Originally Published: August 20, 2010

Five things to know this offseason

Diamond Leung
ESPN.com

1. What could have been for UW: Washington coaches watched the Internet broadcast just like everyone else as blue-chip recruit Terrence Jones tugged on a Huskies cap during a news conference in his high school gym. When Jones got cold feet in the coming days and ultimately decided to take his talents to Kentucky instead, UW's fine recruiting class lost some luster. However, the decision of one kid should not diminish the fine talent Lorenzo Romar added in the spring to a team coming off a Sweet 16 appearance. The Huskies landed athletic 6-foot-6 wing Terrence Ross, a high school teammate of Jones' who is expected to be a serious shooting threat from the perimeter. Junior college transfer Aziz N'Diaye provides a rugged 7-1 shot-blocking presence in the middle when the team's tallest player had previously been 6-9 Matthew Bryan-Amaning. It will also help future recruiting that Romar was awarded a new 10-year contract after the season.

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AP Photo/Ed Andrieski Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott aimed for 16 teams, but settled for 12 … for now at least.

2. Pac-12 on the horizon: Commissioner Larry Scott's football-driven expansion talks resulted in the conference seeking out a 16-team league, but settling for 12 with the future additions of Utah and Colorado. The Utes bring their hoops tradition to the fold and gain recruiting advantages out of the deal. How this affects future scheduling remains to be seen, but it's all but certain the conference will lose its true round-robin system that was always touted as the fairest way to declare a regular-season champion. In the meantime, Scott is starting to rebrand the conference, putting its new logo on jerseys and court surfaces.

3. NCAA approves of self-sanctions: Rebuilding projects at Arizona and USC were allowed to continue as planned after the NCAA decided against tacking on any significant additional sanctions due to violations committed by previous coaching regimes. The worst appears over for USC and Kevin O'Neill, who in the middle of last season drew the unenviable task of informing his team that it was withdrawing from postseason consideration. With reminders of O.J. Mayo erased from Heritage Hall, the Trojans are eligible to dance once again. Also entering his second season is Sean Miller, who saw the NCAA dock his Arizona squad one additional scholarship in 2012, but otherwise leave him with few other barriers to getting the program back to the NCAA tournament. That Hall of Fame predecessor Lute Olson got dinged for failing to promote an atmosphere of compliance won't have a lasting impact on Miller's program going forward.

4. Oregon hires Altman: Oregon's search for a new coach after the firing of Ernie Kent took nearly six weeks and didn't land the Ducks a big name, but Dana Altman could be a good fit nevertheless. Known as an excellent X's and O's coach, Altman also brought over from Creighton assistant coach Brian Fish, who has experience recruiting in Southern California. The opening of Matthew Knight Arena will give Oregon another recruiting advantage as the Ducks build for the future. No, they didn't get Tom Izzo, Billy Donovan, Brad Stevens, Mark Few or Tubby Smith. But that doesn't mean settling on Altman should be seen as a disappointing hire.

5. Transfers flee conference: A down year for the Pac-10 meant that not a single player declared early for the NBA draft and only two seniors were selected. Unlike in past years when the conference lost a ton of talent to the pros, this offseason saw nearly two dozen players transfer. Oregon lost four players during its transition into the Altman era. Arizona State's Demetrius Walker, Cal's D.J. Seeley and Washington's Elston Turner were among those who might have earned more minutes, but chose to leave. Others, such as Cal's Omondi Amoke, UCLA's J'mison Morgan and USC's Leonard Washington, were dismissed.

Doug Gottlieb's Pac-10 predictions

Doug Gottlieb
ESPN.com

1. Washington: While the Huskies lost a ton the past two years with Brockman and Pondexter graduating, their backcourt is still top notch with Isaiah Thomas, Venoy Overton and Abdul Gaddy -- and Terrence Ross can add a lot to the puzzle. Matthew Bryan-Amaning is the key with his improvement inside.

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Peter G. Aiken/Getty ImagesCan Klay Thompson and Wazzu go from last place to second? Our Doug Gottlieb thinks so.

2. Washington State: You read it right. Klay Thompson should be the best player in the league this season, and with Reggie Moore and DeAngelo Casto back too, Wazzu will do a 180 from the team that lost 10 of 12 down the stretch.

3. Arizona: Derrick Williams is one of the top three players in the league and will continue to improve. With Kyle Fogg and Jamelle Horne back too, Zona needs Lamont "Mo-mo" Jones to play as well in the middle of games as he did at the end of games late in the season.

