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PAC-10 Preview

PAC-10 Basketball Outlook: 2009-2010

Despite the prognostications that the PAc-10 would have down years the past two season, six teams have earned NCAA Tournament bids each season, and have combined for three Sweet-16 finishes and one Final Four appearance.

But thanks to a mass exodus of talent (27 NBA draftees in three seasons), the four season streak of 60% of the conference in the NCAA tournament is in jeopardy, and it appears that the pundits prognostications will prove that the third time truly is a charm.

The biggest reason why the PAC-10 could suffer a down year isbecause of their youth and lack of qaulity veteran players. The PAC-10 lost ten players to the NBA draft in 2009, seven of which were first-round picks. If that’s not bad enough, only two All-PAC -10 players (Patrick Christopher and Jerome Randle) return for a 2010 encore. Don’t take a down year for the PAC-10 to mean they won’t be competitive, however – afterall, this isn’t a “down year” in C-USA.

With a large influx of young talent, including four Top-25 recruiting classes (UCLA, Arizona, Washington, and Oregon State) according to both Rivals.com and Scout.com, the PAC-10 as a whole is staving off the rebuilding process.

In the conference, only three teams can be considered to be on the rise though, while four teams have taken a steps back, with the remaining three managing to stay stagnant.

If the player changes aren’t enough to cause some concern for a lull in the overall performance of the conference, the coaching changes should. The conference continues to get its coaching make-over with three new coaches taking the sidelines this year, bringing the total to half the league in the past two seasons.

With all the changes occuring during the off-season, the conference will likely get off to a bumpy start, and fans everywhere will have to withhold judgement until the end of he season when the obstacles of coaching changes, and inexperience will have all been overcome.

The biggest key to be aware of in the conference is what team can get solid frontcourt play. If any team gets surprising dominance in their frontcourt, they could have a fast-track to the top of the conference since there is but a select few quality true big men in the PAC-10.

Coaching Changes

Arizona – It was an unfortunate end to a well respected and endeared coach, but it had to happen sometime. Arizona improves their situation as they were finally able to go away from the interim coaches and bring in Sean Miller. They dodged more than one bullet in the process though.

Washington State – The final day for Bennett in Pullman was rumored to have been on the horizon for over a year before he finally departed. His presence will be sorely missed by the Cougars, who managed to hire a solid replacement in Ken Bone. Unfortunately, the transitio nwill take a few years before the Cougars could become truly competitive again.

USC – The biggest losers in all of the off-season changes weren’t spared changes at coach either. Scandal, or rumor of one at the very least ran off Tim Floyd. To replace him they brought in the ever-wandering Kevin O’Neill who has limited success anywhere he goes.

Pre-Season Predictions

Standings

Team (Projected conference record) – compared to 08-09

  1. CAL (16-2) – Stagnant
  2. Washington (14-4) – Stagnant
  3. UCLA (12-6) – On the decline
  4. Arizona (11-7) – On the rise
  5. Oregon (10-8) – On the rise
  6. Oregon State (9-9) – On the rise
  7. Arizona State (6-12) – On the decline
  8. Washington State (5-13) – On the decline
  9. USC (4-14) – On the decline
  10. Stanford (2-16) – Stagnant

Player of the Year: Jerome Randle

Freshman of the Year: Abdul Gaddy

First-Team All-PAC-10                  All-Freshman Team

PG-Patrick Christopher  (CAL)         PG-Abdul Gaddy
SG-Jerome Randle  (CAL)                   SG-Trent Lockett
SF-Quincy Pondexter (UW)               SF-Tyler Honeycutt (UCLA)
PF-Joevan Catron (OU)                       PF-Reeves Nelson (UCLA)
C-Michael Dunigan (OU)                      C-Kyryl Natyazhko (UofA

Team by Team

Arizona Wildcats

Projected Finish: Home 6-3, Away 5-4, NCAA Tournament

The Big Question: Can the ‘Cats overcome the adjustment to their third coach in as many seasons, and in the process get impact play from former role palyers and incoming freshman to make it to their 26th consecutive NCAA Tournament?

Key Departures: Jordan Hill, Chase Budinger, Zane Johnson
Key Additions: Kyryl Natyazhko, Solomon Hill, Lamont “MoMo” Jones

The priority for the Wildcats this year isn’t the NCAA Tournament – at least that’s what Coach Miller will say. I know it sounds wierd, but he’s actually right. The Wildcats will look bumpy in the early goings as they turn to Jamelle Horne, Kyle Fogg, and a strong recruiting class to fill more than the void left by the departures of Hill and Budinger.

