country in Ike Diogu, ASU still has a chance at a great season.

CaliforniaThe Golden Bears simply didn't plan to play this season without their sophomore star Leon Powe. However, after starting 1-5 in the Pac, they have run off a nice 3 game win streak, including a solid win at UCLA, to bring them to 4-5. Richard Midgley leads the way with 14.8 points per game. By now, Cal's focus has probably shifted to next season, as they do not have a single senior on their full roster.

OregonAfter starting the season 11-3, the Ducks were looking to make a serious push at an NCAA bid. Lately, though, Oregon has skidded to a ferocious halt, losing 4 straight games to Arizona, ASU, Cal, and Stanford, and now find themselves in a hole at 3-6. Like California, Oregon has no seniors on the squad, and their two most prominent players, Aaron Brooks and Malik Hairston are underclassmen. Hopes for the future are extremely bright.

Oregon StateSimilar to Oregon, the Beavers started the season strong with a 10-3 record and high hopes to make a run for March Madness. Also similar to Oregon, OSU has faltered recently, losing 6 of its last 7 games, after previously running off 6 wins in a row, and 8 of its previous 9. The Beavers find themselves, like Oregon, at 3-6 in the conference, and will require a 2004 Washington team type run if they hope to make something out of this season. Unfortunately for Oregon State, their lone star, David Lucas, will be graduating after this season. Former assistant coach of Lute Olson, Jay John, will have his hands full in the upcoming seasons.

Stanford—Dan Grunfeld is by far and away the most improved player in the Pac-10. With the losses of Josh Childress and Matt Lottich, someone had to step up for the Cardinal, and that person was Grunfeld. Stanford performed as poorly in non-conference play as any Pac-10 team, faring only 6-4. In addition, they lost their first 3 games of the Pac-10 season. Hope was all but lost, when an outstanding win over Arizona sparked Stanford to what is now a 6 game win streak. At 6-3, Stanford has sole possession of third place in the Pac, and has the best chance at earning a third Pac-10 bid to the NCAA tournament. Matt Haryasz should also be noted as a solid contributor inside.

UCLA—UCLA has the bragging rights of having the most impressive win so far in the Pac, as they were down by 20+ points to Washington, but came back to win by 9. At that point, they were 3-1, and looking to cruise right into the all important third slot in the Pac-10. However, after losses to Arizona, Stanford, Cal, and a close call to last place USC, things are not looking so bright for UCLA. With a 5-4 record, coach Ben Howland will look to Dijon Thompson and their excellent freshman class (Jordan Farmar, Arron Afflalo) to carry the Bruins to an automatic bid.

USC—From the very beginning, it was evident that USC was going to have a tough season. From players leaving, to coaches fired, to losing Majerus, and now to sitting in dead last place in the Pac, this will be a year to forget for the Trojan program. Things do not look to be getting better for USC as they will lose seniors Rory O'Neil, Jeff McMillan, Gregg Guenther Jr., Errick Craven, and Derrick Craven. The Trojans will look to rebuild their program, starting next year.

Washington—For years now, it seems the east coast of college basketball has been looking for a team in the Pac-10 to overtake Arizona's absolute dominance. They are tired of seeing the same team be the favorite to win, and it appears now that Washington may be a program that has a chance to do so. Even after Arizona beat Washington at home last week, it does not take away the fact that UW beat the Cats three times last year, and are the current leaders of the Pac-10. The Huskies can beat you in a lot of ways—most of their players can hit the 3 ball, as well as penetrate. Last year, Washington was happy to make the tournament. This year, they are targeting a Pac-10 title and a Final Four appearance, which is within a reasonable realm of possibility.

Washington State—The Cougars are having a mediocre season. Until last week's streak breaking win at Arizona, there had been no real surprises. They sit at 4-5 at the halfway point, but Thomas Kelati is really going to have to give this team a boost if they want to accomplish anything special. It is safe to say he won't be as hot a shooter as he was against Arizona. A bright spot is that of progress; earlier this year, the Cougars lost to the Oklahoma State Cowboys by a whopping total of 81-29. Who would have thought that this would be the year they would break the losing streak against Arizona?

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