4. USC: It might take a little while for Jio Fontan (eligible in December) to find a groove, but with talented big man Nikola Vucevic and UNC transfer Alex Stepheson back and a loaded recruiting class, SC should be dangerous in March.

5. UCLA: The Bruins should contend in a year, but in the meantime there are too many questions to believe they will be a top-three team this season. Last season they struggled to score and defend and they lost their two best offensive players while adding some talent that has a long way to go. Josh Smith needs to lose a ton of weight and Tyler Lamb can make shots, but where does he fit with Tyler Honeycutt and Malcolm Lee on the wings? As for Lee, he has to shoot it better at the 2 or create more at the point. For now, UCLA sits in the middle of the Pac.

6. California: Harper Kamp is back off a redshirt season and Allen Crabbe is ready to help now, but this team lost a lot from last season. Point guard play is essential as Jorge Gutierrez and the development of Gary Franklin will be key factors. Keep an eye on incoming frosh Alex Rossi. He has a little Casey Jacobsen to his game.

7. Arizona State: Over the past two years, Herb Sendek lost two first-round picks and a three-year starter at the point, yet somehow continues to amaze. Last season, his team finished in second place, ahead of UW, and he brings in a very deep and solid class, led by Keala King. King's reputation has been a mixed bag depending on who you talk to, but most agree he is talented. No one knows if he can fit in with others or fit in with Sendek. That said, expect ASU to survive this season and be NCAA-worthy next season.

8. Stanford: Very young and very talented, this team -- like the entire league -- is a year from being very good. Besides Jeremy Green, where exactly is the scoring punch coming from? Losing 22 points and nine rebounds a game out of Landry Fields hurts. So does losing Andy Brown for yet another season due to an ACL injury. But if Johnny Dawkins can continue to haul in players like Dwight Powell and Anthony Brown, the Cardinal will be back.

9. Oregon State: It seems that the momentum the Beavers had toward the end of Craig Robinson's first season has stalled a bit after a disappointing 14-18 season that included some horrific losses. Losing Seth Tarver and Roland Schaftenaar means the well-regarded recruiting class, led by Devon Collier, must play well.

10. Oregon: Like Washington State last season, this is a transition year for UO. There is some talent (keeping Malcolm Armstead around was huge) and Dana Altman is a very good coach, but despite the new arena and a commitment to defense, the parts do not yet fit the plan. It'll be another mediocre season in Eugene.

10 key players around the league

Diamond Leung
ESPN.com

Derrick Williams, Arizona: The conference's freshman of the year could be on the verge of national stardom if he continues to grow and leads the Wildcats back to the NCAA tournament. The 6-foot-8 forward was the gem of Sean Miller's first recruiting class and led the team with 15.7 points and 7.1 rebounds while showing off his great instincts around the basket. Developing more of a perimeter game would make Williams even more well-rounded.

Ty Abbott, Arizona State: Abbott emerged as the team's go-to guy in games and a first team all-conference selection. The 6-3 guard dramatically improved his 3-point shot, making more than 40 percent of his attempts. As a senior, he'll be asked to provide veteran leadership on a Herb Sendek team looking to get back to the NCAA tournament after a one-year absence.

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Jason O. Watson/US PresswireJorge Gutierrez is no star, but he could be the key to a Cal team gutted by graduation.

Jorge Gutierrez, Cal: The gritty Gutierrez could end up taking over point guard duties from graduated conference player of the year Jerome Randle on a young Cal team that is looking for new leadership. The junior is the only returning starter the Bears have, and whichever guard position he plays, count on him to play in-your-face defense. As long as he can stay relatively healthy, he'll take the bumps and bruises as they come.

Joevan Catron, Oregon: Catron was granted a redshirt senior year to play after an ailing back limited him to only four games a season ago. He'll bring not only a veteran presence on a team adjusting to new coach Dana Altman, but also a rebounding presence. As a junior, Catron led the team in the category.

Roberto Nelson, Oregon State: With the NCAA only partially clearing Nelson to practice last season, Craig Robinson could only rave that the freshman was at times the best player on the floor. The Beavers are hopeful the 6-4 guard will finally have his academics in order so he can prove to the rest of the conference the accuracy of Robinson's observations.

Jeremy Green, Stanford: Green set a school record for 3-pointers last season, and that's good because the Cardinal will need his help replacing the production of Landry Fields, who led the conference in scoring. On a team with no seniors, it's Green who will have an opportunity to lead. Johnny Dawkins said his maturity has improved after last year's preseason suspension.