With a new coach in Miller and  versatile backcourt, the ‘Cats have th epieces in order to make ap ush for their 26th straight NCAA Tournament appearance. Of course, that depends on if Nic Wise decides to trust his teammates and showcase his decision making abilities instead of trying to get deep in the paint where he becomes turnover happy.

Arizona State Sun Devils

Projected Finish: Home 4-5, Away 2-7, None

The Big Question: Can the Sun Devils compensate for the loss of Harden and Pendergraph with a turn-around performance by Eric Boateng and a Freshman of the Year type performance from Trent Lockett?

Key Departures: James Harden, Jeff Pendergraph
Key Arrivals: Trent Lockett, Victor Rudd

This is going to be a grueling year for the Sun Devils who look to Rihards Kuksiks and Derek Glasser to be their “to-go'” guys. They still have talent and will be a steady-handed team with Glasser at the helm. But with the combination of athletics and talent failing to combine in one player, the Sun Devils will be looking to rebuild.

Sendek is a solid coach who will instill a game plan that pulls the advantage towards his players, so the Sun Devils will be in a lot of games even if they can’t close them out.

California Golden Bears

Projected Finish: Home 7-1, Away 7-1, NCAA Tournament

The Big Question: With no major changes to their lineup, can the Golden Bears rely on their experience and depth to avoid a late-season collapse circa ’08-’09, propelling them to the top of the conference in Mike Montgomerey’s second season in Berkeley?

Key Departures: None
Key Arrivals: None

When Patrick Christopher opted to stay in school, keeping the best 3-point shooting backcourt intact, the Golden Bears became an almost instant lock for one of the top two spots in the conference.

With more experience, look for guards D.J. Seeley and others to make greater impact as CAl avoids a late-season meltdown and cruisies their way through the conference and into the NCAA Tournament.

Oregon Ducks

Projected Finish Home 6-3, Away 4-5, NIT

The Big Question: Can Kent capitalize on the young talent in Eugene and restoring the Ducks to contention and save his job with one of the greatest single-season turnarounds?

Key Departures: Franz Dorsainvill
Key Additions: Jamil Wilson, E.J. Singler

Last year was an aberratio nfor a team with as much talent as the Ducks had on their roster – at least Ernie Kent hopes so. With players like Michael Dunigan, Joevan Catron, and Tejuan Porter the Ducks have too much talent to suffer like they did last year.

The main argument for another down-year is that losing, just like winning, becomes a habit. Lazy and carless play riddled the Ducks a season ago, but with Mike Dunlap courtside, the Ducks should be more disciplined – especially on the defensive end.

Oregon State Beavers

Projected Finish: Home 4-5, Away 5-4, NIT

The Big Question: After making significant strides last year, can the Beavers continue to surprise this season by jumping into the top five of the conference with addition of a Top-25 recruiting class?

Key Departures: Rickey Claitt
Key Arrivals: Roberto Nelson, Jared Cunning Ham

With how OSU has turned around in just one season under Craig Robinson, it is no wonder there is a strong recruiting pull in Corvallis now – being the POTUS’ brother-in-law aside.

After returning the majority of his roster from a season ago, and adding a Top-15 recruiting class, Robinson will look to push the tempo a little more tihs season as the Beavers are becoming continually more versatile under his watch.

Stanford Cardinal

Projected Finish Home 2-7, Away 0-9, None

The Big Question: Can the cardinal take a step in the right direction despite losing three of their five starters and a key bench player, or will they continue to suffer heavily for another year?

Key Departures: Kenny Brown, Anthony Goods, Lawrence Hill, Mitch Johnson
Key Additions: Gabriel Harris, Andrew Zimmerman

If the below-average season for the Cardinal wasn’t bad enough last season, things are going to ge a whole lot worse as the Caridnal lost a majority of their starting lineup from a year ago and turn to a Santa Clara cast-off and role players to fill that gaping hole.

Barring the surprise development of a below-average role player to elite status, the Cardinal rely entirely on Landy Fields. Despite the conference being weaker than it has bene in recent memory, Fields isn’t capable of carrying the Cardinal past most of the teams in the conference.

UCLA Bruins

Projected Finish: Home 6-3, Away 6-3

The Big Question: Can the freshman and role players from the past two years turn the Bruins into a serious conteder again this year, or will they be like seven of the other teams looking for table scraps after Cal and UW have cleared through?

