Posted on: October 27, 2009 2:55 pm
Edited on: October 31, 2009 10:26 am

PAC-10 Preview

Despite the prognostications that the PAC-10 would have down years, six teams have received NCAA Tournament bids in each of the past two seasons, including three Sweet-16 finishes and one Final Four.

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

The biggest reason why the PAC-10 could have a down year is because of their youth and lack of quality 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 players (Patrick Christopher and Jerome Randle) from the All-Conference team will return for a 2010 encore. Don’t take a down-year for the PAC-10 to mean they won’t be competitive – after all, this isn’t 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 compared to a year ago, three more remained stagnant, while four teams have taken a hit on the talent front and have no sure replacement for it.

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

With all the changes occurring during the off-season, the conference will likely get off to a bumpy start, and fans every where will have to withhold judgment until the end of the season when the obstacles of coaching changes, and youth have all been overcome.

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

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 left. The Cougars get a solid coach in Bone, but the transition will take a few years before the Cougars could become truly competitive.

USC – The biggest losers in all of the off-season changes were spared the changes at coach either. Scandal, or rumor of one at the very least, ran of Tim Floyd. To replace him they brought in the ever-wandering Kevin O’Neill who has had limited success any where he has gone.

Pre-Season Predictions
1. Cal (NCAA)
2. Washington (NCAA)
4. Arizona (NCAA)
5. Oregon (NIT)
6. Oregon State (NIT)
7. ASU
8. Washington State
9. USC
10. Stanford

Player of the Year: Jerome Randle
Freshman of the Year: Abdul Gaddy
First-Team All PAC-10:                       First All-Freshman Team:
*Chosen by position
PG - Patrick Christopher (CAL)             PG - Abdul Gaddy (UW)
SG - Jerome Randle (CAL)                  SG - Trent Lockett (ASU)
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
The Wildcats aren't the same team they were a year ago. They've lost Chase Budinger and Jordan Hill, and Lute Olson is now completley out of the picture. But new head coach Sean Miller has done a sensational recruiting job bringing in a Top 25 recruiting class with just under a month's worth of work.
The 'Cats are young and will be relying on freshman or returning role players for significant production, so expect a rough start to the season. But once PAC-10 play rolls around, expect the 'Cats to be ready to compete for a finish in the top half of the conference.

The Big Question: Can the 'Cats over-come the adjustment to their third coach in three seasons, and needing impact play from former role players 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, Lamot "MoMo" Jones


Arizona State Sun Devils
The Sun Devils are the second team to lose their best two players, James Harden and Jeff Pendergraph, to the draft, but they did little to compensate for it. The Sun Devils will return to their meticulous, slow-down offense hoping to grind opponents down with fundamental play.

The Big Question: Can the Sun Devils compesate for the loss of Harden and Pendergraph with a turnaround performance by Eric Boateng and a Freshman of the Year type performance from Trent Lockett?
Key Departures: James Harden, Jeff Pendergraph
Key Arrivals: SG Trent Lockett, SF Victor Rudd

California Golden Bears
With five seniors and two juniors, Cal is by far the most experienced team in the conference. Thanks to that, and returning All-Conference players Patrick Christopher and Jerome Randle, the Golden Bears should be the odds-on favorite to win the conference.

The Big Question: With no major changes to their lineup, can the Golden Bears rely on their experience and depth to push them to the top of the conference in Mike Montgomerey's second year in Berkeley?
Key Departures: None
Key Arrivals: None

Oregon Ducks
The Ducks were a surprising disappointment in 2008-2009. Be sure to keep that in mind as they the Ducks have plenty of young talent on their roster, but simply failed to capitalize on it a year ago. The biggest improvement should come from center Michael Dunigan who was a non-factor for much of the year last year. With rumors swirling aobut Ernie Kent's job, the clock could be ticking.

The Big Question: Can Kent capitalize on the young talent he has to save his job?
Key Departures: Franz Dorsainvil
Key Additions: SF Jamil Wilson, SF E.J. Singler

Oregon State
Klay Thompson and the Beavers are good. They're not great, but they are good. With a weakened PAC-10 and a solid recruiting class for the Beavers, they could have etched a top 5 finish for the first time in decades. It won't be easy, but they could fight it out. You have to like the progress they've made in just one year under Craig Robinson, and because of that it makes you wonder how high their ceiling will be in years to come.

