Five things to know this offseason
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.
Doug Gottlieb's Pac-10 predictions
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
A look around the league
Arizona: The Wildcats saw their streak of 25 straight NCAA tournament appearances snapped, but they did finish fourth in the league and there is plenty of hope they can get back to the Big Dance as soon as this season. Sean Miller's first recruiting class turned out numerous players expected to take on larger roles. Derrick Williams is a star in the making and returns as the team's scoring and rebounding leader. Lamont Jones should be ready to take over the starting point guard spot from Nic Wise. Solomon Hill is a versatile forward, and a healthy Kevin Parrom gives Arizona a tough presence.
Arizona State: Herb Sendek has led the Sun Devils to three straight 20-win seasons, including last year's second-place finish and now hopes to get the program off the bubble and back to the NCAA tournament. The future appears bright with an intriguing recruiting class that gives the team a boost in athleticism, and the team's style of play should reflect that. Junior college transfers Brandon Dunson and Carrick Felix bring experience, and the development of Keala King as one of five freshmen with good upside is worth following.
California: Are the defending conference champion Bears rebuilding? After last season's seniors carried them to the title, Mike Montgomery is left with one senior this year. Junior Jorge Gutierrez is expected to get the first shot at replacing Pac-10 player of the year Jerome Randle at point guard, and the Bears would love it if freshman Gary Franklin can step in there as well. Allen Crabbe is another frosh who should contribute at shooting guard, and the Bears hope the return of Harper Kamp from knee surgery gives them an experienced forward.
Oregon: Before Dana Altman was even introduced at a news conference inside unfinished Matthew Knight Arena, three players who played for Ernie Kent had decided to transfer during the lengthy coaching search. A fourth would later leave, and Altman needed to convince point guard Malcolm Armstead to stay. The Ducks even postponed their scheduled August trip to Italy due to a lack of healthy players. The opening of the new arena in January should give the program a shot in the arm, but it will be interesting to see if the Ducks can pack the place during what could be a rough season on the court.
Oregon State: Craig Robinson spent the spring on a book tour promoting his memoir, and the buzz surrounding the Beavers is good as well. The team struggled to stay consistent last season while tying for fifth in the conference, but the continued growth of sophomores Jared Cunningham and Joe Burton could vault them up the standings. It's critical that guard Roberto Nelson becomes eligible after missing the season waiting for the NCAA to clear him academically. UTEP transfer Eric Moreland is eligible to play immediately and rounds out Robinson's most recent recruiting class.
Stanford: The Cardinal lost conference scoring champion Landry Fields, but should be excited about the development of shooting guard Jeremy Green. That Johnny Dawkins will have some pieces to incorporate around him this year is another positive sign. It helps that solid post player Josh Owens is back after redshirting the season due to an undisclosed medical condition. Stanford has no seniors, but with Dawkins adding a promising recruiting class, the Cardinal do have some hope.
UCLA: Losing seasons don't go over well in Westwood, and for the Bruins to get back to the NCAA tournament, they have to get more backcourt consistency. Malcolm Lee spent the offseason working on his shot mechanics, and if Jerime Anderson struggles at point guard again, Ben Howland has options. Howland signed a rare junior college transfer in Lazeric Jones and also asked Matt Carlino to graduate a year early from high school. Tyler Honeycutt and Reeves Nelson are emerging as forwards, and the Bruins also brought in a big body in McDonald's All-American Josh Smith.
USC: Kevin O'Neill has to be happy that this year's team is simply eligible for the postseason after self-sanctions resulting from NCAA violations stopped the Trojans' momentum last season. In the meantime, O'Neill discovered that Tim Floyd did leave him with talented 6-10 forward Nikola Vucevic, who averaged nearly a double-double and is an excellent shot-blocker. Vucevic and Alex Stepheson form a formidable frontcourt, and they'll benefit from the arrival of point guard transfer Jio Fontan, who should be eligible in December. As a freshman for Fordham, Fontan averaged 15.3 points per game.
Washington: Lorenzo Romar has led the Huskies to three Sweet 16s in six seasons, and hopes are high that he can go even further with this team even after losing Quincy Pondexter. UW is loaded with backcourt talent, with Isaiah Thomas able to score in bunches, Venoy Overton known for his hard-nosed defense, and Abdul Gaddy looking for a breakout sophomore season. Justin Holiday brings leadership and fellow senior forward Matthew Bryan-Amaning impressed down the stretch last season. Expectations are high, but they were last year as well, when the Huskies started off the season struggling mightily on the road and ended up needing to win the Pac-10 tournament just to assure themselves of an NCAA tournament bid. Can the Huskies meet the expectations this season?
