Pac-10 Hoops Notes

With the start of basketball practices happening at the end of this week, wanted to throw out a quick team-by-team preview of each Pac-10 squad. So who has improved the most in the off-season? Who was hit the hardest? And who has just reloaded? We have the answers to those questions, and many more...

Last March, we all watched Arizona walk off the floor after a lousy performance against a mediocre Purdue team in the First Round of the NCAA Tournament. The Boilermakers were able to expose the Wildcats for what they had become the last couple of seasons - a team with little leadership, erratic guard play and a defense that even the French would find appalling. Questions began to pop-up in newspapers and message boards about whether the game had passed Lute Olson by.

The loss of leading scorer Marcus Williams, floor general Mustafa Shakur, and the major inside presence of Ivan Radenvic, presented Arizona with the task of once again rebuilding. Arizona's aggressive recruiting allowed them to reload, rather than rebuild, and they should be player in the Pac-10 this upcoming season.

A healthy senior year for oft-injured Jawann McClellan will help with team leadership. Losing so many players early for the NBA year-in and year-out has left the Cats young and looking younger. Establishing leadership this off-season has been crucial for the crew from Tucson. Chase Budinger's return will provide significant help on the offensive end of the floor. Jordan Hill looks to continue his development, and pose even more problems for opponents on the inside. Throw in freshman Jerryd Bayless and Jamelle Horne to the mix, and offensively the Wildcats look to be okay.

The addition of Assistant Coach Kevin O'Neill cannot go unnoticed. The defensive-savvy coach looks to bring that other side of the ball back into the hoops language spoken in the desert. Offense has never been a problem for Arizona and the addition of defense will make the Cats' very dangerous this year and for many years to come.
The foundation of 'Herb Sendek' basketball was laid last season down in the Valley of the Sun, and this season the Sun Devils look to build upon a revitalized basketball program. When you take into account that they lost their two leading scorers right before their season two years ago, the results are inspiring. Last season's team that posted a record of 8-22 and 2-16, showed a lot of growth as the season progressed. The men from Tempe were not to be taken lightly down the stretch of last year's season. A frustrating zone defense replaced the man-to-man defense that had become a staple of previous Sendek teams.

A Top-20 recruiting class joins the team this season, highlighted by McDonalds All-American James Harden and Duke Transfer Eric Boateng. Boateng - who plays center - is also a former McDonalds All-American. Power forward Jeff Pendergraph and Boateng look to make the State frontline a very lethal opponent.

The continued growth and development of the Sun Devil program behind Coach Sendek will undoubtedly awake this sleeping giant in Arizona State. While a tournament berth may be a stretch, finishing .500 is a realistic goal for the Sun Devils.
For a lot of teams, finishing 16-17 overall and 6-12 in the Pac-10 would be disappointing at best, but when you end the season with a run into the semi-finals of the Pac-10 Tournament and knock of UCLA, you have to be optimistic about the future. That's exactly where California finds itself heading into the 2007-08 season. The Golden Bears look to avoid the injury bug this season after last years injuries crippled their depth, optimism, and goals. The injuries left them without Jordan Wilkes, Nikola Knezevic and DeVon Hardin. The biggest news of the off-season was Hardin declaring his intent to put his name in the NBA Draft, but deciding to return to Berkeley instead of staying in the draft. That alone will make the Bears a hopeful tournament team.

The departure of guard Omar Wilkes will leave them thin at the guard position. Finding somebody to get the ball into big men Hardin and Ryan Anderson is a must for Cal Head Coach Ben Braun. Throw in the addition of Duke transfer Jamal Boykin, and it may force Coach Braun to deviate from his run and gun style to a more methodical offense that utilizes the strength of the Bears' inside tandem.

This is a big year for Braun's program. His Cal teams have been inconsistent, mediocre and have looked extremely unprepared at times. His seat could get very warm if the Bears struggle out of the gate, or do not make an appearance in the NCAA Tournament.
Coming off of an impressive run to the Elite Eight, including an overall record of 29-8 and 11-7 in the Pac-10, the Ducks looks to build upon last season's success. Whether the roller coaster known as 'Ernie Kent basketball' has another high in it or a big drop back down to the ground floor is yet to be seen.

