The Pac-10 Conference had a down year in 2009-10 when many players left early for the NBA. The University of Washington won the conference tournament but Cal won the regular-season conference title. Many teams are young and still learning the fast-paced style of college basketball.
Other schools saw players transfer out, like Oregon, which lost six players and was hit with imposed sanctions by the NCAA. USC is still suffering from sanctions imposed last year and Arizona has been hit with sanctions by the NCAA as well. USC has to wait one more year to be tournament-eligible.
Arizona, Washington State, Arizona State and UCLA will give Washington a run for their money during conference play. Those teams bring back the majority of their players from last year.
It will be interesting to see how the conference unfolds and how many teams get invited to play in March.
The teams that will be struggling in the conference this year will be Oregon, Oregon State, Stanford and Cal. All are in the rebuilding phase, which happens in college sports. How quickly will these teams bounce back and be contenders?
Once March rolls around we will have all the answers, including the answer to the biggest question—just how good is the Pac-10 Conference?
4. Arizona State
5. Washington State
9. Oregon State
Washington—Lorenzo Romar and the Huskies have won the Pac-10 Conference Tournament the last two years. Washington brings back the most of their team from last year. One big loss was Quincy Pondexter graduating and heading to the NBA. Washington will be slim in the front line. Matthew Bryan-Amaning and transfer center Aziz N'Diaye will need to bang down low to bring the intensity in the blocks. Isaiah Thomas will take on a bigger load scoring and distributing the ball. The number one question: How will Abdul Gaddy bounce back from a sub-par season?
Arizona—Former Pac-10 freshman player of the year F Derrick Williams returns for his sophomore season. Momo Jones, a tough point guard who can score, will direct traffic for the Wildcats. Freshman guard Daniel Bejarano is one of the most talked-about freshmen entering the conference. Newcomers Jesse Perry and Jordan Mayes will also help out the Wildcats this year. Washington and Arizona are both deep this year and have a chance of wearing opposing teams down with depth on the roster.
UCLA—UCLA has the talent but it did not show on the court last year. Malcolm Lee has gotten raves, along with Jerime Anderson, for being a great backcourt but gas yet to live up to the hype. UCLA saw a spark last year in Reeves Nelson and Tyler Honeycutt. Former McDonald’s high school All-American Josh Smith enters UCLA as the big man on campus. Smith will play a similar role to what Kevin Love played during his Bruin days.
Arizona State—The runners-up in conference play last year. The Sun Devils bring back a solid squad. Directing a slow-tempo style of play, Coach Herb Sendek is known for being a great defensive-minded coach. Freshman guard Keala King will bring toughness. Ty Abbott, Jamelle McMillan and Trent Lockett will be the key to the Sun Devils' success this year.
Washington State—The Cougars return three key players from last year—Reggie Moore, DeAngelo Casto and Klay Thompson will take on a big roles this year. Andre Winston could turn a lot of heads at the guard position. The production on the court will need to be displayed by other players on the team.
USC—With only nine scholarship players, USC will have troubles this year. The Trojans will have a new backcourt highlighted by a decent frontcourt. Alex Stephenson and Nikola Vucevic are two solid guys that can bang in the post. USC will have far to go to compete at a high rate in the Pac-10.
Stanford—A young Stanford team will return scorer Jeremy Green. Josh Owens will return this year after sitting out last year and hopefully will help out the Cardinal in finding some offensive scoring. The team lost Landry Fields to the NBA and will be in the rebuilding phase this year and possibly next year.
California—Losing four starters from last year, the Bears will have to find offense from some new faces. The top returning player from last year is Jorge Gutierrez. Gutierrez wreaks havoc on the defensive side and has shown a little offense in his game. The freshman will need to step up quick in order for the Bears to compete this year.
Oregon State—Roberto Nelson is still not cleared to play NCAA basketball, which is a huge blow for the Beavers. The Beavers will be relying on sophomore guard Jarred Cunningham. Senior Calvin Hayes can contribute as well, but others will need to step up and compete. Look for another down year for the Beavers.
