Predicted Order of Finish
This is always a crapshoot, but this season perhaps more than usual. I think UCLA is the clear-cut favorite, but I don’t think anyone would be surprised to see Arizona or Washington St or Oregon or Stanford win this thing. Further, beyond the one spot, everything is real tight. I expect teams one through nine to be tough outs every single time and legitimate contenders to make the NCAA tournament (although Arizona St, and maybe even Washington are a little bit longer shots than the rest) and I expect a strong six teams to eventually earn tickets to the big dance, with the seventh place team sitting on the fence with an argument as to why they should get in too. About the only real sure thing here is that Oregon St is the odds on favorite to finish last in the conference.
But, since meaningless conjecture seems to be the hip thing, I’ll throw my hat in the ring too.
1. UCLA – gotta be the favorite, but one key injury could certainly change things in such a competitive league.
2. Arizona – there is really no reason to pick this team for this spot given their recent history, but I think Chase Budinger is a special player and there is no doubt they have the talent to wind up here.
3. Washington St – most of the key pieces return for Tony Bennett, but these guys aren’t going to sneak up on anybody this year, not that they need to.
4. Oregon – arguably the MVP in last year’s conference is gone, but plenty of veteran talent remains.
5. Stanford – a big question mark in Brook Lopez and his academic situation, but an even bigger question at the point guard position.
6. USC – this may be a little low for this team, but somebody has got to finish down here. Lots of talent in OJ Mayo and Taj Gibson and Dwight Lewis and Daniel Hackett, but they sure are missing some key players from last year’s successful tournament run.
7. Cal – I’ll match Cal as the potential 7th place team in the Pac-10 against any other conference’s potential 7th place team. Hell, I’ll match them against a 7th place team in any other conference in any other year in history.
8. Washington – Coming off a very disappointing year last season, there is still a lot of potential up here if they can get more consistent performances from Justin Dentmon and their young players Quincy Poindexter and Adrian Oliver.
9. Arizona St – Herb Sendek has his first major recruit coming to Tempe in James Harden, and the talent level is definitely up from last year, however there is just too much talent above them in this conference for the Devils to make any significant move up the standings this year
10. Oregon St – the cupboard is more or less empty and Jay John is getting his resume prepared
G Darren Collison Jr UCLA
G Kyle Weaver Sr. Wash St
F Chase Budinger So Arizona
F Kevin Love Fr. UCLA
C Brook Lopez So Stanford
G Derrick Low Sr Wash St
G Bryce Taylor Sr Oregon
F Quincy Poindexter So Washington
F Taj Gibson So USC
C Devon Hardin Sr Cal
All Freshman Team
G OJ Mayo USC
G Jerryd Bayless Arizona
G James Harden Arizona St
F Kevin Love UCLA
F Davon Jefferson USC
Top 5 Out of Conference Games
11/25 Arizona @ Kansas – the opener of the inaugural Pac-10/Big 12 challenge should be a battle.
11/29 Oregon @ Kansas St – we get to see Oregon on the road and the talented Kansas St freshmen.
12/2 Texas @ UCLA – UCLA’s most significant non-conference game.
12/4 USC @ Memphis – part of a rough three day stretch for USC that also includes a visit from Kansas to the Galen Center
12/29 Arizona @ Memphis – you gotta give credit to Arizona for consistently scheduling one of the nation’s toughest non-conference slates.
Top 5 In Conference Ganes
1/5 Washington St @ Washington – this game should give us a good preview of where these two teams, especially the Huskies, stand early in the season.
1/12 WSU @ UCLA – perhaps the two pre-season conference favorites hooking up in Pauley.
1/19 USC @ UCLA – the cross-town rivalry ignited anew behind two superstar freshmen.
1/26 Stanford @ Cal – this season’s Bay Area rivalry may be the most heated in years.
3/2 UCLA @ Arizona – as the season winds down and March starts up, the Pac-10’s biggest basketball rivalry tips off at the McKale center.
Predicted NCAA Tournament Invites (6)