My Pac-10 Preview

Dec 30, 2009, 10:01 PM | Updated: Apr 5, 2011, 11:20 am

Well folks, the non-conference part of the season is basically over and conference play is now underway. The Washington schools face the Oregon schools up here this weekend, with the Beavers at UW and the Ducks at WSU to start things off on New Year’s Eve. This is the last chance to make predictions about the Pac-10 race before we see teams play each other and based on what I know right now this is my best guess as to how the league is going to shape up.

1. Cal
I’m picking the Bears to win the Pac-10 this season. They have a very talented core of seniors in PG Jerome Randle, SG Patrick Christopher, SF Theo Robertson and PF Jamal Boykin. They are balanced and the most proven team in the league. At the center spot they feature either a wide body or a giant, neither of which would be starting more than likely if Cal didn’t lose Harper Kamp for the season, but both players have shown enough to me so that I am convinced that they can fulfill that role of defender/rebounder. Cal has a dynamic bench in Jorge Gutierrez, who started when Theo was hurt, Omandi Amoke, who has provided consistent firepower and energy off the bench and occasionally when needed sophomore guard D.J. Seeley.

2. Washington
If the Huskies had Charles Garcia they would be the undisputed favorite, but losing Chuck has turned out to be a much bigger loss for the Dub than losing Kamp has been for Cal. That said Quincy Pondexter and Isaiah Thomas are the two best players in the conference. After that there is a lot of talent and though it is enough to come close, probably within one game, of a 2nd straight Pac-10 title, a slight edge goes to the Bears. Three juniors in Matthew Bryan-Amaning, Venoy Overton and Justin Holiday provide solid support for the big two, but neither of them or highly acclaimed frosh Abdul Gaddy, sophomore Elston Turner, veteran starter Darnell Gant or rehabbing frosh post Tyreese Breshers have shown that they are ready to produce every time.

3. USC
Like Cal the Trojans are a team that has pro level experience, but little depth. PF Alex Stepheson is probably the top defensive and rebounding post in the league and is in his 4th year of D1 ball. SF Marcus Johnson is in his 5th and like Alex come from an elite program. SG Dwight Lewis is in his 4th year and is a proven force in the Pac-10 and PG Mike Gerrity is in his 5th year of D1 ball. Gerrity has revolutionized the USC attack since he put early year starter Donte Smith on the deep bench and led USC to 6 straight wins and a major national buzz. Leonard Washington is a big athletic banger with skills and Nikola Vucevic has taken off as a sophomore averaging a near double/double. After that defensive minded Marcus Simmons is about it though.

4. WSU
The Cougs have a young team that new head coach Ken Bone has to be excited about as he carves out his legacy in the Pac-10, but they lack front court talent and back court depth. Other than mercurial freshman Reggie Moore, they have no point guard and Moore has been forced to play close to 40 minutes per game. Klay Thompson is a big time shooter and a perfect foil for Reggie, while DeAngelo Casto is a blue collar forward that many coaches are wishing they would have offered. Marcus Capers is the defensive specialist and in senior Nikola Koprivica, sophomore Abe Lodwick and freshman Brock Motum, WSU has enough depth to fill that 5th spot by committee. Xavier Thames can provide back court depth, but this team is too green to win it all.

5. Oregon
The Ducks could perform a metamorphosis much like what the Trojans have done, should Joevan Catron, who is thought to be returning for Pac-10 play and Tajuan Porter come all the way back. The two seniors will boost a deep group of new faces who have struggled in non-conference play, but have been able to get a taste of game experience. Guards Garrett Sim, Malcolm Armstead, Teondre Williams, forwards Jamil Wilson, Jeremy Jacob and big Michael Dunigan have all shined in spurts. Unfortunately veterans LeKendric Longmire, Josh Crittle and Matthew Humphrey (who is still out after knee surgery) have not been able to contribute. If the seniors can lead this deep and talented group to play as a team, the Ducks can very possibly catch fire.

6. ASU
The Sun Devils bring a veteran core that has yet to recover from the loss of James Harden and Jeff Pendergraph to the NBA, but has learned Coach Herb Sendek’s grind it out system so well that they won’t be an easy out for anyone. They sorely lack playmakers, but do not lack heady role players that can make Pac-10 teams beat them by playing more disciplined than they are used to. Senior PG Derek Glasser is ASU’s all-time assists leader while junior swing man Rihards Kuksiks has been the best of an anemic bunch compared to the superlative Harden and Pendegraph. Junior guards Jamelle McMillan and Ty Abbott have made solid strides, but since Sendek is going with his veterans over potentially more potent frosh, what you see is probably what you get.