The Big Question: After making significant strides last year, can the Beavers continue to surprise in 2009-2010 by jumping into the top five of the with the additions of some solid recruits?
Key Departures: Rickey Claitt
Key Arrivals: Roberto Nelson, Jared Cunningham

Stanford Cardinal
Landry Fields is the star for the Cardinal who enter their second year under former Duke assistant Johnny Dawkins. The Cardinal are likely hurting the most after their off-season losses, especially since they relied on bringing in transfers and only one recruit to replace Kenny Brown, Anthony Goods, Lawrence Hill, and Mitch Johnson..

The Big Question:
Can the Cardinal take a step in the right direction despite losing 3 of their 5 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

UCLA Bruins
The Bruins once again have reloaded in the off-season. And thanks to arguably the best recruiting class in the conference they look to be in the mix for conference champs come late February. The boys of Westwood are one of only a few teams that managed to stave off a huge drop in talent thanks to their recruiting.

The Big Question: Can the freshman and role players from the past two years turn the Bruins into a serious contender, or will they be like seven of the other teams looking for table scraps after Cal and Washington 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

USC Trojans
Scandal has been associated with USC for the past several years, but that was football … or so we thought. When Tim Floyd basically admitted to the major violation by stepping down, the entire program effectively went with him. The Trojans still have some talent, and a new coach in Kevin O’Neill who demands hard work out of his players, but its not enough. This will be their best year for a while, but they’ll still be in the bottom-half of the conference.

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 WilkinsonTheir entire 2009 recruiting class.
Key Arrivals: Kevin O’Neill – wow, that’s SAD that he isn’t just a key arrival, but the only key arrival

Washington Huskies
The Huskies electrified people with their backcourt a season ago, and with the addition of Abdul Gaddy, they’ll look to do it again this year. The Huskies, however, are now without Jon Brockman and look to Matthew Bryan-Amaning to fill the void.

The Big Question: Can the Huskies get enough production out of their frontcourt to overcome the Golden Bears for 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

Washington State Cougars
The Cougars were successful the past few seasons thanks to “Bennett-ball.” The Cougars took another hit with the graduation of Taylor Rochestie, Aron Baynes and others that made that offense work. With all the departures, new head coach Ken Bone will give the Cougars a different look as he wants to push the ball and become an up-tempo team. Sure, they have Klay Thompson, but they don’t have the personnel across the lineup to make an up-tempo team work with the success they’ve come accustomed to in Pullman.

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 Bennett, Aron Baynes, Caleb Forrest, Daven Harmeling, Taylor Rochestie
Key Additions: Xavier Thames, Anthony Brown, Reggie Moore

Posted on: June 15, 2009 12:30 pm
Edited on: July 2, 2009 3:54 pm
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Posted on: April 8, 2009 1:55 am
Edited on: June 11, 2009 3:14 pm

PAC-10 Off-Season Changes

The deadline for draft declarations has now passed, and any underclassman not listed for their respective schools will be returning barring a decision to transfer - though I don't see that happening on any account unless their name happens to be D.J. Shumpert. Players who have declared for the draft now have until June 15th to withdraw and return to school. Many of the players who have declared have not hired an agent and are eligible to return (including Nic Wise, Patrick Christopher, Taj Gibson, and Jrue Holiday).

The recruiting is still changing and there are a lot of circumstances currently brewing that could significantly change the face of their respective teams. If I'm not mistaken, recruits have until May 30th to sign a Letter of Intent. After that date, players can still verbally commit to a school, but it will not be a binding commitment.

It appears as though this off-season will have more changes to the conference than previous years, especially with Arizona's sudden attack on the recruiting trail and the huge list of underclassmen that have declared. There is certainly enough going on to keep things interesting until the final day to withdraw from the NBA draft.