Key Departures: Alfred Aboya, Darren Collison, Josh Shipp, Jrue Holiday, James Diefenbach
Key Arrivals: Tyler Honeycutt, Brendan Lane, Mike Moser, Nelson Reeves, Anthony Stover

The Bruins lost too much to the draft and graduation this past off-season not to suffer a set back. Originally I didn’t expect the setback to be too severe, considering that players like Malcolm Lee and Michael Roll were capable of starting on most teams a year ago. Combine that with a Top-25 recruiting class and it appears the Bruins should be right back near the top again.

But the more I think about it, the less certain I am. Especially with the loss of 47.3 ppg, and 15.7 rpg.  That’s 62% of their scoring power, and 43% of their rebounding. In addition, the Bruins are now deprived of their veteren point guard and center and a constant playe-maker in Jrue Holiday. That’s just too much to compensate for in just one season.

In the end, the Bruins are still one of the top five teams in the conference, but rather than fighting to be one or two, they’ll be fighting to be anywhere from third to sixth.

USC Trojans

Projected Finish: Home 4-5, Away 0-9, None

The Big Question: It’s not really if, but how far will the Trojans fall without a premier freshman on the wing and no threat to speak of inside the paint.

Key Departures: Tim Floyd, DeMar DeRozan, Taj Gibson, Daniel Hackett, Terence Green, Marcus Johnson, Keith Wilkinson, Their entire 2009 recruiting class
Key Arrivals: Kevin O’Neill – wow, that’s sad when he isn’t just a key arrival, but the only key arrival.

Gone are four of five starters, Time Floyd, ever-changing defenses and just about everything else that made the Trojans a force to be reckoned with last season. With O’Neill at the helm, the Trojans will be strictly a man-to-man defensive team that struggles with the few remnants left in the cupobard after a fall out of one of the worst scandals in recent recruiting.

they still have some talent left that is capable of an upset win or two, but don’t expect anything to come on the road as the Trojans don’t have the talent or power to outcoach or outplay anybody away from the Galen Center.

The Trojans mirror the Cardinal with one primary go-to guy in Dwight Lewis. But it’s going to be abumpy road for the Trojans this season, especially with NCAA sanctions looming in the near future.

Washington Huskies

Projected Finish: Home 7-2, Away 7-2, NCAA Tournament

The Big Question: Can the Huskies get enough production out of their frontcourt to overcome the Golden bears for a top spot in the conference or will the loss of Brockman be too much?

Key Departures: Jon Brockman, Justin Dentmon, Artem Wallace
Key Additions: Abdul Gaddy, Charles Garcia, Clarence Trent, C.J. Wilcox

Abdul Gaddy was a heck of a pick up for Lorezno Romar who will have one of the best backcourts in the conference, if not the nation. The problem the Huskies face is their lack of aproven post player following the departure of Jon Brockman. Matthew Bryan-Amaning is solid, but has not bee relied upon heavily thus far. Bryan-Amaning has been solid in the role he has filled, and should be a confident pick for break-out player of the year with a more prominant role, but there will still be some drop-off.

The Huskies will be good and are the second-most picked team to win the conference. But the decline in the post presence, and less experience will leave them getting passed up by the Golden Bears for top honors.

Washington State Cougars

Projected Finish: Home 2-7, Away 3-6

The Big Question: Can Ken Bone capitalize on players like Klay Thompson to make this team a viable running team and prevent the Cougars from falling into the 8-10 spots in the conference?

Key Departures: Tony Bennet, Aron Baynes, Caleb Forrest, Daven Harmeling, Taylor Rochestie
Key Arrivals: Xavier Thames, Anthony Brown, Reggie Moore

Klay Thompson will fit nicely into the up-tempo pace that former Portland State coach Ken Bone will bring to Pullman, WA. Unfortunately, the Cougars have lost three signicant contributors from their team last year. While they did bring in a few nice recruits, they aren’t the caliber of players that have thee capability to compensate for the loss of players like Taylor Rochestie.

The loss of Bennett is huge, but the Cougars will rebound under Bone. It will be interesting to see how the old-style PAC-10 run-n-gun will play out with a majority of the teams switching to a defense-minded attack with emphasis on quality small forwards.

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Wildcats Network

The Tucson Citizen reported yesterday that a new “Wildcats TV Network” will begin broadcasting on September 5th with the Wildcats’ non-conference football match-up against Central Michigan. With negotiations failing between Fox Sports Arizona and the Wildcats, this was only a logical step. You can check out the details of how it will work here or watch it here.