7. Oregon State
The Beavers have been a paper tiger so far this season. The team that started slow last year, but rebounded to win the CBI and attain a .500 record overall after a winless conference slate the year before has found itself back at square one. OSU has a solid playmaking guard in junior Calvin Haynes and two great all-around guards in seniors Seth and Josh Tarver. On paper this team is steeped with veterans and has added some great new faces, but the light has yet to turn on. My guess is that in league play that light should finally shine, but there are other teams in the league that are just further along in assembling talent and putting a system in place. In the end I feel that the Beavers will get some big wins, but in a league that is very close from 3-10 I’m guessing that 7 is their number.

8. Arizona
‘Zona has a solid go-to guy in senior Nic Wise, who has put them on his back in big wins down the stretch and the front court of the future in Derrick Williams and Solomon Hill. Junior forward Jamelle Horne has improved and sophomore SG Kyle Fogg has a year as a starter under his belt, but the ‘Cats, like WSU are just too young. The reason that I feel that the Cougs are so much better is because they have shown me to be a team that has found a way to put together a working unit with it’s new parts, where as ‘Zona has not. The ‘Cats have not played well as a unit consistently and when tested they have yet to show more than spurts before folding. New head coach Sean Miller will recruit great talent and already has, but this year’s model has yet to include all of the pieces.

9. UCLA
The Bruins have played better since the departure of Drew Gordon, but this UCLA team is going no where this year. They will be lucky to put Stanford in the cellar, but I’m picking them 9th because I believe that by the time the year winds down they will find a way to get their young talent involved. Reeves Nelson is already a starter and Tyler Honeycutt has shown himself to be a potent weapon when healthy. Malcolm Lee is a fine guard, but is not good enough on his own. The Bruins are in trouble at the PG spot and even if Jerime Anderson becomes much more effective, there is not depth. When Honeycutt can have a healthy game or Nikola Dragovic can reverse his downward spirals the Bruins will have the occasional win, but that is not going to happen consistently this year.

10. Stanford
Landry Fields is a great all-around player that will contend for Pac-10 Player of the Year honors and Jeremy Green is a big time shooter that can get hot enough occasionally and bring the Cardinal some wins. Stanford will not go winless or near winless as the last two #10 teams in the league have done, but after those two there is little more than three below average Pac-10 level role players in sophomore center Andrew Zimmermann, senior PG Drew Shiller and sophomore SG Jarrett Mann. The loss of Josh Owens (perhaps for his career) is a very bad break, but Stanford has recruited well and will continue to with its academic prestige. That said it will take a few years to dig themselves out of this hole and powerhouse teams like those of the past is not just around the corner.

More Pac-10 Picks

Others are weighing in on the Pac-10 and how things look on the eve of conference play. ESPN’s Andy Katz feels as I do that injuries and academic casualties have played a major factor and that the league could be over the worst of it. Katz also broke big news on OSU’s Roberto Nelson.

“Roberto Nelson, a freshman guard from Santa Barbara, has been OSU’s best player in practice, according to the staff. But Nelson is only a partial qualifier now and won’t be eligible unless he passes the standardized test. And even then, coach Craig Robinson said, he has to decide if it’s worth playing Nelson this season or waiting until next season for a full schedule.”

If Nelson’s their best player, why wouldn’t you play him? The NBA is looking for guys like that his size.

Montlake Madness did a Pac-10 Preview and reversed its predictions on a number of teams from prior to the season. To be fair, Josh Anderson was no worse than everyone else in this topsy turvy year. Anytime that UCLA, Stanford and Arizona are arguably the bottom three teams, it can’t be easy to handicap the field.

Rivals Greg Anthony and Yahoo’s Jason King did a video piece on how they see the Pac-10. King was impressed by their recent play enough to lean towards USC, while Anthony stayed with his earlier pick of Washington. Greg also agrees with me that Oregon is a dark horse in the race.

Doug Haller projected his honors candidates and picked Quincy as his #1 candidate for Player of the Year (Klay was #3), Isaiah as his #3 scorer of the year (Klay was #1) and Venoy his #1 defender. Reggie Moore was his #1 freshman and #3 Point Guard, which is probably more impressive.

Mike Decourcy ranks the Cougars #1 and the Dawgs #2 in his power rankings. Mike is usually pretty savvy in his analysis, but I think that this high of a ranking for WSU is premature. I agree that it could very well be the case in the near future with Bone’s young group that they belong very near the top though. Washington is just better and deeper at this point and Cal and probably USC’s experience will likely win out in the end. I think a good argument could be made on the court between the Cougs and the Trojans though.

Percy Allen made his picks and squarely put the Oregon schools on the bottom of his league projections. He picked UW 1st.

Mynorthwest.com’s Bert Klasey gave us his predictions and like me chose Cal to win it, with UW 2nd. He also chose the Oregon schools dead last, while more or less agreeing with me in picking UCLA 7th and Arizona 8th. I guess we’ll soon find out just how crazy this hunch I have about the Beavers and Ducks is.

