Friday, November 6, 2009

NCAA Basketball Preview: The Pac 10

You know what I really dig about this conference, other than the beautiful weather and smoking hot chicks, is that every team is paired up with another from the same area, and they always play the same teams in the same week.  You have UCLA/USC, Arizona/Arizona St, Washington/Wash St., Oregon/Oregon St., and Cal/Stanford, and they always travel together.  So like UCLA would play Arizona on a Thursday and Arizona State on a Saturday, while USC would play Ariz State on the Thursday and Arizona on Saturday.  I don't know why, but I find that very cool and interesting.  Probably because I'm a nerd.

With all the Gopher news, the Gopher game, and the World Series going on this week, not to mention my award-winning interview with Larry and Magic, I haven't had a whole lot of research time, so this will be shorter than usual.  And let's be honest, nobody reads my previews anyway.  I could post bible verses for each team's synopsis and it would go unnoticed unless somebody was searching for "Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live", but that person would have plenty of other problems anyway.

1.  Washington.  I've been waiting for this team to make a big leap for a few years now, and with the Pac down overall this might be the year they finally pull it off.  The loss of Jon Brockman to graduation leaves them with a huge hole in the paint, but their guards should be top notch with Rivals #13 Abdul Gaddy joining sophomore Isaiah Thomas.  I'm a huge Quincy Pondexter, mainly because he has a funny name, but with those two distributing the ball he should be poised for a breakout year.

2.  California.  Completely unheralded, but with a very solid backcourt with Jerome Randle the penetrator/scorer/distributor and Patrick Christopher the shooter - both were all Pac-10 last season.  PF Jamal Boykin may be the key to them being an NCAA Tournament contender as opposed to just an NCAA Tournament team again.  He was a big time recruit who had signed on with Duke before transferring to Berkeley.  He hasn't exactly lived up to his potential, but he has improved every season thus far.  Now in his senior year, it's his last chance to shine.

3.  UCLA.  In terms of scoring and minutes returning, there's not much, and some communist is their leading returner in both.  In terms of talent, there's plenty here.  Four top 100 recruits this year join four top 50s from last year.  In other words, they are probably going to be very good, but also very inconsistent.  They also needed a three pointer with 16 seconds left to beat an NAIA school earlier this week in an exhibition, so looks like they're starting slow, but should be pretty solid by midseason or so.

4.  Oregon State.  Not a misprint.  The Beavers should be pretty decent this year, but I've never heard of a single player on that team, assuming Wes Washington and Corey Benjamin are gone.  I know that was years ago but come on, Vasquez is still on Maryland and I'm pretty sure his freshman year begin with 19.  They play the Princeton style offense.  Yawn.

5.  Arizona.  It was looking even worse for the Wildcats this year, but Sean Miller made some very big freshman signings in the late signing period, and it will be up to those freshmen how good Arizona will be this year.  They could be first, they could be 8th, but fifth sounds right.  Nic Wise could easily end up leading the conference in both scoring and assists. 

6.  Oregon.  The Ducks lost 23 games last year, in no small part because their point guard, Earl Boykins wannabe Tajuan Porter, shouldn't be a point guard, what with his more turnovers than assists - and just 1.8 assists per game and his aggressive shooting (7th in the conference in FG attempts despite under 40% shooting).  The good news is they are supposed to have some JuCo point guard who can come in and run the show.  Even so, Porter will need to avoid the 6-15 type nights that popped up regularly last year.

7.  USC.  The Trojans lost three players to the NBA draft and, amidst scandal, lost nearly every recruit they signed this offseason, but there is still some talent here.  They get their top scorer back in guard Dwight Lewis, who outscored Taj Gibson, Demar Derozan, and Daniel Hackett last season, as well as Marcus Johnson, a transfer from UCONN.  Power forwad Alex Stepheson was a top fifty player when he signed with North Carolina in 2006 and a minor contributor on the team before deciding to transfer back to L.A. to be closer to his family.  On a team this thin, he'll have every opportunity to justify that rank.

8.  Washington State.  The cougars crazy run of boring everybody to tears and winning when the other team fell asleep should finally come to an end, with three starters and major contributors leaving as well as captain boring Tony Bennett leaving for Virginia.  I did read somewhere that Klay Thompson is projected to be the best NBAer currently in the Pac 10, so if you have a chance to catch one of their games it sounds like that would be a good time.

9.  Arizona State.  I just read something that picked the Sun Devils as fourth in the Pac and I gotta tell ya I don't get it.  Losing James Harden and Jeff Pendergaph is a huge blow, especially to a team with a so-so recruiting class coming in.  Their only double-digit scorer coming back, Rihards Kuksiks, is a three point sniper who led the conference in made 3s while shooting 44%.  The only problem is that 80% of his attempts last year were from behind the arc, and you know what helps get open three point looks?  Playing with James Harden and Jeff Pendergraph.  I don't know man, I just don't see it.

10.  Stanford.  I've always hated this program, I still hate this program, and I hope they stay in last place forever. 

Other Previews
Conference USA
Atlantic 10 
Mountain West 
Atlantic Coast 
Big Twelve
Big East 

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