Tyler Honeycutt, UCLA: As a freshman, Honeycutt led the Bruins in rebounds, steals and blocked shots. Also an excellent passer, the 6-8, 183-pound forward might very well have the most upside on the team. His continued improvement and possible emergence as an all-conference player this season could be what gets UCLA back to the NCAA tournament.

Jio Fontan, USC: The Trojans were rejuvenated by the December arrival of transfer point guard Mike Gerrity and are hoping for a similar immediate impact when Fontan is expected to become eligible this December. The transfer from Fordham won A-10 rookie of the year honors in 2009 and has proven he can be a reliable scorer.

Abdul Gaddy, Washington: The Huskies hope a summer spent with the U18 national team will help improve the confidence of a guard who was once ESPNU's second-ranked incoming freshman point guard. The 18-year-old Gaddy needs to develop a more consistent shot. A breakout sophomore season would give the already talented UW backcourt an added dimension and bolster their position as Pac-10 favorites.

Klay Thompson, Washington State: Thompson went from NBA early entrant possibility to wondering what happened to his shot at season's end after going through a deep slump. The Pac-10's top returning scorer spent the offseason lifting weights and eating better in hopes that a stronger body will allow him to be a more versatile scorer. The Cougars hope that he won't have to always carry them on his back, but wouldn't mind if he did.

10 freshmen we can't wait to see

Joel Francisco
ESPN Recruiting

Anthony Brown, SF, Stanford: He has a great upside due to his length, feel and all-around skill set. Brown is still very young (has not turned 18) and this should bode well as he tries to add weight to his lanky frame. He can nail the 3-point shot with regularity and he always makes great decisions with the ball in his hands.

Devon Collier, PF, Oregon State: He fits that blue-collar mold at both ends. The left-handed, face-up 4 can stick the jump shot and he's a terrific rebounder. He excels in a pick-and-pop situation and his passing ability is impressive. Most importantly, his toughness should warrant early playing time.

Allen Crabbe, SF, Cal: Arguably the best senior prospect in California this past year, Crabbe has a smooth shooting stroke out to 23 feet and the other areas of his game are coming around. Near the end of his senior campaign he was showing a greater urgency of attacking the rim and he is one of the better rebounders for his size out West.

Liam Foley/Icon SMIL.A. native Bryce Jones will suit up for his hometown Trojans.

Bryce Jones, SF, USC: He is unpolished in many areas and he needs to get stronger, but Jones may have the most upside of any guard-type out West. He can attack the rim off the dribble, rebound in traffic and defend multiple positions. If his jump shot becomes more consistent, his game will go to another level.

Keala King, SF, Arizona State: He is one of the most unique prospects entering college basketball. The slick left-hander has an edge to him, which sometimes deters his effectiveness. However, King can handle the ball against pressure and his passing ability is impressive. In addition, he can post up smaller defenders and is one of the better rebounders for his size in the country.

Tyler Lamb, SG, UCLA: The most polished from an excellent group of wing-types coming into the conference, Lamb's physical approach at both ends will garner early playing time for the Bruins. He can stick the 3-point shot and his mid-range game has improved immensely in the past year.

Jordin Mayes, SG, Arizona: Arguably the best shooter arriving in the Pac-10, his stroke is effortless and he has range out to 22 feet. Mayes lacks that elite level of explosive burst to get past opponents, but he has a tight handle and a tremendous feel for the game. Overall, he should be able to swing between both guard positions for the Wildcats.

Dwight Powell, PF, Stanford: Powell is a hybrid 4-man who has quite the offensive arsenal. He has remarkable perimeter skills due to his solid handle and high-level passing ability. He can also stick the jump shot from the top sides of the key. However, he tends to play in spurts and he floats around the perimeter too much for someone this talented.

Terrence Ross, SF, Washington: He is that prototypical 3-man that every college coach covets. Ross is extremely long, athletic and his shooting prowess is impressive. He excels in transition, where he can attack the rim utilizing his length, and bounce or pull up and stick the 3-point shot. If he hones his mid-range game and improves his court savvy, he will play beyond college.

Josh Smith, C, UCLA: He has as much potential as any incoming recruit in the Pac-10. If he can keep his weight in check, he should have an outstanding freshman season. Smith is a remarkable athlete who is surprisingly bouncy despite his huge frame. He has terrific hands and is tough to stop in the paint, where he utilizes his thick frame to power his way to the basket. Defensively, he has great timing and should be an interior force the moment he gets on campus.

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