Scout’s ASU site did their projections and picked Cal to win it as well, followed in the top-5 by Washington, WSU, USC and their own Sun Devils. They also deep-sixed Oregon and OSU, placing them 8th and 10th respectively.

More Husky Links

Kevin Calabro and notorious Coug homer Jim Moore (AKA the “Go-To-Guy) of Seattle P-I fame did an on-air interview with Quincy Pondexter today on 710 ESPN radio in Seattle. Quincy handled himself quite well I thought and showed pretty decent chops in dealing with the combative Moore and the quick witted Calabro.

Jason King at Rivals also picked his “Mid-Season All-American Teams” and selected Quincy on his 2nd team. Others from the Pac-10 that were mentioned were Klay, who was chosen on the 3rd team and Kevin O’Neill who was chosen as coach of the 3rd team. King also chose Chris Ogden of Texas as his assistant coach of the week to interview and Ogden spoke openly about recruiting Avery Bradley, whom he was the “point man” on for the ‘Horns.

Seth Davis did a feature that attempted to identify the, “Missing piece” on 12 major conference contenders this year. He chose only Washington from the Pac-10 and identified Ramon Martinez a wing from New Mexico as that missing part. Not much to that thought in my mind, as Washington needs post scoring and/or defense so much it hurts. Another good wing, even if he is a better shooter than Quincy from three maybe is not near as great of a need.

Lorenzo Romar commented on the state of the program and how it has improved. Some reminiscing was done in the process, as some of the questions covered many of team’s past from his tenure at Washington.

Don Ruiz did a story that evaluated the changes that have come to Hec-Ed under Romar and some of the major building blocks along the way.

Percy Allen also discussed some of the major steps along the way that have turned Washington from the league door mat into what now appears to be one of, if not the top program in the conference in the near future.

Bobby Jones was definitely one of those that built the UW program from nothing. Bobby has now built his blog, where he talks about his life as a pro player overseas and former college baller into quite an attraction on the net. Yardbarker picked it as one of its featured sports blogs and Rivals as well as others have singled it out for inclusion on their blog rolls.

Percy printed out highlights of Romar’s “Minutes” from yesterday’s press conference, where he also discussed Oregon State, USC and the Huskies outside shooting woes.

Husky Recruiting Corner

2010 UW recruit forward Terrence Jones of Portland OR was effectively held in check by a Westview team that featured USC 2010 signee Garrett Jackson in the Les Schwab Classic down in Hillsboro OR. Kyle Wiltjer, who is in fact a 2011 post, had a great game as Jesuit beat Seattle’s Rainier Beach by 20. Another Husky recruit, 2010 forward Dwayne Polee led his Westchester team to a 78-27 shellacking of Lake Oswego.

2012 UW recruit guard Muhammad Shabazz was not able to participate as his high school team from Las Vegas NV (Bishop Gorman) went to Myrtle Beach SC for the 29th Beach Ball Classic. The weight of his reputation is already palpable, as the headline about the event on ESPN.com read, “Gorman impressing without star guard”, especially since he is only a sophomore. Shabazz is the son of former Husky Defensive Lineman and All Pac-10 performer Ron Holmes, who played with Nate’s dad Jacques Robinson in the 1984 Rose Bowl.

Pac-10 Round Up

Stanford beat James Madison in a close one to end its non-conference slate 80-76. Landry Fields had 24 points, followed by Jeremy Green with 15, Andrew Zimmermann with 14 and Drew Schiller with 12. It was not an impressive way to lead into a road game across town with rival Cal. I feel that this will pit the best team in the Pac-10 against the worst, but in rival games a lot can happen.

Cal won its Golden Bear Classic beating UC Santa Barbara 87-66 in the championship game on Tuesday night. Patrick Christopher led the way for the Bears with 25, followed closely by Jerome Randle with 23. Third wheel Theo Robertson only had 10, but his presence gives Cal a three headed monster that is exponentially more difficult to corral. The Bears will host Cal this weekend at Haas in Berkeley, CA.
Here’s the link:

UCLA’s former post player has narrowed his choices down as to what school he will choose to transfer to. According to Jeff Goodman at Fox Sports it is down to San Diego State, whom he visited last night, plus New Mexico, Notre Dame and UNLV. According to the North County Times the Aztecs, “Did little offensively to impress Drew Gordon on Tuesday night” as they struggled to beat UC Riverside. That sounds a lot like what his old Bruin team was doing back in November.

In an ESPN NBA draft chat, Chad Ford stated about UCLA’s Malcolm Lee that, “From what I can gather from people close to Lee, Lee will bolt UCLA for the Draft”. He went on to say that, “Despite a so-so year from him, someone will take him in the first round based purely on upside”.

That is more of less what we have been hearing as well, which does not bode well for UCLA’s prospects in the back court for next year, despite the commitment of a solid JC PG prospect this past week.

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My Pac-10 Preview