Pac 10 Re-Emergence in 2010?

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by Craig Yamada, Editor-In-Chief

Have you all heard the news? Apparently some folks are doubting the competitiveness of the Pac 10 for the 2010 season. It seems as people are already assuming the Pac 10 will be the same conference as it was last year: watered down.  Here were some headlines in case you missed them:

“Another down year for the Pac-10”

“Downtrodden Pac 10 seems bound for another lackluster season”

“Looking for signs of life in the Pac-10 basketball? Good luck.”

“The Weak-Coast.”

I wish I had four hands, so I could give these articles four thumbs down.

The tipping point came at the hands of an article written by SI’s Ann Killion . In this article, Ann measures the Pac 10’s future success with the number of players it has sent to the NBA Draft and the total McDonald’s All Americans it has signed. Ann foresees yet another down year for the Pac-1o much like we saw in 2009.

Ann, put down the HATERade and prepare for a revitalized Pac-10 in 2010.  Riddle me this, if the Pac-10 only lost 2 players to the NBA Draft this year (Quincy Pondexter and Landry Fields), wouldn’t it be fair to expect we would be harboring even more NBA talent in our league this year?  And if success is measured by the number of McDonald’s All-Americans you have signed on your team, then I will do as Q-PON does and switch from Bic Macs to Whoppers.

Are McDonald’s All Americans nice to have? Yes. Are they vital for victory? Nope.  One word for you: Butler. Butler proved to the entire nation that you don’t need a McDonald’s All-American class to have success. Although the Pac 10 has signed/acquired only four McDonald’s All-Americans in the last two years (Abdul Gaddy – UW, Wear Twins – UCLA, Josh Smith – UCLA), the showing of Cal and UW in the 2010 NCAA Tourney should have been plenty evidence that we can hang with the nation’s best.

Let me be clear here. I don’t think Pac-10 is going to have a banner year, but I do believe that it will be competitive with the major conferences. And yes, UW will definitely lead that charge starting in Maui. My guess is that we send 4 teams at minimum this year (UW, Arizona, ASU and UCLA) to the Tourney and a bigger handful of NBA ready players to the Draft if they decide to leave (pending NBA lockout): Klay Thompson, Derrick Williams, Isaiah Thomas, Jeremy Green, Tyler Honeycutt, and Jamelle Horne. J-Holiday and MBA both have a shot at making the league if they can get make some refinements to their offensive game as well.

And with that, we will segue into my Pac 10 rankings…

PAC -10 Predictions

1. Washington

UW has to be the front runner going into the season. They return the most experienced nucleus of starters and have the depth to make a serious run at the Final Four this year. The loss of Q-PON will sting, but they have plenty of new tools to use in his place. Terrence Ross headlines our freshman class as he sounds poised to make an immediate contribution. N’Diaye gives UW that big body we have been missing in years past. Simmons has the defensive energy and know how to make plays a la Justin Holiday. This will be IT’s team this year, no ifs ands or buts. MBA, Holiday, and Overton look to finish their senior campaigns with a bang. Abdul Gaddy showed signs of promise this past year and will work to prove that he is a McDonald’s All American this year. UW will look to play to its hype in 2010-2011.

2. Arizona

Arizona, much like UW, only lost one big Senior name last year in Nic Wise. They return a talented team led by Freshman of the Year, Derrick Williams. Senior Jamelle Horne returns as their versatile PF.  Momo Jones looks to replace Wise as its starting PG after a solid Freshman campaign. Kyle Fogg remains one of their best three point threats. Added to the mix are two solid SG’s in Daniel Bejarano and Jordin Mayes. Bejarano was ranked #91 in the ESPNU 100. This kid has a great stroke from deep and the ability to slash. He’s ready to make an immediate impact. Arizona will definitely be competitive this year in the Pac 10 and will look to help the Pac 10 regain its swagger.

3. Arizona State

Given ASU’s performance these past two years, it’s hard to imagine they will place any further than third this year. The loss of Derek Glasser and Eric Boateng will definitely hurt out of the gates. But with the recent addition of Carrick Felix, the Duke de-commit, they have a legit SG/SF that can score at will. Keala King, another incoming freshman, has proven his versatility to play anywhere on the floor and fill up the cup. With returning players in Ty Abbot, Richard Kouskis, Trent Lockett and Jamelle McMillan, ASU looks to have the talent and the defensive prowess to give UW a run for the Pac-10 title.