Oregon—Oregon opens up Matthew Knight Arena this year. In the process, they lose six players. First-year head coach Dana Altman will have a huge task to tackle with this team. Malcolm Armstead is the only standout that remains.
It’s a toss-up between Derrick Williams and Isaiah Thomas. Thomas would have to be the considered MVP of the conference. He does everything on the court you can ask from a player. Standing only 5'9', Thomas is on pace for breaking the University of Washington's scoring record.
A leader on the court, Thomas brings intensity that feeds the team. Thomas showed he can play the point guard position last year. Another year unfolds and it doesn't seem like anything will change to keep him from getting even better.
One of the top guards in the country and a preseason John Wooden list nominee, Thomas and the Huskies will push to win their third consecutive Pac-10 conference tournament title.
The Huskies have the most depth in the conference and possibly the country. Lorenzo Romar's fast-paced offense has won two consecutive conference tournament titles. The style of play Romar has instilled in his team is run hard, play hard defense.
Isaiah Thomas will bring the offensive game, while Venoy Overton will hound any guard in the country. Matthew Bryan-Amaning has become a beast down low and proved it towards last year’s season. Abdul Gaddy is looking to play a bigger role and has accepted the challenge to step up from a subpar season last year.
Sharpshooter C.J. Wilcox can shoot the lights out, and freshman Terrence Ross is an athlete that will help out the Huskies this year. Seven-foot big man Aziz N'Diaye will be down low, and can help rebound and block shots for the Dawgs.
Top it off with Darnell Gant, who has a nice basketball IQ for a big man and a defensive minded team, and the Huskies have all the tools to win the conference and to make a splash in the tournament in March.
Their one downfall could be rebounding. If all three big men come with an intensity to play every night and the guards are on the same page, the Dawgs could possibly finish as a top-10 team in the nation.
Sean Miller has a huge chance to win the award. After taking over one of the best programs in the nation last year, Miller has taken on the job and is doing well in the process.
Arizona has a chance to win the conference. The depth will give Washington and any other team in the conference a run for their money.
Josh Smith—A true big man, Smith brings crafty big man skills down in the paint. Smith is still in the process of getting in shape. With soft hands and big frame to rebound the ball, Smith's presence will be felt in the post.
Terrance Ross—Ross is a nice-sized guard with athleticism you can't teach, a legitimate shooter that can slash to the rim. Ross just gives Washington another weapon on the court.
Keala King—Small but tough! King will answer one question in the beginning—is King a true point guard? Known for being tough guard in high school, King brings something to Arizona State that hasn't been seen in a while.
Daniel Bejarano—A nice shooting guard to help Arizona out on the wing. Bejarano will make the offense respect him if they leave him open.
Derrick Williams has the possibility to be the first person to get picked out of the conference in the 2011 NBA Draft. Williams is still developing and still hasn't reached his potential yet. He is poised to have a solid year with Arizona this year.
Rumors are that Williams could be a possible top-10 draft pick if he lives up to his hype.
Anderson, along with Malcolm Lee, was supposed to be part of one of the best backcourts in the nation.
Anderson has yet to live up to the hype. The last two years Anderson has looked lost in UCLA offense. Things haven't progressed yet with Anderson, as he still struggles to find his place in college basketball.
If Gaddy lives up to the hype, there will be no question he will be the most improved player in the conference. The former McDonald's All-American was rated behind John Wall as the second-best point guard in the nation and will have a lot of questions to answer this year.
A year older and wiser, word is Gaddy is looking better than ever at the University of Washington. Gaddy could have a breakout year this year, which will help the Huskies out in their quest for glory in March.
Venoy Overton could possibly be the best on ball defender in the nation. Overton comes off the bench early in games and brings the defensive level of play up a couple of notches for the Dawgs.
Many players across the nation have been quoted saying, "Venoy Overton is the best defender in the nation."
That says a lot about a guy who loves to play defense.