The off-season brought the departure of junior guard Chamberlain Oguchi to Illinois State, and the addition of junior guard - and Florence, Ore. native - Ben Voogd. The LSU transfer will have two years of eligibility left after sitting out next season. Marty Leunen and Bryce Taylor had a busy, highly-competitive off-season. Both were elected to the USA Pan American team after trying out with elite players from around the country. Senior center Ray Schafer also traveled with Athletes in Action for a round of games down in Australia.

The Ducks looks to be paper thin in the depth department and how they overcome that will be the big question heading into the season. Sophomore guard Tajuan Porter's ability to take the reigns at the point guard position will be the Ducks' achilles' heel. Battling for a tournament berth and a spot in the upper half of the Pac-10 is a realistic goal, while reaching the Elite 8 again is asking a lot.
The never-ending rebuilding program known as Oregon State basketball continues down in Corvallis. Another season of lackluster basketball and a record of 11-21 and 3-15 in the Pac-10 from last year marked another disappointing season in the Jay John era. Sadly, the outlook for the upcoming season is a lot more of the same for the Beavers.

Addition by subtraction will be the battle cry for a severely-undermanned Beaver team devoid of talent. Any time six players (Sasa Cuic, Angelo Tsagarakis, Liam Hughes, Wesley Washington, Vojin Svilar and Jack McGillis) decide to leave your team will be hurt, regardless of how invaluable some of them may have been.

The only bright spot for the Black Bandits of Benton County is the addition of Kansas transfer and Seattle native CJ Giles. Finding a supporting cast to build around the former Rainier Beach product will be difficult. The job of finding quality talent to fill the OSU roster may not be up to Jay John for much longer.
The Stanford Cardinal, coming off of an 18-13 season that included an 10-8 Pac-10 record and a devastating, uninspired First Round NCAA loss to Louisville - headed to Italy for an 11-day tour that included seven games. The trip included some blowout victories and some nail-biting defeats.

The Cardinal's shift to a two-guard offense began to take place in the 10 days of practice leading up to the tour of Italy. The transition from one guard bringing up the ball was something that Stanford Head Coach Trent Johnson decided to install this past off-season, and Italy ended up providing the testing ground for the new offense.

Stanford started out strong, with two lopsided victories by the scores of 103-52 and 99-44. Anthony Goods and Landry Fields were the primary floor-leaders and key backcourt contributors behind the Cardinal's dominating wins. As the games continued, the competition began to steadily improve as the crowds grew. Former Division-1 players were sprinkled throughout the opposition's lineups, and the gang from Palo Alto found themselves losing three of the next five games. Brook Lopez played solid defense and Drew Shiller added a gaggle of assists throughout the trip.

Lopez's strong inside presence, complimented by a developing long-range jumper, were also on display during the European Tour. Improvement in the off-season makes this highly-talented sophomore a logical choice for Pre-season All-Pac-10. Stanford was without seniors Taj Finger and Fred Washington, who sat out the trip due to injuries. The addition of transfer Shiller, a true point guard and 3-point specialist from the University of San Francisco, should add depth to the Cardinal's backcourt. The point guard's scholarship opportunity opened up when guard Tim Morris transferred to the University of Washington.

This young team should once again battle for a NCAA berth and look to finish in the upper half of the Pac-10.
An impressive run to the Sweet 16 capped off an outstanding (25-12 and 11-7) season for the USC Trojans. Tim Floyd showed once again how he can win anywhere besides Chicago. The addition of highly-regarded guard OJ Mayo and fellow freshmen Davon Jefferson, Mamadou Diarra, James Dunleavy, Angelo Johnson and Marcus Simmons will put high expectations on the men from Troy. The departure of juniors Nick Young and Gabe Pruitt to the NBA will hurt the Trojans without a doubt. Replacing 30 points a game in scoring will be tough.