Out: Jordan Hill, Chase Budinger, David Bagga, Fendi Onubon
In: C-Kyryl Natyazhko (4 Stars), SF-Solomon Hill (4-Stars), PF-Tremayne Johnson (NR)

Arizona State
Out: Jeff Pendergraph, James Harden
Unkown: None
In: SG-Trent Lockett (4-Stars), C-Ruslan Pateev (3 Stars), SG-Demetrius Walker (3 Stars), PF-Victor Rudd (3 Stars)

In: PF-Markhuri Sanders-Frison (3 Stars), PF-Bak Bak (3 Stars), PG-Brandon Smith (3 Stars)

Out: Frantz Dorsainvil, Churchill Odia
Unkown: None
In: SF-Jeremy Jacob (3 Stars), SF-E.J. Singler (3 stars), SF-Jamil Wilson (4 Stars)

Oregon State
Out: Kyle Bjornstad, Rickey Claitt, Joey McConnell
Unkown: None
In: C-Joe Burton (3 stars), SG-Roberto Nelson (4 Stars), PG-Jared Cunningham (4 Stars), C-Angus Brandt (3 Stars), SF-Rhys Murphy (3 Stars)

Out: Anthony Goods, Lawrence Hill, Mitch Johnson
Unkown: None
In: PF-Andy Brown (3 Stars)

Out: Alfred Aboya, Darren Collison, James Diefenbach, Josh Shipp, Jrue Holiday*
Unkown: None
In: SF-Tyler Honeycutt (4 Stars), SF-Mike Moser (4 Stars), PF-Reeves Nelson (4 Stars), PF-Brendan Lane (3 Stars), C-Anthony Stover (3 Stars)

Out: Terence Green, Marcus Johnson, Keith Wilkinson, DeMar DeRozan$, Taj Gibson*, Daniel Hackett$
Unkown: None
In: PG- Lamont "Momo" Jones (4 Stars), PF-Derrick Williams (3 Stars), SF-Evan Smith (NR)

Out: Jon Brockman, Justin Dentmon, Artem Wallace
Unkown: None
In: PG-Abdul Gaddy (5 Stars), PF-Charles Garcia (3 Stars), PF-Clarence Trent (3 Stars), SG- C.J. Wilcox (3 Stars)

Washington State
Out:Aron Baynes, Caleb Forrest, Daven Harmeling, Taylor Rochestie
Unkown: None
In: SG-Anthony Brown (3 Stars), Xavier Thames (3 Stars), PF-Brock Motum (NR)

*-Player has declared for the draft, but has not hired an agent and is eligible to return to college.



Category: NCAAB
Tags: PAC-10
Posted on: December 30, 2008 12:06 pm
Edited on: December 30, 2008 12:12 pm

PAC-10: Contenders vs. Pretenders

As PAC-10 play has drawn closer, I've been taking a good look at the different teams and haven't been too startled by what I saw. The only exception to that has been the success of Stanford and their undefeated record after losing the Lopez Twins to the NBA. They are even receiving votes in the AP and the Coaches polls! So I started kicking around the teams trying to sift through the soft OOC schedules, and misleading stats trying to figure out who will challenge for the PAC-10 crown this year.

The obvious choice is going to be UCLA. Sure, they're down from the past two or three years, but they're still a potent team with stifling perimeter defense and the best backcourt in the conference. But I didn't want to just stick with "UCLA wins it... again," I wanted to really dig into the conference. So pretend that UCLA is out of the equation - they lose Collison to a knee injury or for whatever reason the team implodes costing them 5 or 6 games and effectively the conference title.


Now I'd love to pick my Arizona Wildcats, that would be a great farewell gift to Olson for putting this team together, and a nice reward for Pennell and Co. who stepped in to pick up the pieces in the wake of Olson's sudden retirement. However, they're a very inexperienced team that is relying on three main players and a supporting cast that is largely unknown and mostly unproven. So, to prevent the homer pick of Arizona, we'll pretend that Jordan Hill's strained calf muscle is a torn ligament and he can't play until next year.


Let's whittle down the options here by eliminating teams that even with just eight teams to choose from, still don't have a chance. First to go is clearly Oregon State. They are barely a .500 team against competition that is severely sub-par of PAC-10 caliber. With losses to Howard, Yale, Montana State to name a few, there is little hope of them picking up 2 wins this season.

Aron BaynesNext off the board has to be Washington State. I like their program and their deliberate style, but at some point when push comes to shove you need a guy that can get to the rim, and take over a big game. Their leading scorers (Aron Baynes 11.4 ppg, Klay Thompson 11.0 ppg, and Taylor Rochestie 10.2 ppg) are not players that can get terribly physical and have yet to show up against a quality team. All four of their losses have come against the only opponents on their schedule that could compete in the PAC-10. During these losses (Pitt, Baylor, Gonzaga, and LSU) their three leading scorers combined for an average of 26 points. If they want to compete, someone needs to step up.

