BX Pac Ten Conference Preview

BX Pac Ten Conference Preview
Nov 04, 2007, 01:01 pm

-I believe the Pac Ten is the best conference in the country this year. In looking at all the teams, it appears as though all but one or two could contend for a spot in the NCAA Tournament. It isn’t likely that the league will get eight teams, but I wouldn’t be at all surprised if they managed to get six.

-Out of all the “major” conferences, this is the only one that plays a balanced schedule. All of the teams play each other home-and-home, and they also utilize the concept of traveling partners better than anyone. I believe that is ideal for college basketball, and for that matter college athletics in general, which is what makes this league so much fun to watch.


-UCLA has been to two straight Final Fours, and appears to have the weapons they need to get back to a third. The Bruins, who won 30 games last year and finished first in the standings, have four starters returning. They do lose Arron Afflalo, but return Darren Collison and Josh Shipp, who should be able to make up for his absence. Lorenzo Mata-Real, Luc Richard Mbaba a Moute and freshman Kevin Love make up a very talented frontcourt as well. The Bruins are also a very tough team defensively, which makes them even more difficult to beat. Expect this team to be among the nation’s best once again.

-WASHINGTON STATE exceeded all expectations last year. They were picked to finish last in the league, and they nearly finished first. Along the way the Cougars posted a 26-8 record, earned a #3 seed in the NCAA Tournament, and advanced to the second round where they lost an overtime thriller to Vanderbilt. Four starters return from that team, so the Cougars should be just as good this year, if not better. Guards Derrick low and Kyle Weaver both averaged in double figures last season, and Weaver proved that he was an effective passer as well. Forward Daven Harmeling proved that he was a very good outside shooter. Wazzu’s success lies in its tough defense, and it’s ability to execute, pass and shoot in a half-court style offense. They are a lot of fun to watch, and will once again be a difficult team to beat.

-OREGON was an Elite Eight team last year, and although they lost Aaron Brooks to graduation, they have four returning starters who all averaged in double figures. This is a team that loves to play at a fast pace, and guards Malik Hairston, Bryce Taylor and Tajuan Porter will do a great job running the show. There is one reason of concern, and that’s that the Ducks don’t appear to have as dominant of a frontcourt as some of the other teams. In a league with so many great big men, it will be interesting to see how their fast paced style of play matches up. Forward Maarty Leunen is a big time player who averaged over 8rpg last season, and he’s someone that they’ll depend on this year.

-ARIZONA was 20-11 last season, but fans were still restless after their first round exit in the NCAA Tournament. Losing Ivan Radenovic and Marcus Williams means that the Wildcats have some gaps to fill, but as good as those players were it shouldn’t be too much of a setback given some of the talent they have coming in. Freshman guard Jerryd Bayless was considered one of the best high school shooting guards in the country, and Laval Lucas-Perry was another top recruit. Freshman small forward Jamelle Horne will probably be expected to produce right away. Guard Jawann McClellen and forward Chase Budinger are the only returning starters, but both are big time players and should be able to mesh well with the new guys. Expect to see Arizona in their 24th straight NCAA Tournament.

-STANFORD appeared to have a very strong team last year, but sort of came apart down the stretch. The Cardinal lost eight of their last twelve games, and barely made the NCAA Tournament. After being selected, they probably wished they hadn’t been as Louisville absolutely blew their doors off in the first round. All five starters are back on the roster, but they’ll have to do without center Brook Lopez, who is academically ineligible, at the beginning of the season. Once he returns, he’ll join Lawrence Hill and Robin Lopez in what is an extremely tough and talented frontcourt. Guards Anthony Goods and Fred Washington add quite a bit of balance to the team. The Cardinal showed that the potential was there last year, and should be a good team again this year.

-WASHINGTON was a young team last year that appeared to be getting better down the stretch, and with the experience they’ve got coming back they should be much better this year. Four returning starters averaged in double figures last season, so this is a team that has quite a bit of balance. Jon Brockman was huge in the post averaging 14ppg and just under 10ppg. He should be big again this year. They’ll have to do without guard Ryan Appleby for the beginning of the season due to the fact that he’s out with a thumb injury, but he should return before too long. Guard Justin Dentmon, who is as good a passer as he is a scorer, should be a big asset out on the perimeter. Head coach Lorenzo Romar’s teams tend to play together very well, and we can expect to see that this year out of a team that has some much needed experience under its belt.

-ARIZONA STATE lost 22 games last season, but was probably better than their record indicated. 14 of the 22 losses were by five points or fewer, and the team proved to be as tough defensively as anyone else in the country. Expect to see a tremendous improvement this season. The Sun Devils have a strong recruiting class, which includes guards Jamelle McMillan and James Hardin, both of which were ranked in the top 20 at their position. Christian Polk, who averaged over 12ppg last year, will join them out on the perimeter this year. Underneath, Jerren Shipp and Jeff Pendergraph give them some experience. Duke transfer Eric Boateng is also eligible to play. I don’t know if the Sun Devils will make the NCAAs this year, but they are definitely moving in the right direction and are in good hands with head coach Herb Sendek.

-12 players on USC’s team are either freshmen or sophomores. However, most of them are very talented, and this should be a team that’s good enough to make the NCAAs once again. O.J. Mayo was considered the best high-school player in the country last year, and could go as high as #1 in the draft next year. In the Post, Taj Gibson is a huge presence who is on the preseason Wooden Award List. This is a young team, but they should be able to compete for a spot in the NCAA Tournament and make some noise this year. Coach Tim Floyd has done a great job turning this program around.

-CALIFORNIA dealt with injuries last year and should be better this year if they can stay healthy. Unfortunately, they may have to do without guard Jerome Randle for awhile, who recently underwent a biopsy on his kidneys. Ryan Anderson and DeVon Hardin are back, and they make up a very strong frontcourt for the Bears, which is probably among the best in the league. If some of the players can step up in the backcourt, it should give them the balance they need to be more successful this season.

-OREGON STATE is a team that hasn’t been able to get it going. They’re exciting to watch because they love to run the court and push the pace, but that hasn’t resulted in the wins that they need to make the postseason. Like most years, the Beavers appear to be athletic this year, but they just don’t look as good as the rest of the league. Forward Marcel Jones, who averaged 15ppg and 6rpg is a big time player, and Josh Tarver is experienced out on the perimeter, but other than that it just doesn’t look like they have the weapons.

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