Since 2004, the Pac-10 has gotten at least three teams into the tournament. This year, it is questionable if the Pac-10 will get more than the conference tournament champion's automatic bid.
I would not say that the conference is by any means weak, but not one team's record looks pretty. Everyone keeps on beating each other up.
The top team and the last place team are separated by a mere three games. There's a two-way tie for first place, a two-way tie for second place, and a five-way tie for third place...I think you get the point.
Unlike previous seasons, there just does not seem to be a bona fide contender. There's no UCLA ranked in the top 10 of the nation or even a mediocre Pac-10 team hovering around the top 25.
California is the best team, but they are nowhere consistent enough to be considered a marquee team on the national stage. I think UW has potential, but their inconsistent defense and play on the road has kept them away from reaching the next level.
Right now, there are three tournament-worthy teams in the conference: California, Arizona State, and Washington. USC would be on the bubble, but because of O.J. Mayo, they will not be playing in the postseason this year.
Will all three make it? I think two will make it. One of them will end up winning the regular season Pac-10 championship (probably California) and one of them will win the tournament (probably Washington).
Arizona is currently tied for first in the conference, but I don't think they are as strong as my top three teams. As a result, unless they can win the majority of their games left against the top three teams, they'll end up at fourth place or worse.
UCLA has bounced back in conference play, but every game is a must-win for them right now. They simply have no playmakers on offense. When your best offensive option is a three-point shooter, you know something is wrong.
I really thought WSU was going to be a contender this year. However, it seems like once a team can shut down Klay Thompson, the whole team gets shut down. Reggie Moore and DeAngelo Casto have been great contributors, but they are not good enough to shoulder the scoring load when Thompson is struggling.
This is how I see the conference shaping up by the end of the season:
2. Arizona State
7. Washington St.
10. Oregon St.
Player of the year right now I think should go to Quincy Pondexter. If WSU can finish top three, Thompson would be a tempting choice. I think Herb Sendek and his Sun Devil zone defense will get him coach of the year.
The conference tournament will be really interesting this season. If the top team prevails, I think UW will win that tournament, but Arizona/UCLA/WSU can all take home that trophy.
It's a down year for the Pac-10, but the competition is as close as can be. Expect a lot of nail-biters and overtime games as each team is vying for a top seed in the Pac-10 tournament.