Elimination next stops in Eugene, Oregon with the ducks. They lost a lot of talent gone to wasted efforts last year, and brought in a solid recruiting class. Their youth isn't coming along as quickly as Ernie Kent would probably like, and they've lost a couple ugly games because of it. If I were going strictly by record, they'd be off the board before WSU; However, they do have a good amount of talent and finally have a good inside presence with Michael Dunigan. Dunigan is a bad performance or two away from having been the Ducks' leading scorer to this point. The potential of this team far exceeds Washington State right now, and that's why Oregon gets a spot ahead of WSU.

Picking the middle of the remaining teams is almost like splitting hairs. Stanford is undefeated because of exceptional backcourt performances, and Washington has three losses, and no quality wins, but have a huge frontcourt advantage. So who's next? It has to be Stanford. I'm impressed with their 9-0 record after losing the Lopez Twins and all frontcourt presence. That is, I'm impressed until I look at who they've played. They’re only reasonably good win is Santa Clara, and only by 8 points. Guard play is extremely important, especially in the PAC-10. But with opposing guards like Harden, DeRozan, Rochestie,  Randle and Christopher to face off against, it's going to be difficult to outmatch any team in the backcourt. Stanford needs more inside presence if they want to win the conference this year.

Like I said, this is like splitting hairs. Stanford needs inside presence, but Washington needs another scorer. The frontcourt of Jon Brockman and Matthew Bryan-Amaning is the most formidable in the conference and the size advantage alone is what sets them ahead of Stanford. But the Huskies are still waiting for Quincy Pondexter to step up consistently and become the wingman he has the potential to be. Pondexter has only had three of those games this year with 21 points, 16 points, and 14 points, but not one of them against a good defensive team. If Washington wants the title they need a guard taller than 6' to step up.

The remaining three teams are clearly head and shoulders above the five I've already covered. And picking the gem amongst them is extremely difficult. I know that no matter what order I put them in, there is going to be debate and argument over it. Each team has a solid case for the best of the group, but ultimately I feel it comes down to who has the most rounded unit combined with coaching ability. Since coaching adjustments, team management, and when push comes to shove the coach is blamed if they fail, and only given a quiet congratulations if they succeed, the head coach has to be the distinguishing factor amongst these three teams.

For that reason, USC has to come off the board. Tim Floyd has done a good job with these kids. They play a very physical and aggressive style of basketball. Combined with four legitimate scorers and you've got a recipe for success. But my problem with this team comes back to Tim Floyd. It isn't their style or abilities that has me concerned. It's the fact that Floyd has permitted this program to become merely a stepping stone for players like Mayo and DeRozan to take until they are allowed to move on to the NBA. That type of individual play leads to turnovers (conference high 16.8 per game), and will ultimately cost them games against teams with better chemistry. It's Floyd's job to counter that, and I don't believe he's capable of it - after all, it was his recruiting that built that scenario.

So now we're down to Arizona State and CAL. An easy pick if you listen to the media, right? Wrong. Take a look at both teams stats. Statistically they are almost identical with the majority of their scoring coming from four players, and fewer than 5 point per game from the rest. The largest separation between the two teams, statistically, is opponents points per game. CAL is giving up 64.3 while ASU is only 58. So who do you take? I go with CAL.

First while Arizona State has gotten additional help from Rihards Kuksiks who has doubled his ppg production from a year ago up to 10.8 points per game, they still don't get consistent production from anyone except James Harden, and that's a problem. Arizona State is only as good as Harden performs within his team. Want proof? Look no further than the IUPUI and BYU games. Against IUPUI he didn't show up and was too busy talking with Amare Stoudemire behind the ASU bench to care. He tallied 9 points and ASU got lucky. The other problem is if he becomes selfish against a good team. Harden dropped 30 on a good BYU team, but ASU struggled to a controversial win. Harden can carry the Sun Devils far, but if they want to be best out of this group it's going to take a team effort.