The Rivalry: Part II

When Arizona and Arizona State met up one month ago, the game ended in one of the most controversial calls we’ve seen in this rivalry in some time. While the call ultimately sealed the deal for the Sun Devils, to claim that it cost the ‘Cats the game would be pushing it too far. The Wildcats were plagued by simple, yet costly mistakes that set them in the position for a whistle to be capable of determining so much in the game. Frankly, if the Wildcats deserved to win that game they wouldn’t have been in that position.

 

Ironically, that is the last time the Wildcats have found themselves in such a position this season. During the past seven games the Wildcats have outscored their opponents by 8.2 points per game, and have eclipsed an average of 82.6 points during that time. They have also found themselves on the right end of the turnover battle while forcing opponents into 15.4 per game while committing 14.6 themselves.

 

If that’s not enough, it appears as though the Big Three are finally living up to their bidding with all three averaging between 19-21 points per game. But that’s not been all their scoring. They’ve seen significant impact from Kyle Fogg and Zane Johnson on both ends of the court. This team has been clicking on all cylinders the past seven games and look to continue when they travel to Tempe today to face the Sun Devils.

 

ASU has been on a bit of a tear themselves, with an active 4-game winning streak under their belts the Sun Devils have seen continued dominance from Harden and Pendergraph, and have been getting some big games from Derek Glasser and Rihards Kuksiks.

 

The keys to the game are the same as the last time out, but it can all be summarized to say that they simply need to avoid the simple mistakes that cost them just a few short weeks ago. The Sun Devils are fighting for a better seed in the NCAA Tournament, and the ‘Cats are fighting to secure their ticket. Both teams are within reach of the PAC-10 conference lead, and face the top-ranked Washington Huskies next week. Things are getting interesting in the conference, and this game is going to have hefty consequences for both teams.

 

Keys to the Game

Harden Up: James Harden is the driving force for the Sun Devils, if you can contain or limit his play-making ability you disable ASU’s offense. Arizona doesn’t have a defender capable of face guarding him and shutting him down the way that Tim Floyd and USC did, but they should be able to slow him down.

Win the Blocks: The inside battle will be key. Neither team has much (if any) quality depth in the frontcourt. So a lot of the rebounding responsibilities fall on the guards, and the Wildcats have to be ready to box out. They’ll also need to make it a pointed effort to get Jordan Hill active and involved early in the game.

Stick ‘em Up: The Wildcats need to get their hands up on shooters, especially Kuksiks outside the 3-point line. ASU doesn’t have many players that can create their own shot, so rotating in the zone and getting a hand in the Sun Devils’ faces will be crucial. If Arizona wants to pull out the home win, they’ll need to limit the number of open looks they give the Sun Devils.

Protect the Ball: The Sun Devils have the 2nd lowest turnover average in the conference with 12.4 per game (Arizona has 12.5) to go along with 6.6 steals. In each of their losses this season the Wildcats have turned the ball over more than their opponent and been outscored in points-off-turnovers by a significant amount.

 

For more on this rivalry, see my previous post with individual position break-downs.

https://sportscapsule.wordpress.com/2009/01/20/the-rivalry/

PAC-10 Power Rankings: Week 4

pac10-power-rankings5

  1. Washington – Don’t expect the Huskies to stay in the top spot for too long, but after an impressive sweep of the SoCal schools they certainly deserve it. They have some very impressive wins in the first half of conference play.
  2. UCLA – You can’t fault the Bruins too much for a road loss in Seattle – especially considering they’ve had a problem playing there for some time now. They’ll be back on top before too long.
  3. Arizona State – I was going to drop them for their poor shooting and fortunate win against Arizona last week, that is until Cal lost at home to Oregon State. Don’t expect them to stay in this spot much longer. Continue reading ‘PAC-10 Power Rankings: Week 4’

PAC-10 Player of the Week: Week 3

PAC-10 Player of the Week: DeMar DeRozan (USC)

WhileDeRozan’s total stats aren’t that impressive (32 points, 12 rebounds), DeRozan was largely responsible for holding James Harden to 0-8 and 4 points in a fantastic defensive effort. To me, that’s more impressive than Rochestie’s 44 points, 6 rebounds, and 14 assists against the Oregon schools. Partly because Rochestie did put those numbers up against the Oregon schools, and partly because to hold Harden to 0 field goals is unbelievably incredible.

