Pac-10 men’s preview

  • By John Boyle Herald Writer
  • Thursday, January 1, 2009 11:20pm
  • SportsSports

Teams listed in order of predicted finish

UCLA Bruins

Coach: Ben Howland, 304-146 career (15th season), 135-47 at UCLA (sixth season)

Last year: 35-4 overall, 16-2 Pac-10 (first). Lost in NCAA tournament semifinal.

Key players: G Darren Collison, 6-0, Sr.; G/F Josh Shipp, 6-5, Sr.; C/F Alfred Aboya 6-9, Sr.

Impact newcomer: G Jrue Holiday, 6-3, Fr.

Outlook: The Bruins have been to three straight final fours, and are again the conference favorites, but the Pac-10 looks as open as ever this year. Collison and Shipp give UCLA experience few teams have, and Holiday is an elite talent, so there’s no reason that the Bruins can’t again make another NCAA tournament run.

Arizona State Sun Devils

Coach: Herb Sendek, 294-194 career (16th season), 40-36 at ASU (third season).

Last year: 21-13 overall, 9-9 Pac-10 (tied for fifth). Lost in NIT quarterfinal.

Key players: G James Harden, 6-5, So.; F Jeff Pendergraph, 6-9, Sr.; G Ty Abbott, 6-3, So.

Outlook: The Sun Devils went from last in the Pac-10 to a fifth-place tie in Sendek’s second season, and ASU is poised to make another big jump in the conference standings this year. The Sun Devils return all of their starters, including Harden, who might be the best player in the Pac-10, so a run at a conference title isn’t out of the question for a team that won just two conference games two seasons ago.

Arizona Wildcats

Coach: Russ Pennell, 9-3 career and at Arizona (first season).

Last year: 19-15 overall, 8-10 Pac-10 (7th). Lost in first round of NCAA tournament.

Key players: F Chase Budinger, 6-7, Jr.; F Jordan Hill, 6-10, Jr.; G Nic Wise, 5-10, Jr.

Impact newcomer: G Kyle Fogg, 6-2, Fr.

Outlook: The assumption heading into the season was that Lute Olson’s departure would throw the Wildcats into a state of disarray, but so far it looks like Pennell has a handle on things in his first year as the head coach. Arizona currently owns the best non-conference win of the year for the Pac-10, a five-point win over then fourth-ranked Gonzaga. Depth could be a concern, as Budinger, Wise and Hill all rank among the top seven Pac-10 players in minutes played.

USC Trojans

Coach: Tim Floyd, 315-170 career (16th season), 72-40 at USC (fourth season).

Last year: 21-12 overall, 11-7 Pac-10 (tied for third). Lost in first round of NCAA tournament.

Key players: F Taj Gibson, 6-9, Jr.; G Dwight, Lewis, 6-5, Jr.; G Daniel Hackett, 6-5, Jr.

Impact newcomers: F DeMar DeRozan, 6-7, Fr.; F Leonard, Washington, 6-7, Fr.

Outlook: The Trojans have tied for third in the Pac-10 the past two years, and again look to finish near the top of the conference. DeRozan should help ease the loss of O.J. Mayo, while Gibson is one of the best post players in the conference. The Trojans need to start fast in their first two conference games in Oregon, because the next three games are against three of the Pac-10’s best teams: UCLA, ASU and Arizona.

Washington Huskies

Coach: Lorenzo Romar, 221-163 career (13th season), 128-75 at Washington (seventh season)

Last year: 16-17 overall, 7-11 Pac-10 (eighth). Lost in first round of CBI.

Key players: F Jon Brockman, 6-7, Sr.; G Justin Dentmon, 5-11, Sr.; F Quincy Pondexter, 6-6, Jr.; F Matthew Bryan-Amaning, 6-9, So.

Impact newcomers: G Isaiah Thomas, 5-8, Fr.; G Elston Turner, 6-4, Fr.; F Darnell Gant, 6-8, RS Fr.

Outlook: After making three straight NCAA tournaments and consecutive final fours, the Huskies have missed the big dance the past two seasons, and Brockman and company hope this is the year to get back. The Huskies have rebounded well and shown good defensive effort, but to have a successful Pac-10 season, they’ll need to reduce their turnovers and improve upon last year’s woeful 58.6 percent free throw shooting.