Washington State: Ken Bone is hopeful that the transformation of Klay Thompson from shooter to multi-dimensional scorer will change the Cougars' fortunes. They blitzed through last season's nonconference schedule with a 10-2 record, but ultimately finished last in the Pac-10 when Thompson struggled with his shooting and couldn't find his way out of the slump. The emergence of Reggie Moore as a legitimate second scoring option in the backcourt should take some of pressure off Thompson. In addition, DeAngelo Casto is an excellent post player who can score, rebound and block shots.-- Diamond Leung
Best case/Worst case
Nonconference games to watch
Arizona State at New Mexico, Nov. 16: The Sun Devils picked an extremely tough opponent and place to play for their season opener, as The Pit should be rocking with New Mexico fans ready to experience watching the defending Mountain West Conference champions in a newly renovated facility. But to Herb Sendek, whose team has been on the bubble in the past, the prospect of playing a regional team with a strong RPI was too good to pass up.
Washington in Maui Invitational, Nov. 22-24: The Huskies renew their rivalry with Virginia coach Tony Bennett, who while at Washington State had a 5-2 record against UW. Another reason to pay attention? The result of the game will decide if Washington gets to face newfound recruiting rival Kentucky in a second-round tournament game potentially featuring two top-10 teams. As Huskies guard Isaiah Thomas has tweeted, it's what the people want to see.
Duke vs. Oregon in Portland, Nov. 27: Defending national champion Duke heads out west to give Kyle Singler a game in his home state against brother E.J. Portland might be a four-hour drive from the Singlers' hometown of Medford, but chances are this will be a hot ticket for Ducks fans wanting to get an early look at new coach Dana Altman going up against Coach K.
UCLA at Kansas, Dec. 2: Ben Howland should be able to get a good idea of where his team stands after a trip to Allen Fieldhouse. In last year's Big 12/Pac-10 Hardwood Series meeting between the two teams in Westwood, UCLA was in the midst of a five-game losing streak and seemed relieved to lose to the nation's top-ranked team only by 12. If the Bruins fare well this time, it could provide a confidence boost heading into conference play.
Oregon State at Colorado, Dec. 4: In what could be Colorado's final game against a Pac-10 team before moving into the conference, the Buffaloes can showcase star Alec Burks while Oregon State gets to test itself against a future opponent With plenty of young talent on its roster, the Beavers will use this Big 12/Pac-10 Hardwood Series game as a measuring stick for how far they've come.
San Diego State at Cal, Dec. 8: The Bears lost their core from a regular season conference championship team and will get to test themselves against an Aztecs team that returns all five starters and should challenge for the Mountain West Conference crown. How Cal's freshmen fare against a veteran team will be worth paying attention to.
Arizona vs. BYU in Salt Lake City, Dec. 11: Jimmer Fredette torched the Wildcats with 49 points a year ago in Tucson, causing Sean Miller to jokingly plead for him to stop shooting. Since that debacle, Arizona has remade itself into a team filled with emerging talent that is sure to be out for a measure of revenge against the Cougars. The Wildcats avoided Provo for this one, but not Fredette, who withdrew from the NBA draft and is back for his senior season.
Stanford at Butler, Dec. 18: Former Dukie Johnny Dawkins was there in Indy when Butler came just inches short of winning the NCAA tournament, and now he'll get to experience Hinkle Fieldhouse with his Cardinal team. It's Stanford that will play the role of the underdog in this one, and a nice showing could signal the Cardinal's readiness to be a factor in the Pac-10 race.
USC at Tennessee, Dec. 21: Kevin O'Neill won't have to bring Lane Kiffin along for this game -- there's already a built-in storyline. O'Neill bolted Knoxville to coach at Northwestern in 1997, and like Kiffin, he didn't exactly leave the school on good terms. The Volunteers will also remember how a year ago, they went to face O'Neill as top-10 team and left Los Angeles having been blown out by 22 -- at that time the worst loss of the Bruce Pearl era.
St. John's at UCLA, Feb. 5: The Bruins collide with their past, as Steve Lavin returns to Westwood as a visiting coach for the first time since being fired in 2003. Lavin took UCLA to five Sweet 16s and now looks to challenge the Bruins with his new team after a long coaching layoff. The Bruins hope to pad their resume with a win against a Big East team while in the middle of their Pac-10 season.-- Diamond Leung
New Face, New Place
2009-10 Pac-10 standings
|Pac-10 record||Overall record|
* NCAA tournament berth