Runner-Up: Kevin Brill (REF)

Brill almost single-handedly won the game for the Trojans on Saturday. He came up with the big play in a crucial moment that gave the Trojans the confidence and momentum they needed during the final 3:50 to pull out a 1-point home win.

Arizona Player of the Week: Chase Budinger

Budinger is officially out of his slump. After rough outing after rough outing, Budinger finally steps up big. He was the focal point for UCLA and USC defensively and still put up solid numbers against these kids. He gave us fans a glimpse as to why he was so highly touted coming in and why he’s projected as a first-round pick in this year’s NBA Draft.

Runner Up: Jordan Hill

Hill had a monster game against UCLA, and save but first half foul trouble he had a good game against USC as well.

 

 

 

 

Do you think Kevin Brill would’ve gotten this one right?

PAC-10 Power Rankings: Week 3

pac10-power-rankings4

  1. UCLA (E)
    They made Arizona’s make-shift 1-1-3 zone look awful. They had an offensive explosion with five players reaching double-digit scoring. But losing at home against ASU in a game you controlled in the second half shows they aren’t as far ahead of the rest of the conference as they would hope.
    Last Week: W vs. Arizona 83-60, L vs. ASU 61-58
  2. CAL (E)
    With their first loss in conference play coming against a rival in a close game, you can’t fault CAL too much – especially when you went on the road for a game filled with more drama than any other rival game will contain this year. The game against UCLA is getting bigger and bigger each week.
    L at Stanford 75-69
  3. ASU (E)
    A win at Pauley is impressive. But as great as that was, the loss against USC was bad enough to keep them from moving past CAL. Losing by 12 to a defensive minded team exploited their lack of players outside of Pendergraph and Harden. Shut Harden down and they falter.
    L at USC 61-49, W at UCLA 61-58 Continue reading ‘PAC-10 Power Rankings: Week 3’

PAC-10 Power Rankings – Week 2

pac10-power-rankings

1. UCLA (E)
UCLA has shown great guard play and have maintained the top position despite the drop-off in talent from the previous few years. They’re aren’t a lock for the conference title by any stretch, even if the conference is weaker this year.
Last Week: W. @ USC 64-60

2. California (E)
Randle and Christopher have been sensational. They even got some help from Robertson this week too. Winning a close game on the road is a solid way to boost your confidence. Watch out UCLA, CAL just might have the best backcourt in the conference.
Last Week: W @ WSU 57-50, W @ UW 88-85 (OT)

3. Arizona State (E)
ASU remains solid at home, and put on a defensive clinic against Oregon State. We’ll see how good they really are when they travel to Pauley on Thursday.
Last Week: W vs. OSU 69-38, W v. OU 76-58

4. Washington (E)
Washington got a monster week from Jon Brockman and Isaiah Thomas this week. Can’t fault them for a 3-point OT loss to the hottest team in the conference right now.
Last Week: W. vs. STAN 84-83, L vs. CAL 88-85 (OT)

5. Arizona (+2)
The Big Three are starting to show the minutes they’ve played and it’s resulting in a slump passing from player to player. Zane Johnson has stepped up and could earn himself a starting role in the next few weeks.
Last Week: W vs. OU 67-52, W vs. OSU 64-47

6. USC (E)
The Trojans are lacking a lot of chemistry and are paying the price in close games. A close loss to UCLA isn’t a big deal, but they lack too much chemistry to be considered a serious contender at this point.
Last Week: L vs. UCLA 64-60

7. Washington State (+2)
Rochestie stepped up big for the Cougars this week, and were fortunate not to be 0-3 to start conference play before finally hitting the road next week.
Last Week: L vs. Cal 50-57, W vs. Stan 55-54

8. Stanford (-3)
A pair of 1 point losses is tough. Their guards can’t carry them much longer.
Last Week: L @ UW 83-84, L  @ WSU 55-54

9. Oregon State (-1)
They got man-handled by ASU & UofA this week, but they are organized and playing hard. That Princeton offense keeps them closer than they probably should be.
Last Week: L @ ASU 69-38, L @ UA 64-47

10. Oregon (E)
If inexperience is bad, then these guys are awful. Catron and Porter were nowhere this past week. Is the team giving up on Ernie Kent?
Last Week: L @ UA 67-52, L @ ASU 76-58


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PAC-10 Power Rankings

1. Cal 2. Washington 3. UCLA 4. Arizona 5. Oregon 6. Oregon State 7. Arizona State 8. Washington State 9. Stanford 10. USC

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