Wednesday, November 12, 2008

2008-2009 College Basketball Conference Preview: Pac 10

Predicted Order of Finish

UCLA may have lost Kevin Love, Russell Westbrook, and Luc Ruchard Mbah a Moute, but they still have one of the best PGs in the nation in Darren Collison and Josh Shipp looked like one of the best players in the early part of last season. Alfred Aboya and James Keefe are both capable post presences and Michael Roll should be healthy. Also, the top recruiting class in the nation should help with the draft losses. Recruit Jrue Holliday should fill in right away at SG.

2. Arizona St.
The Sun Devils are out to prove they truly are a NCAA Tournament team, they want to prove the NCAA that they belong this season. The Sun Devils have all the pieces this season to top UCLA for the Pac 10 Title. James Harden, arguably the best player in the conference is back along with 4 other starters, which includes forward Jeff Pendergraph. With experience and talent returning look for ASU to have a bright season.

3. USC
OJ Mayo is gone, but freshman Demar DeRozan is ready to step in and help USC get back to the NCAA Tournament. The Trojans return some key players that can help compete with UCLA and ASU atop the Pac Ten standings; PG Daniel Hackett, SG Dwight Lewis, and PF Taj Gibson are among those returning. USC could make some noise in March, especially if DeRozan lives up to his billing.

4. Washington St.
Even though they lose some key players, I think the Cougars will surprise some people and put up some fights with the upper echelon of the Pac Ten. Taylor Rochestie, Aron Baynes, and Daven Harmeling are all returnees who provide leadership and experience for this squad. The key will be the other two starters and bench. If some young, inexperienced players can step in and provide some balanced scoring and good depth, Wazzou can make its third straight NCAA Tourney appearance.

5. Washington
The Huskies have the potential to be a serious contender in the Pac 10. They've underachieved quite a bit since they were last in the big dance. All-conference PF Jon Brockman along with other key players return. With Justin Dentmon, Quincy Pondexter, and Artem Wallace all back they can contend. Plus, they finally have a PG in recruit Isiah Thomas, who can step in and get this team back on the right track.

6. Arizona
Zona has gone through a lot of changes in the off season. Head Coach Lute Olson stepped down, prized recruit Brandon Jennings decided to play in Europe, and now other recruits left after Olson left. But the Wildcats are moving on and want to forget the past. Chase Buddinger returns and is one of the best players out there. PG Nic Wise is one of the top PGs in conference, and post Jordan Hill returns as well. There may be some growing pains right away, but they have enough talent to still be a threat.

7. California
There is no doubt that the Bears have a strong frontcourt, but their backcourt is pretty bare. Mike Montgomery is the new coach, but it will take him a few years to get this team back in the upper tier of the Pac 10.

8. Oregon
The Ducks must replace three starters and break in a big freshman class. This team will be inexperienced with few veterans returning. Look for Tajuan Porter to be an all-conference player, but that's all this team will have to look forward to.

9. Stanford
Johnny Dawkins, former assistant under Coach K at Duke, is now the head coach for the Cardinal. Dawkins can get this team on the right track and back to the top of the conference, but it will take a couple of years.

10. Oregon St.
Not much talent for this team, but they can only go up after a winless conference season in 2007-2008.

Player of the Year: James Harden, F- Arizona St.

Freshman of the Year: Jrue Holliday, G- UCLA

Coach of the Year: Herb Sendek- Arizona St.

Three Big Games:
UCLA at Texas- Dec. 4, USC at UCLA- Feb. 4, UCLA at Arizona St.- Feb. 12.