Hype, Irony, and Reality

Sawatdee Khrab Huskies! Having just returned from my post-bar exam trip to Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam - and still awaiting Bar results - I have plenty of time for mindless and hedonistic pursuits including sitting in my living room in my boxers while watching bad 80's/90's movies (gotta love Iron Eagle), playing online poker, and considering but ultimately eschewing going to the gym.

I also have the time and inclination to write a 2007-2008 Pac-10 basketball season preview, so without further ado, as your resident Blue and Gold interloper, Batpig, I am going to give my best effort to tackle the difficult task of prognosticating the final standings of an absolutely loaded Pac-10, perhaps the toughest ever.

Hype – I am typically not one to buy into hype or to revel in it, but why not in this case? Thanks to our friends at "The World Wide Leader" and their penchant for…ummm, what's a nice word for "fellating-any-conference-east-of-the-Mississippi-River?" We have been hearing about the 'weak' Pac-10 for years. The Pac is consistently underrated and now finally getting its due, so it's time to soak this season in. Just think how brutal the Pac is going to be this season if it is so strong that even the pundits can't possibly deny that it's the best conference. This season is going to be fun and excruciating, so strap yourselves in this year boys, no one is safe, not even UCLA.

Irony – Since the theme of this preseason thus far is hype (well of any preseason really), it is only fitting that that the most-hyped player in the country is also joining the conference. Certainly Jerryd Bayless and even moreso, Kevin Love, are getting their fair share of press among the incoming frosh, but OJ Mayo and USC have definitely been #1 in the ESPN Pac-10 preseason hype power rankings. Certainly UCLA is getting its share of hype, but the Bruins have more than earned it and furthermore, does anyone really think they are going to have any trouble footing the bill? Washington State, Stanford, Oregon and Arizona are all definitely flying well above the radar as well, but no one is getting more air time than the Trojans.

The concerning aspect of those lofty expectations is how a failure to live up to expectations will reflect on the conference. They are something of a darling among many of the pundits, some of whom are even picking them in the preseason top 10; an excessively optimistic outlook. Suffice it to say that given USC's extensive personnel departures, they will probably finish between 5th and 7th in conference. Being that they bear the hype standard for the conference in no small part due to the OJ mayo effect, a bottom half finish would certainly be ironic, providing firepower to the naysayers to claim that the conference was overrated, when in reality it will be the strength of the Pac-10 that will have been the undoing of a talented, but very young USC squad.

Reality – the Pac-10 is the toughest conference in the nation. Several teams projected herein to finish in the bottom half are there not because they are bad teams, but because of process of elimination and match-ups there is simply nowhere else to put them. Expect one of the Washington - California - Arizona State trio will surprise and finish in the top-five, but if any among you can predict definitively which one it will be, move to Vegas and start a lucrative sports gambling career.

The line between success and failure in this year's Pac-10 is razor-thin and talent alone is not going to be nearly enough. Every roster in the conference except for Cal, Oregon State and Washington State has at least one former McDonalds All-American performer on it. The teams that are successful this season will be the ones that combine talent with an ability to execute their system, mask their deficiencies - if any - and play the kind of tough and opportunistic defense that is rapidly becoming a hallmark of the top teams in the conference (UCLA ‘06 and ‘07, UW ‘05 and ‘06, WSU ‘07, Montgomery's Stanford teams). For the most part, the teams at the bottom of the list are there not for a lack of potential, but rather because they are the teams who have the most potential holes and the lowest likelihood of masking them.

So without further ado, let's start counting down from worst to first…

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