4. UCLA

This should be the year that UCLA turns their fortunes around. With the addition of sharp shooters Tyler Lamb and Matt Carlino, the loss of Dragovic and Michal Roll should be short felt. Josh Smith will give them the dominant presence in the middle they have been lacking in years past and has been rumored to have lost a substantial amount of weight this offseason. A returning front court cast of Reeves Nelson and Tyler Honeycutt could help round out a very talented squad. The X factor this year will be the play of PG Malcom Lee. Lee has not yet played to his potential, but will be looking forward to his junior season for a break out year. Expect UCLA to start making movements back to the top of the Pac 10 and being competitive again outside of the conference.

5. USC

USC remained the only team that UW could not defeat last year. Key losses include Dwight Lewis, Mike Gerrity, and Marcus Johnson. And yes, Lil Romeo has decided to transfer out of USC this summer. Returning starters will be their two bigs: Nikola Vucevic and Alex Stephenson. They will continue to be a lengthy team down low. Incoming freshman include two ESPNU 100 players in Bryce and Maurice Jones (no relation). At 5’7”, Maurice Jones will look to fill the PG void left by Gerrity graduating. Bryce Jones is a slashing style SG, but is not know for his 3 pt range. Forwards Garret Jackson and Curtis Washington round out the incoming class. Out of their self imposed suspension, USC will be looking to regain its honor in 2010. If any team aside from UW can compete outside the conference, I will put my money on USC given their coaching staff and history taking down big name teams.

6. WSU

WSU/USC/OSU may be battling it out for positions 5-7 this season. Although WSU lost three players to transfer this year, Klay Thompson returns as a sure Pac 10 POY candidate to help WSU get back to their winning ways. DeAngelo Casto and Reggie Moore return a solid nucleus of starting depth from last year.  Marcus Capers could see additional playing time this year as he has proven to be one of the most versatile and athletic players in the Pac 10. Added to the roster this year are Patrick Simon (PF), Andre Winston (PG) and Dexter Kernich-Drew (SF). Look for WSU to make some noise this year, but may be looking up in the standings when the season comes to a close.

7. Oregon State

Oregon State will dearly miss Seth Tarver and Roeland Schaftenaar. Back are starters Calvin Haynes and Jared Cunningham. Look for Cunningham to have a big year this year. He underwent a maturation process last year, but we saw flashes of brilliance in his game when he played against UW. Joe Burton figures to get added playing time this year. OSU adds a solid freshman class headlined by Devon Collier (PF) from New Jersey. Look for Collier to jump in to the starting rotation this year. Chris Brown (C) and Ahmad Starks (PG) round out their 2010 freshman class.

8. Stanford

Gone is Landry Fields and three other seniors, but Jeremy Green assumes the lead role on a young Stanford team. Green will be in the race for Pac 10 First team if he can play to his potential this year. Stanford may be a surprise out of the gates with their youthful recruits. Dwight Powell and Anthony Brown, both in the ESPNU 100, will look to beef up the Cardinal frontline. John Gage from Vashon Island, WA  will give them length at the center position as well. Aaron Bright, Stefan Nastic and Josh Huestis round out the remaining 2010 class. Look for the Cardinal to turn some heads this year and for MBA to leave another teabag for a lonely center.

9. Cal

4 starting seniors graduated. DJ Seeley transferred. Amoke was kicked off the team. Gutierrez remains the lone starter returning for the 2010 season. Incoming freshman Gary Franklin figures to lead the charge at PG next season. Richard Solomon, Alex Rossi and Allen Crabbe all may have to contribute immediately for Cal to be competitive. The lone bright spot for veteran talent may be the return or Sanders-Frison who will anchor the team in the post. I never doubt Mike Montgomery, but I think this may be a rebuilding year.

10. Oregon

New coach. New pavilion. Countless transfers. Michael Dunnigan remains. Don’t expect much here. PS. Armstead just left today.

All in all, the Pac 10 should be on its way back from the depths we saw from last year, despite what the critics say.

Other News

Terrence Ross won a dunk contest out at Greenlake this past weekend. Here is the video.

Thanks for coming!