Top Pac-10 Backcourts

With basketball looming on the horizon, it's time to take a look at where things stand with a very strong group of players departing and true freshmen and transfers taking their place. When looking at guard play, it's easy to look UCLA's way.

1) UCLA. Not only the finest back court in the Pac-10, but quite possibly the best in the country. Darren Collison, disappointing final four not withstanding, is as dangerous a guard as there is in the conference. Freshmen Jrue Holiday will possibly be the most complete player in the country the day he steps on the floor. Josh Shipp hopes to regain his form after a disappointing 2007-08 season and will be pushed by two sensational freshmen guards; Malcolm Lee and Jerime Anderson. Assuming he is healthy, sharpshooter Mike Roll will provide long range firepower off the bench.

2) USC. As talented as UCLA's back court figures to be, no team in the conference will be a tougher match-up than the Trojans, as none of the three projected starters stands smaller than 6-5, every one of them an exceptional athlete. Daniel Hackett will captain the offense at the point, and is expected to take on a larger scoring role. Dwight Lewis is a sturdy, physical guard who must improve from outside. Prep phenom Demar Derozan is a brilliant scorer and one of the most exciting players in the country. Top JC transfer Donte Smith provides depth at the point in a program where the starters often average 35 minutes or more a game. Marcus Johnson started 24 games for Connecticut before transferring West and is a potent scoring option. Freshmen Percy Miller doesn't bring much to the basketball court, but is easily the teams best dancer.

3) Arizona State. Thanks to the brilliant James Harden, Sun Devils head coach Herb Sendek could pluck a random fan out of the stands and still possess one of the top back courts in the conference. Harden is an All America candidate whose out of this world feel for the game is peerless at the D1 level. There isn't a more dangerous slasher in the country. He'll be flanked by sophomore Ty Abbott who flourished during his freshmen campaign with the attention paid to Harden, though he needs to improve on his field goal percentage (39.1%). Darren Shipp, Daniel Glasser and Jamelle McMillan provide quality depth while sweet shooting freshmen wing Johnny Coy will provide much needed range from outside.

4) California. Patrick Christopher was one of the conference's biggest surprises last year, quietly averaging 15 points and 3.6 rebounds a game. He will become the teams top offensive option – a heavy burden now that the Pac-10's most dangerous offensive player, Ryan Anderson, has taken his game to the NBA. Christopher will be joined by freshmen DJ Seeley, a stellar scorer with a similar style of play, and a knack for finding the basket. Jerome Randle will run the point for the Golden Bears and the turnover prone guard must find some consistency for the team to succeed. The Bears back court depth took a hit when back up point guard David Liss decided to transfer leaving freshmen shooting guard Jorge Gutierrez the lone back up at point.

5) Washington State. It's a transition year for the Cougars after losing Kyle Weaver and Derrick Low to graduation. Crafty point guard Taylor Rochestie stayed under the radar for the Cougs finishing among the team leaders in most statistical category's and returns as one of the conference's top outside shooters. Heralded freshmen Klay Thompson, son of former NBA player Micheal Thompson will likely anchor the second guard spot, and could be one of the Pac-10's biggest surprises. The highly versatile shooter should emerge as one of the top freshmen in the Pac-10. Short on back court experience, Coach Tony Bennett will looking to Thomas Abercrombie and Nicola Koprivica as well as a promising freshmen class of guards than includes shooters Michael Harthun and Nick Witherill.

6) Washington. To say the Huskies struggled with guard play last year is an understatement and Head Coach Lorenzo Romar addressed it by recruiting three exceptional freshmen guards. Point Guard Isaiah Thomas was one of the top Prep Scorers in the country and should immediately bring his explosive offensive skills to the starting lineup. 6-5 wing Elston Turner, Jr. has raised eyebrows with his highly advanced skills and should crack the improved guard rotation. Speedy point guard Venoy Overton will look to build on his successful freshmen season though he must improve from outside while senior Justin Dentmon provides a versatile scorer as he tries to return to form in his final season. Sophomore Justin Holiday and highly regarded freshmen Scott Suggs will provide depth as both are exceptional 6-6 athletes who need time to build strength and confidence.

7) Stanford. New head coach Johnny Dawkins faces an uphill battle trying to replace the Lopez twins and it's going to have to come from back court. Steady senior Mitch Johnson provides consistency and leadership at point but must become a bigger scoring threat. Anthony Goods is one of the conference's most dangerous shooters when he's hot, but must improve on his 35% three point percentage. Upper-classmen Drew Shiller and Kenny Brown will spell Goods and Johnson though the starters are expected to play upward of 35 minutes plus, per game. Freshmen Jeremy Green and Jarrett Mann may be pressed into early service out of necessity.

8) Oregon. The Ducks 2008-2009 campaign will be all about building for the future. Embattled Head Coach Ernie Kent attracted his top recruiting class yet but there's simply no way they'll replace Bryce Taylor, Malik Hairston and Maarty Leunen. Tajuan Porter struggled last season without Aaron Brooks and he's likely to take another step backwards without Taylor and Hairston. He'll shoot a lot though, every chance he gets actually, and Kent's recruited a host of shooters to accompany him so opponents should expect a constant barrage from outside. Chicago native Mathew Humphrey is the best of them, but point guard Garrett Sim and superbly athletic Teondre Williams will both make there case to start over sophomore point guard Kamyron Brown.

9) Arizona. For the first time in recent memory, the Wildcats face a season without any marquee guards. Nic Wise did an exceptional job filling in at the point for injured star Jerryd Bayless and now becomes Lute Olson's go-to player back court. Without any obvious options to start alongside Wise, Olson must turn to unheralded freshmen Brendon Lavender, Kyle Fogg or Garland Judkins or face playing Chase Budinger out of position at the two guard. None of the options is appealing but than, neither is the mess that has become Arizona Basketball.

10) Oregon State. Give credit to the Tarver brothers for being two of the most committed players in the Pac-10. They don't deserve the disaster that has befallen the Beavers basketball program. There isn't much hope for a climb out of the cellar, regardless of the Tarvers' contributions. With a roster still in flux for the coming season, it's anyone's guess what develops in Beaverton. Top Stories