Pac-10 Mini-Preview: What We've Learned So Far

Pac 10 floor small
As we embark on Pac-10 play, it’s time to look at what we’ve learned in the non-conference season about each of the teams in the league. /

Few  have impressed, and some have fallen flat on their faces. Here’s what we had to say about the Pac-10 in our season preview, and here’s what we’ve learned about each team since:

Cal (originally picked to finish first): Star guards Jerome Randle and Patrick Christopher have been (mostly) as advertised. But, the Golden Bears’ lack of depth reared its head when Theo Robertson missed six of their first nine games with a foot injury. The Bears are also dreadfully thin on their front line where Jamal Boykin is their only productive player. If I were picking again, I’d pick the Bears to finish second.

Washington (originally picked to finish second): All we do here is write about the Huskies, but if I’m putting what we’ve learned into a couple of sentences it’s this: The Huskies are still one of the deepest teams in the conference, if not the country, but outside of their terrific one-two punch of Quincy Pondexter and Isaiah Thomas, they’re still struggling to find an identity. Abdul Gaddy will take some time to develop and Matthew Bryan-Amaning hasn’t shown that he’s ready to compete for all-conference honors during his junior season. All that said, I do think they’re the class of a weak Pac-10 this year. If I were picking again, I’d pick the Huskies to finish first.

UCLA (originally picked to finish third): The Bruins have been dreadful thus far, losing by 27 to Portland, 11 to Long Beach State, and three to Cal State Fullerton. Center Drew Gordon didn’t even wait until after the season to transfer. When you can make a solid case that Michael Roll is your best player, you’re not a good team. The Bruins’ biggest victory of the season so far happened off the court when they secured a commitment from highly-touted recruit Josh Smith. If I were picking again, I’d pick the Bruins to finish eighth.

Oregon (originally picked to finish fourth): The Ducks have plenty of talent, but have been inconsistent thus far, and injury-plagued as well. While guard Teondre Williams has begun to develop into a star, center Michael Dunigan has failed to make much improvement so far, leaving the Ducks with a huge hole in the middle. This is going to be a dangerous team when healthy, but I’m not getting the sense that they’re coming out to play every night for Ernie Kent, a coach undoubtedly on the hotseat. If I were picking again, I’d pick the Ducks to finish sixth.

Washington State (originally picked to finish fifth): Klay Thompson, one of the leading scorers in the country, and DeAngelo Casto, have improved more than one might’ve expected, and the Cougs are on their way to a successful season for rookie coach Ken Bone. Seattle-native Reggie Moore is excelling as a scoring point guard for Wazzu, which will struggle with its depth this year, but certainly compete for a top half finish in the Pac-10. If I were picking again, I’d pick the Cougars to finish fourth.

Oregon State (originally picked to finish sixth): The Beavers have a bunch of guys who can play basketball, but not enough firepower. There’s no one, from leading scorer Seth Tarver to disappointing center, Roeland Schaftenaar, who can take over a game when the Beavers need it. A team averaging about 60 points per game against a pretty soft non-conference slate is going to have trouble against the Pac-10, down year or not. If I were picking again, I’d pick the Beavers to finish seventh

USC (originally picked to finish seventh): The Trojans are the owners of the Pac-10’s only truly impressive non-conference win: a 77-55 win over eighth-ranked Tennessee. I thought I was being optimistic when I picked the Trojans where I did. But with Alex Stepheson back from injury and playing like one of the best forwards in the league, and newly-eligible point guard Mike Gerrity running the show, and dangerous scorer Dwight Lewis in toe, the Trojans could actually improve on last season’s fifth-place finish. If I were picking again, I’d pick USC to finish third.

Arizona (originally picked to finish eighth): The Wildcats have a bunch of losses, but also played a tougher non-conference schedule than much of their Pac-10 brethren. In losing to quality opponents like Vanderbilt, UNLV, and Oklahoma, the young Wildcats got a crash course and some the seasoning they’ll need to compete in the Pac-10. Behind Nic Wise and the vastly improved Jamelle Horne, I think the Wildcats will be closer to that 26th straight NCAA Tournament appearance than their own coach believes. If I were picking again, I’d pick the Wildcats to finish fifth.

Arizona State (originally picked to finish ninth): The Sun Devils have been one of the few positive surprises in the Pac-10 to this point. Point guard Derek Glasser has stepped up his game, while center Eric Boateng has remade his. Freshman Trent Lockett looks like the real deal, and the Sun Devils look like they could compete for a top-half finish in the conference. Compete? Sure. But, I’m still not a believer. If I were picking again, I’d still pick the Sun Devils to finish ninth.

Stanford (originally picked to finish last): The Cardinal hasn’t been as bad as I’d expected, due mostly to the strong play of senior wing, Landry Fields, and sophomore guard Jeremy Green, who account for nearly half of the Cardinal points. Sophomore Jarrett Mann has been effective at the point as well, but the dropoff after those three is steep. They’ll win a few games in the league, but I can’t see a good outcome for Stanford this year. If I were picking again, I’d still pick the Cardinal to finish last.

Recap: If I were picking again, here’s how I’d predict the Pac-10 to finish this season:

1. Washington

2. Cal

3. USC

4. Wazzu

5. Arizona

6. Oregon

7. Oregon State


9. Arizona State

10. Stanford

Thanks for coming!