College Basketball is finally here. There most likely will be a significant drop-off in the quality of the Pac-10 this year. Several coaching changes, along with players bolting for the NBA, have left this conference in a cloud of fog.
It's hard to predict where teams will end up after UCLA, and even UCLA being all-powerful is in question after losing against Michigan last week.
1. UCLA Bruins
Is there any doubt that UCLA will end up at the top of the Pac-10 this season? None at all. Darren Collison, Josh Shipp, and Alfred Aboya, along with star freshman Jrue Holiday, make this team a Final Four contender. UCLA will not only dominate the conference but also could consistently be a top five team in the nation throughout this season.
There is some concern that they don't have enough depth. Besides the big three mentioned above, James Keefe and Michael Rolle are the only other players with decent experience from last year. Everyone else on this UCLA team at this point is unproven. They may have trouble in their frontcourt, especially with no established post presence or rebounder.
2. Arizona State Sun Devils
James Harden and Jeff Pendergraph are the second best 1-2 punch in this conference. If one of them goes down, the stock of this team will dip. Ty Abbott and Derek Glasser will need to step up for this team to stay close to UCLA.
3. Arizona Wildcats
This team definitely has the potential to be No. 2. However, losing Lute Olson will hurt this team more than a lot of people think. They already have one loss that came at the hands of an intentional foul that sent the other team to the line to win the game.
If Russ Pennell can get these guys playing smart team basketball, then they'll be a threat in the conference. Their lineup potential is similar to ASU's because of the 1-2 punch of Chase Budinger and Jordan Hill.
4. Washington Huskies
Despite being in the CBI last year, the Dawgs are new and improved...hopefully. After three games, I'm not so sure. There is something I am sure about. This team will be competitors once conference play starts. Jon Brockman will be a handful for teams to handle this year.
If some shooters help, including Dentmon and Thomas from the perimeter, then double-teaming Brockman won't do much. The Kansas game will tell whether this team belongs on the bottom half of the conference or not.
5. USC Trojans
Without the O.J., they'll have to rely on the Taj. Taj Gibson and Daniel Hackett provide two experienced players. This team has the talent to compete with ASU, but like last year, as March gets closer this team will start to fade.
Freshmen forward DeMar DeRozan is scary good. He's a likely one and done, but one and dones have fared well for the USC Trojans, seeing that last year they made the tournament.
6. Washington State Cougars
Gross. I hate you Aron Baynes. Taylor Rochestie can't even make a layup.
7. Stanford Cardinal
It's hard to believe that Trent Johnson just left this team to go coach at LSU. I don't think he could handle the competition on the court and out in the recruiting side game. Plus no more Lopez brothers—they're living the life in the NBA right now.
This season, the Cardinal will be led by the likes of point guard Mitch Johnson. I've been surprised by Mitch's development. He has matured into a solid player in the league. I never thought he'd be this good when watching him play at O'Dea in his high school days.
8. Oregon Ducks
Pretty much every player left this team. Ernie Kent is left with Tajuan Porter. They have a strong freshman class, including McDonald's All-American Michael Dunigan, who will contribute immediately, but inexperience will hold them down.
Mike Montgomery is back. Will his winning ways immediately affect this team? I'd give it a year, but right now California is suffering from the lack of talent in its personnel. Having no dominant scorer like Ryan Anderson will hurt this team.
10. Oregon State
Although Craig Robinson's brother-in-law may bring the Change We Need, the head coach of the Beavers will struggle to make any change in the wins column this year. I'd like to see this team get better, but they're going to go through some serious growing pain this year with Robinson most likely implementing new offensive and defensive systems.
He seems to be bringing some change though. The Beavers are having early morning 5:30 am practices, reminding me of some Coach Carter-esque tactics. You never know—this team may end up somewhere else other than 10th in the standings this year.
Top Players in the Pac-10
1. Jon Brockman: Top returning rebounder in the entire country
2. Darren Collison: NBA comparison (Darrell Armstrong)
3. James Harden: NBA comparison (Manu Ginobili)
4. DeMar DeRozan: NBA comparison (Vince Carter)
5. Chase Budinger: NBA comparison (Grant Hill)
6. Jeff Pendergraph: Interested to see if he can raise his draft stock this season
7. Taj Gibson: NBA Comparison (Vin Baker) hahahahahahhahaahahhaha
8. Jrue Holiday: NBA Comparison (Dwyane Wade)
9. Patrick Christopher: Yet to "break out" but is a nightmare to defend.
nbadraft.net used for NBA comparisons
How do you see the Pac-10 turning out this season?
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