WSU Cougars

Coach: Tony Bennett, 60-21 career and at WSU (third season).

Last year: 26-9 overall, 11-7 Pac-10 (tied for third). Lost in third round of NCAA tournament.

Key players: G Taylor Rochestie, 6-1, Sr.; C Aron Baynes, 6-10, Sr.; 6-7 Daven Harmeling, 6-7, Sr.

Impact newcomers: G Klay Thompson, 6-6, Fr.; F DeAngelo Casto, 6-8, Fr.

Outlook: The Cougars lost a good senior class last season, so a backslide is expected this year. Bennett’s defensive-minded style will still be effective, however, even in a rebuilding year, so don’t count the Cougars out. The Cougars hope to start off Pac-10 play with an eighth straight win over Washington.

Cal Golden Bears

Coach: Mike Montgomery 558-246 career (27th season), 11-2 at Cal (first season).

Last year: 17-16 overall, 6-12 Pac-10 (ninth). Lost in second round of NIT.

Key players: G Jerome Randle, 5-10 Fr.; G Patrick Christopher, 6-5, Jr.; F Theo Robertson, 6-6, Jr.; F Jamal Boykin, 6-8, Jr.

Impact newcomer: G Jorge Gutierrez, 6-3, Fr.

Outlook: The Bears lost two of their best players in Ryan Anderson and DeVon Hardin, so this looks like something of a rebuilding year, but first-year coach Mike Montgomery has his team playing well heading into conference play. Montgomery spent 18 seasons at rival Stanford, and Cal fans are hopeful he can have similar success at his new job as he did at his old—12 NCAA tournament berths, one final four appearance and four conference coach of the year awards.

Stanford Cardinal

Coach: Johnny Dawkins, 10-0 career and at Stanford (first season).

Last year: 28-8 overall, 13-5 Pac-10 (second). Lost in third round of NCAA tournament.

Key players: G Anthony Goods, 6-3, Sr.; G Mitch Johnson, 6-1, Sr.; F Lawrence Hill, 6-8, Sr.

Impact newcomer: G Jeremy Green, 6-4, Fr.

Outlook: The Cardinal lost the Lopez twins to the NBA, and their head coach to LSU, but veteran guard play has Johnny Dawkins’s team at 10-0 heading into Pac-10 play. What those 10 wins mean remains to be seen, because Stanford doesn’t have any marquee wins, but what looked like a down year for the Cardinal may turn out better than expected.

Oregon Ducks

Coach: Ernie Kent 307-220 career (18th season), 217-140 at Oregon (12th season)

Last year: 18-14 overall, 9-9 Pac-10 (tied for fifth). Lost in first round of NCAA tournament.

Key players: G Tajuan Porter, 5-6, Jr.; G LeKendric Longmire, 6-5, So.; F Joevan Catron, 6-6, Jr.

Impact newcomers: C Michael Dunigan, 6-10, Fr.; G Garrett Sim, 6-1, Fr.

Outlook: Oregon’s 6-6 start has included losses to Oakland, San Diego and Saint Mary’s, so this season looks like an uphill battle for Kent and the Ducks. Porter is still a dangerous scorer, however, and Longmire has played well of late, so the Ducks will still provide a tough test for many foes, especially in Eugene.

Oregon State Beavers

Coach: Craig Robinson, 35-33 career (third season), 5-5 at OSU (first season).

Last year: 6-25 overall, 0-18 Pac-10 (10th).

Key players: G Calvin Haynes, 6-2, So; F Omari Johnson, 6-7, So.; F Daniel Deane, 6-8, Jr.; G Josh Tarver, 6-3, Jr.; G/F Seth Tarver, 6-5, Jr.

Outlook: It’s almost a lock that the Beavers will improve upon their winless Pac-10 season from last year, but the president elect’s brother-in-law still has a rebuilding project in front of him. That the Beavers have already won five games shows that things are heading in the right direction for Robinson’s team, however. Haynes missed OSU’s first six games for academic reasons, but he’s eligible now and playing well.

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