Pac-10 Basketball Preview: Part Two
6. Washington State Cougars
Center Aron Baynes and guard Taylor Rochestie are both very efficient players and thrive in coach Tony Bennett's system. Freshman guard Abe Lodwick can hit the three-ball and has great size at shooting guard. He and Rochestie will both be able to stretch the defense. Plus, the same old Washington State style of play is back to drive opponents crazy.
Kyle Weaver and Derrick Low weren't only All-Pac-10 players—they were the heart and soul of this team. Both were excellent defenders and consistent scorers. Neither will be replaced easily, and Rochestie will have to adjust to running coach Bennett's system. The Cougs will rely heavily on freshmen, especially for frontcourt depth.
The Cougars aren't the sixth-most talented team in the conference, but I expect them to finish this high due to their discipline and their coach. Tony Bennett's system to slow down the game will limit the athletic issues of his team, and Pullman is always a tough place to play.
Look for the Cougars to make another strong push for an NCAA bid, and they could be the surprise team in the conference.
7. Oregon Ducks
5'6" dynamo Tajuan Porter is back and ready to prove he is done with his sophomore slump. The electric Porter is super quick and has unlimited range on his shot. Junior forward Joevan Catron is a monster inside capable of clearing out anyone on the block.
Malik Hairston is finished in Eugene, and the Ducks will rely on a freshman to replace him. There is a significant lack of scoring in the frontcourt, and depth could be an issue as well. For a team known for its inconsistency, a lack of experience could be a huge problem.
This team is talented—probably more talented than Washington State, who I picked ahead of them. But their inexperience will lead to inconsistency, along with the fact that their best player is inconsistent (Porter).
If the freshmen can mature quickly and Porter plays to his potential, the Ducks are capable of reaching the upper echelon of the conference and the big dance. As is, I see the Ducks in the NIT this season.
8. Stanford Cardinal
Lawrence Hill, Mitch Johnson, and Anthony Goods all have talent. Their problem has been consistency, but if they can play a full season, they'll give the Cardinal a solid core of guys. Johnson has a great assist-to-turnover ratio and will have to manage the game effectively. Hill and Goods can both score in bunches.
The Lopez twins both left early for the NBA and will be sorely missed. Little-known John Owens and Will Paul will attempt to replace some of what they brought to the table. Experience will be hard to find with the losses of Fred Washington and Taj Finger.
The Stanford season will hinge on the play of Hill, Johnson, and Goods. If they play well, the Cardinal will make the NIT and could push for the NCAAs. But if they struggle with inconsistency, this could be a long, long year in Palo Alto.
9. California Bears
Junior guard Patrick Christopher has the talent to be a star in the Pac-10. He's great off the dribble and can shoot the jump shot. He'll be counted on to provide a lot of offense with the loss of Ryan Anderson.
Point guard Jerome Randle has talent, and the return of Theo Robertson will help the Bears. High school All-American D.J. Seeley can flat-out score. New coach Mike Montgomery has a proven record at Stanford.
The Bears have a serious lack of frontcourt scoring. Harper Kamp, Jamal Boykins, and Jordan Wilkes are serviceable, but Cal needs some offense from one of them. Randle struggled mightily with turnovers last year, and there is little depth behind him if he has problems controlling the ball.
The Bears have two very talented players on their roster. The problem is they both play the same position. Seeley and Christopher can both fill it up, but it will be difficult to get them on the floor at the same time. The other four positions, meanwhile, are filled with questions. It will be tough for Cal to make any postseason tournament this year.
10. Oregon State Beavers
Not many. Oregon State went winless last year in conference play and didn't bring in any new talent. The Tarver brothers, Josh and Seth, are serviceable players, but only because there's no one better around them. Post Roeland Schaftenaar showed some promise last year.
Talent. As in, they have none. The Beavers are without question the least talented team in the conference, without a dependable scorer or point guard. They were one of the worst shooting teams in the conference last year, and expect that trend to repeat itself. Marcel Jones, their top player last year, graduated.
This year will be ugly for Oregon State. The Beavs went winless last year and will threaten to do so again. Without another awful team in conference, look for Oregon State to struggle to pick up a conference win.
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