Once again, it comes down to team chemistry and how well they play as a collective unit and how much faith I have in the coach. This CAL team has had the most talent in the conference, outside of UCLA, for the past couple of years, but hasn't been able to capitalize on it under Ben Braun. With the hiring of Mike Montgomery this team almost instantly became better. Montgomery has these kids playing hard, shooting well, and playing as a team. That's why I have CAL ahead of USC, ahead of ASU, and ahead of the other teams in this scenario. CAL is getting great production from all over the court. They have the size to compete with Brockman & Washington, and the guards to compete with anybody in the conference.

Posted on: December 28, 2008 10:39 pm

PAC-10 Power Rankings (Pre-Conference)

There are still a few non-conference games remaining for the PAC-10 before the conference action begins this weekend. But most of the games are quite insignificant, and likely won't have much bearing on my rankings anyhow. Without furture ado, here are my PAC-10 Power Rankings heading into conference play.

  1. UCLA: Despite early struggles, they are a solid team with Collison at the helm. That three-guard lineup of Collison, Shipp, and Holiday is the best in the conference and enough to give any team fits.
  2. Arizona : They have a few ugly losses, but they have the best win in the conference (over Gonzaga). The Big Three are carrying a lot of the load and they have been getting help from unexpected talent. The youth is a concern.
  3. CAL: I said before the season, they are a surprise team to watch out for. Montgomery almost has you forgetting that they lost Ryan Anderson to the NBA. They're a great shooting team with a lot of long-range weapons.
  4. ASU: They've only got one loss, but that's not indicative of their struggles against a soft schedule. Harden is a beast that will carry this team far, but he's going to need a lot more help against the PAC-10.
  5. USC: Their record is padded because of their OOC schedule. DeRozan has performed well, but he's not even scratching Mayo numbers yet. They've got a few scorers and an average defense.Look for a loss or two in the second week of conference play.
  6. Stanford: They played a light OOC schedule, only eight games, but they won them all. With one of the wins coming over Santa Clara, they have done enough to deserve this spot for now. Their lacking frontcourt will cost them this spot... soon.
  7. Washington: Brockman is finally getting some offensive help, and a bit more muscle down low as well. They'll be moderately successful in PAC-10 play because of their interior size alone. They still need Pondexter to step it up another notch.
  8. Washington State: They got blasted by a couple of top-tier programs in non-conference play. I understand that the deliberate offense reduces points, but to only have three guys in double-digits (and just barely) isn't good. They need someone to step up and be a scoring threat in the worst kind of way.
  9. Oregon: They are a young team without a signature win, and some ugly losses. Ernie Kent will be on the hot seat if he can't get his freshmen to perform and fast. Don't sleep on Oregon though, they have the talent, just lack experience - and that's a great recipe for a second-half surge.
  10. Oregon State: Any surprise that they are here? With losses to Howard, Nevada, Yale, Montana State, and Iowa State it's not looking good that they'll pick up a win any time soon. The new coach has a huge task in front of him, maybe his brother-in-law can use some of that Senate Seat Money to buy off a couple refs for him. Just kidding, but seriously - it looks like they may go two straight seasons without a conference win. That's BAD!
Posted on: December 21, 2008 2:37 am
Edited on: December 22, 2008 10:52 am

Arizona's Greatest Non-Conference Rivalry

Wildcats vs. Jayhawks

So after folding in Vegas, Arizona turns past a rivalry that's trying to be rejuvinated - especially by a few moronic UNLV fans - to one of College Basketball's greatest non-conference rivalries. Both Arizona and Kansas have two days to prepare for the 2008 rendition of this PAC-10/Big-12 rivalry.

Arizona and Kansas have met up 8 times in the past 12 years, and four times the loser's season has ended when the final horn blew. In 1997 the fourth-seeded Wildcats upset the first-seeded Jayhawks 85-82. Two years later, Kansas returned the favor by bouncing the high-hoped 'Cats 78-75.

Currently Kansas holds a 5 game to 3 game edge over the 'Cats even though Kansas averages 80 points per contest, while Arizona averages 81. That one point differential is far more indicative as to the calibur of these games. There have been multiple games where the victor has come from behind 20+ points. Kansas' largest victory in this span has been 8, while Arizona's largest is 17. Kansas won the matchup last season 76-72 at Allen Fieldhouse.