The team made an abbreviated trip down to Mexico, and it gave them a chance to have their new guards (Simmons and Mayo) get acquainted with their new teammates. Daniel Hackett was elected to play for the Italian National Team and spent a considerable amount of time playing with them over the summer. Daniel's continued development will help at the guard position.

How this touted, Top-15 recruiting class performs will be the key for the Trojans' success or demise in 2007-08. The expectations of this class and team are extremely high, and whether or not they can live up to the billing remains to be seen. With Tim Floyd at the helm, you have to expect the Trojans to excel. Coach Floyd's ability to get the most out of his teams is unquestioned.
UCLA had another great run to the Final Four, which capped off a 30-6 overall and 15-3 Pac-10 season for the Pac-10 champions. Rather than rebuilding, the Bruins look poised to again make a run at a Pac-10 title and National Championship. With the core group back, this UCLA team has to be the odds-on favorite to repeat in the Conference of Champions.

Team leader and class act Arron Afflalo decided the time had come to bolt for the NBA, and forward Ryan Wright decided that the time had come to move on as well. Former McDonalds All-American James Keefe had to have shoulder surgery, and will likely be lost until Pac-10 play begins. Luc Richard Mbah a Moute represented his country (Cameroon) for five games. He was part of a silver medal winning team in Afrobasket play. The arrival of All-World Gatorade National Player of the Year Kevin Love will definitely add to an already stacked lineup.

There is no question that UCLA will be on everybody's NCAA Tournament bracket come March. The only question is how far they will actually go.
A season full of unrealized expectations and goals from start to finish left a bad taste in the mouth of the 19-13 (8-10 in Pac-10 play) Huskies. Many Huskies faithful are still in shock over being left out of the National Invitational Tournament. Moving on and refocusing is vital to the Huskies growth as a program under Washington Head Coach Lorenzo Romar.

The addition of Stanford transfer Tim Morris, freshman Venoy Overton and redshirt junior Joel Smith will help add depth to the guard position. The long-awaited arrival of sweet-shooting center Joe Wolfinger should add another big body to Romar's lineup. The loss of center Spencer Hawes to the NBA and Phil Nelson to Portland State will hurt the team. Hawes' departure will allow the Huskies to transform from a half-court offense back into the run-and-gun style of offense that has become 'Lorenzo Romar basketball' at Washington.

Junior Jon Brockman was invited to the Pan American trials and competed against the country's elite competition, falling short of making the squad. The team benefited from a trip to Greece that saw the Huskies fall in three out of five games. Regardless of wins or losses, the Huskies won in the fact that a young team was given 10 more practices and five more road games. Based on last year's performance on the road, every game helps.
The Cinderella story of the 2006-07 NCAA basketball season was without a doubt the run of the Washington State Cougars. The Cougars posted an incredible record of 26-8 (13-5 in the Pac-10) on their way to the second round of the NCAA men's basketball tournament. Whether or not the clock has struck midnight is the question, but it is hard to see how that could be possible when the only significant player departing is senior Ivory Clark. All of the whispers swirling around the possible departure of National Coach of the Year Tony Bennett proved to be nothing more than that - whispers.

Little-used Mac Hopson and Chris Matthews both transferred in search of more playing time. Junior Caleb Forrest looks to step in for the departing Clark. Redshirt forward Thomas Abercrombie looks to come in and add even more depth.

The Cougars got plenty of competition on a six-game trip through New Zealand. The Cougs finished the trip with a 4-2 record, with both losses of the nail-biting variety. Each game saw a different player step up. The added game experience and practice time will undoubtedly pay off on the court.

Highly-talented point guard Derrick Low and 2-guard Kyle Weaver were able to try out for the Pan American team, battling with the nation's elite. Both Cougars made the team. The veteran leadership that both bring to the table is invaluable to a team that is already tournament-tested. Building upon last season's second-round exit in the NCAA Tournament is a realistic and expected goal for the men from Pullman. Top Stories