At the turn: a look at the league

Now that the Pac-10 regular season is half way done we have a pretty good idea about each team. That is not to say that a lot cannot happen over the next five weeks, but for the most part we know who is good and who is not.

Oregon The Ducks look like a legit team. Their lack of post players could hurt them in the NCAA's but it does not seem to hurt them in the league. Aaron Brooks is playing like the Pac-10 POY, while the return of Malik Hairston has really given them a boost. Right now Maarty Leunen may be the league's most unsung player.
Projection: Don't expect the Ducks to slack off too much. It would be a shock if they are not a factor for the league title. All but a tournament lock.

UCLA Despite the loss to Stanford this is the Pac-10's best team. They don't have traditional size up front but make up for it with athleticism and tenacity. Arron Afflalo is as good a player as there in the league and very clutch. In fact the entire Bruin team seems to make big plays when they need to. Their offense is not as consistent as some in the league, but they always seem to make the big basket when they need it.
Projection: Still the favorite in my eyes. Can be had, but not by many.

Washington State The Cougars are legit, but could their lack of overall talent come back to get them in the second half? Kyle Weaver and Derrick Low really lead this team but they are getting nice contributions from Daven Harmeling, Ivory Clark and Robbie Cowgill. Their defensive effort and toughness have made them what they are.
Projection: The Cougars will still win their share of games, but the second time through the league should have teams having a better feel for what they like to do. I'd expect them to come back down to earth a bit.

Stanford The win over UCLA was a nice way to close out the first half of league play. Getting both Lopez twins healthy and productive has been huge in their improvement, although it is the play of Lawrence Hill that has been the key. I still wonder if the Cardinal are athletic enough on the wing, but everything else is clicking.
Projection: I don't see the Cardinal slipping, but I don't see them rising up too much either. Trent Johnson has them a year ahead of schedule but finishing 4-6 seems to be about right.

USC Obviously the Trojans are a better team with Gabriel Pruitt in the line-up. They have great scorers and some legitimate inside players. Tim Floyd has them playing tough defense and a fairly disciplined style. Nick Young is having an outstanding season.
Projection:While I see the Trojans remaining fairly consistent, they could really go either way. They are talented enough to make a push, but are young enough to slip.

ArizonaMake no mistake, the Wildcats are scuffling. However, I truly believe they have the best starting five when rested and healthy. The problem is that they have next to no bench and that has been wearing on the top-five. Jordan Hill's improvement could be the boost they need.
Projection: I expect the Cats to be better, but how much? They won't factor for the league crown, but I think they can play the spoiler and finish in the top-four.

California Credit the Bears, they have played tough without DeVon Hardin. They have stayed right around .500 and could make a late run if he can come back and provide a spark. Ryan Anderson may be the league's best young guy and Ayinde Ubaka has been the glue for this team.
Projection:I'm not sure they'll get Hardin back in time or that he will be a big enough impact guy to propel the Bears to the Tourney. I think they will hover around .500 in league play and likely be invited to the NIT.

Washington No team has been more disappointing than the Huskies. They have so much talent, but little experience and need a true leader. There is no Nate Robinson or Brandon Roy to rally the troops. Spencer Hawes and Jon Brockman have been terrific, but the rest of the line-up has been juggled quite a bit by Lorenzo Romar.
Projection: The Huskies will be better but is it too late? Five of the last nine Pac-10 games are at home, but it may be the non-conference roadie at Pittsburgh that determines whether they get into the NCAA Tournament.

Oregon State The Beavers have been a tough out, but an out is what they usually are. They have lost four of their eight league games by 11 or less and have shown flashes. Marcel Jones has been a pleasant surprise for a team that could use a few more.
Projection: Expect the Beavers to keep playing hard and keep giving teams tough games, but I would not expect a ton of wins.

Arizona StateIt is not a huge surprise that the Sun Devils are winless in conference. It was clear at the start that they lacked overall talent. What is surprising is that they have actually played very well. Six of their nine losses have been by 11 points or less and they have done a great job playing to their strengths. Christian Polk has come back to earth a bit since the start of league play but he's been a very nice pick-up.
Projection: More of the same. The Sun Devils will play hard, play tough and not have a whole lot of W's to show for it.


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