The Jayhawks are starting over again this year following a National Championship and mass exodus of seniors graduating or stars making the jump to the NBA. Even though they are a long way off from the ability to defend their crown in the Final Four, Kansas is still potent and a border-line Top 25 team, despite the "down" year.

Arizona is a year removed from the Kevin O'Neill fiasco, and the absence of Lute Olson on the sidelines alters this rivalry significantly. The 'Cats are down further than the Jayhawks are, but have a great win over the then fourth-ranked Gonzaga Bulldogs. Both of the teams' chemistry, makeup, and reliance upon freshmen and sophomores taking on new roles means this should be yet another great matchup.

Led by Junior Poing Guard Sherron Collins, the Jayhaks will return to Arizona for the first time since December of '01, when they won 105-97. Collins is a dynamic point guard who is leading the team in assists (4.8) and points (17.9). Kansas runs a 3 guard lineup with Tyshawn Taylor and sharp shooting Brady Morningstar on the wings. Meanwhile  they have plenty of depth in the frontcourt with Cole Aldrich averaging a double-double, and Marcus Morris an Markieff Morris slammin bodies around down low.

As a unit Kansas is very good. Offensively they are averaging just over 80 points a game with good shooting and great ball movement. Their turnovers are a bit high, but have done a nice job of forcing their opponents into +2.5 topg. Kansas also holds a 9.9 rebounding edge as the team as a unit goes after missed shots. Make no mistake about it, Kansas is good, but they have a lot of inexperienced and unproven players as well.

Nic Wise and the front court are going to have their hands full again with Collins - who did not play against the 'Cats last season - and the versatility of Kansas' guards. This should be a great game, hopefully Arizona's Jekyll and Hyde season will show us Jekyll come Tuesday.

Keys to the Game:

1. Budinger's Revenge: Last year K.O failed to draw up an effective last-second play for Budinger at the end of regulation, and despite his 27 points on the night, Kansas walked away with the win.
Budinger: 25+ points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 or fewer turnovers

2. Stand Tall: Jordan Hill absolutely must stay out of foul trouble in this game. Last year he played 24 minutes and scored 5 points because of foul trouble. Kansas' front court is big and strong, Hill has to play smart.
Hill: 15+ points, 14+ rebounds, 35+ minutes

3. Key Stat - A/TO: Kansas is forcing teams into over 16 turnovers a game, whereas Arizona opponents are only turning it over around 11 times. This stat line could very well be the biggest indicator for who wins the game.
Protection Program: Tally 15+ assists while holding a -4 turnover differential.

4. Use that booty!: Kansas holds a 9.9 rebounding advantage over their opponents this season. Jordan Hill, Jamelle Horne, and everyone else is going to have to crash the boards hard and get their butt into people when the shot goes up.
Windex Men: Outrebound Kansas by 4 or more.

5. Redemption: After beating Gonzaga a week ago, Arizona looks past UNLV to the Kansas game and loses ugly. They need another big win to redeem themselves and keep on track for an at-large bid. There is no stat line to measure here, but Pennell has to have these kids focused and ready to play from tip-off to final horn. He has to make the right adjustments at the right time, and keep from making coaching mistakes against Bill Self.

Posted on: October 19, 2008 2:56 pm
Edited on: October 30, 2008 12:36 am

PAC-10 '08-'09 Basketball Preview

Year-in and year-out the PAC-10 is one of the best conferences in the nation. Last year the conference sent 6 teams to the NCAA Tournament and 2 more to the NIT. The conference also produced five of the top 11, and 7 total first round and 5 second round picks in the NBA draft. There is no doubt about the talent and competitiveness this conference holds.

As the past seven months have passed the PAC-10 has received some serious remodelling. There have been enough changes in the players and personnel within this conference to make your head spin. Now that the dust is seeming to settle, it’s time to exit the bunkers and catch up with PAC-10 basketball.

Since this is a rebuilding year for the conference as a whole, every team has a story line or two that can be followed. Many teams have lost star players and head coaches - the most notable of which is the breaking story of Hall of Fame Coach Lute Olson packing his bags within weeks of the season starting. How will the teams fall into place this year?

  • Can Arizona sustain at least one year without Olson before falling into the cellar of the PAC-10?
  • What is it going to be like when the Mike Montgomery led Cal team faces off against Stanford?
  • Who is going to challenge UCLA for the top spot in the conference?
  • Will UCLA make their fourth consecutive Final Four appearance?
  • Who’s better, DeMar DeRozan or Jrue Holiday?
  • What in the world is Stanford going to do without the Lopez twins?
  • Can Oregon State improve on their abysmal performance from last year with a new head coach?

The list goes on and on. Because of that, I’ve broken each team into separate blog entries. To access it, either scroll down until you find the team you’re curious about, or simply click on the team name in the “Projected Finish.”

By compiling information from scout.com, rivals.com, maxpreps.com, sportsline.com, the teams official websites, and a few other sites I have produced  an in depth look into each team. You’ll find a breakdown of the team roster by front court, backcourt, and bench. There’s information on who has left and what it means for the team, and who the team brought in to replace them. Albeit, this is not an all-encompassing list and there will be discrepancies in regards to the starting lineups. Without being at the practices and seeing each of the players, I am left merely with speculation based upon the information I have been able to gather and each teams needs.

I also took the spin of focusing on a recruits strengths more than their weaknesses. Let the criticism come from their performance in college, not high school - high school isn’t a business yet. Also, if I couldn’t find anything negative, I didn’t hypothesize. So if you have a different view on a recruit, and you’ve seen more than I have in regards to someone, chances are you’re probably right. If a recruit’s name is hyperlinked it goes to a highlight video for that individual player.

Projected Finish:

  1. UCLA - They have more talent and depth than anyone else in the conference. This spot is theirs to lose.
  2. Arizona State - Might be a bit high, but I'm giving Pendergraph and Harden the benefit of the doubt here. Someone else needs to step up.
  3. USC - They've got Taj Gibson and DeMar DeRozan - that's a huge one-two punch. But they like the Sun Devils need more help down low. They'll be a fun team to watch.
  4. Washington State - They're deliberate offense is painful to watch, but it is effective and they've got the shooters to make it work.
  5. Oregon - Should be a bumpy year for a young team, but they'll get better as the year progresses. Should be interesting to see what Ernie Kent can do with a true center.
  6. Arizona - Originally I had them up at 3 with Lute Olson at the helm. They have solid leadership with Wise, Budinger, and Hill, but have too much youth. They've lost a lot, can the leaders carry them through?
  7. CAL - Mike Montgomery will get these kids playing to their potential and then some. The losses of Anderson, Hardin and Verneisel hurt, but they'll take a step forward this year with better coaching.
  8. Stanford - They're in a world of hurt. No front court, and an average backcourt. They do have talent, but they're not strong enough to win many games this year.
  9. Washington - I'm undervaluing them here a bit, but until I see that Brockman has real help down low, I'm not going to buy into these guys.
  10. Oregon State - When a win is improvement over last year, you can't help but take a step forward. The Beavers are a long way from their glory days.

**Click on the team name to go to their individual team report or simply keep scrolling down.

Pre-Season All-Conference

Point Guard - Darren Collison UCLA
Shooting Guard - James Harden ASU
Small Forward - Chase Budinger Arizona
Power Forward - Jordan Hill Arizona
Center - Jon Brockman - Washington

PAC-10 Player of the Year: James Harden ASU
PAC-10 Freshman of the Year: Jrue Holiday UCLA


Posted on: October 17, 2008 8:01 pm
Edited on: October 30, 2008 12:34 am

Arizona Wildcats '08-'09 Preview

Arizona Wildcats

Head Coach: Mike Dunlap
Last Season’s Results: Conf. 9-11 (6th), Overall 19-15. Post Season:  NCAA Tournament


Chances are, if you read this in previous days/weeks you will want to reread it. I had to change the outlook when Lute Olson suddenly announced retirement due to health issues (primarily a stroke which inhibited his ability to coach). Now, with the announcement of freshman center Jeff Withey transferring things look completely different for the Wildcats yet again.

Backcourt: Arizona looks as though they will start Nic Wise, Chase Budinger, and Jamelle Horne on the perimeter with Brandon Lavender and Kyle Fogg coming off the bench. With that lineup it should be very reminiscent to the ‘06-’07 team that featured Budinger, Marcus Williams, and Mustafa Shakur. Budinger should have a career year as he becomes the go-to guy this year.

Horne looks to benefit the most with Arizona not having a proven point guard, and additional help in the front court as he will mostly play SF now instead of PF. Horne is athletic, quick, and has a much better game than the impression he gave last year thanks to lack of PT. Because of the lack of depth in the frontcourt, Horne could see plenty of time at the PF position with either Brandon Lavendar or Kyle Fogg taking some time on the wings as Arizona would look to go small and hopefully gain an advantage.

Frontcourt: Jordan Hill will once again feature Arizona’s frontcourt. He’s made significant strides every year at Arizona, and never at his natural power forward position. Unfortunately, that will be the case again this year with the sudden departure of Jeff Withey. The ‘Cats are hoping that Hills foul troubles from last season will diminish, and need them to with only 4 front court players on the roster, and only Hill and Onobun expected to contribute significant minutes.

Chances are because of the leadership that Onobun provides and his solid efforts he will start. Once again Hill will be shifted out of his natural power forward position to center with Onobun taking the power forward rolde.

Bench: Kyle Fogg and Brandon Lavendar and Zane Johnson will be the first players off the bench, as Arizona will run a 4 guard lineup a lot this year due to the lack of depth in the frontcourt. As Arizona looks to their bench Budinger and Horne will likely see time at power forward until Alex Jacobson and Darnell Shumpert prove to be viable options - if they ever prove to be.

Key Departures: Jerryd Bayless and Jawann McClellan both said their farewells to the Wildcats after last season. Bayless was the leading scorer, and the leader on the team. While McClellan was inconsistent last year as well as his entire carreer. Both were starters and impact players for the 'Cats though.

 Arizona's biggest loss came from the bench though. Lute Olson has officially retired leaving a wake of decommitted recruits (both last year and this coming year). More interesting is that the entire coaching staff is new this year. No more Josh Pastner to develop talent like Jordan Hill. No more Bozo the Clown...err Kevin O'Neill to swear at players, coaches, refs, and fans alike. No more iconic alumn with no real coaching talent in Miles Simon. It's a new class of coaches - maybe one that can help bring the 'Cats along until next year.

Key Recruits:

SG- Brendon Lavender unranked - Another Mountain View (same school that produced Richard Jefferson). This kid exploded from his Sophomore (4.3 ppg) to his Senior  (21.0 ppg) year in high school. Olson is betting that that kind of dramatic growth will continue. Expect to see him in the starting lineup at some point this season because of Arizona’s need for a true SG and how well he fits into Olson’s system.

SG- Kyle Fogg #40 SG - A quick guard with the ability to shoot the three and some ability to create his own shot.
*Click on recruit names that are linked for their highlight video.

Strengths: Arizona returns a good portion of its offense from last year in Chase Budinger, Jordan Hill, and Nic Wise.  Budinger and Hill will headline the season for the ‘Cats as both are the best in the conference at their position and will likely wind up as lottery or first round picks in the NBA draft.

Weaknesses: Arizona’s defense has been unacceptable the last few seasons, and now with an undersized point guard, in Nic Wise, Arizona will continue to have trouble applying pressure on the perimeter. Arizona still has a huge question mark in regards to shooting guard. They are lacking one more player who can create their own shot any time they want. Their bench is also terribly thin.

Key Dates:
Dec. 5 @ Texas A&M
Dec 14 vs. Gonzaga @ America West Arena
Dec 23 vs. Kansas
Jan 15 @ USC
Jan 17 @ UCLA
Jan 21 Arizona State

 Typically success is easily measured for the Wildcats: Beat ASU and UCLA, win the PAC-10 title, win 20 plus games, finish in the Top 25, and reach the Sweet 16.  Arizona failed to accomplish any of those feats last season and looks to return to their winning ways with more questions than answers. Now Arizona's measuring stick has to change for the foreseeable future. A successful season for these 'Cats will be to remain out of the PAC-10's cellar. It will be about player development, and simply avoiding getting blown out by UCLA and other perrenial power houses.

Arizona has already faced more obstacles this season than most teams face all year, and they've yet to play in their first game. Nic Wise, Jordan Hill, and Chase Budinger will lead this team. Can they overcome the obstacles and bring the young guys up to speed? It would be a pleasant surprise for Tucson and a wonderful gift for Coach Olson. They've got pride and tradition, but it's going to take a lot more than that to continue the NCAA Tournament streak.

Projected Finish: Sixth in the PAC-10

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com