2011 PAC 12
Many folks who follow the NCAA hoops tend to focus a lot of their attention on the East Coast action, failing to stay up a couple of extra hours to experience the West Coast game. It has been a few years since a dominant team has come out of the Pacific time zone.
Flashbacks to the Arizona / UCLA crews of the late 90’s run through my head as I write this…….(ah, what could have been for Eddie O!).
The most recent addition, Kevin Love, is re-writing the books for the lowly Timberwolves.
This season the Pac-10 has increased by two clubs, adding Colorado and Utah, both of which will struggle in the West Coast battle.
DATES TO THE DANCE:
1. UCLA – The Bruins will have the top front court in the Pac-12 this year with Reeves Nelson and Joshua Smith, but problems at the guard spot may cause problems in securing the conference championship.
2. Arizona – Without a doubt, the Wildcats will have the biggest individual shoes to fill this season with the loss of Derrick Williams to the NBA. Look for a more balanced attack this season, with some assistance from the incoming class.
3. California – The Bears return four of five starters this season with hopes of returning to the Madness after last year’s hiccup. If you were to morph the Bears and Bruins together they would make one heck of a team, as the Bears strength lies in their backcourt of Jorge Gutierrez and Allen Crabbe. Look for Vancouver native Emerson Murray to play a stronger role off the bench in his sophomore season.
4. Washington – Exit Isaiah Thomas, enter Tony Wroten. While hopes are that the fresh phenom can continue where the Huskies left off last year, the lack of returning starters might equal a couple of bumps in the road this season. Looking at the roster, the mass of hybrid type players will allow Romar to interchange players without losing much on the rotation. Expect Terrance Ross to step up as one of the nightly leaders in the box score, while fans will hope that freshman Shawn Kemp Jr will possess some of pops explosiveness around the rim.
5. Oregon – The Ducks, for the first time since 2007, look like they might be able to do some damage come tournament time. Led by forward EJ Singler, the team will look to a trio of newcomers to help round out the roster as Olu Ashaolu will battle for a starters spot right off the bat while Jabari Brown, the Ducks most prized recruit since Aaron Brooks, will fill the role at the two guard spot. Coach Altman had a lot of pressure taking over for Ernie Kent last year, but it looks like things are finally back on track in the pond after a rough final two years under Kent.
WALLFLOWERS (NIT BOUND):
6. Stanford- Had Jeremy Green stayed with the Cardinal this year, they almost certainly would have had a date to the March dance, however Green is gone and so to may be Stanford’s chances of returning to the top 68. A trip to the NIT is not out of the question, but chances are Josh Owens, Dwight Powell and incoming point Chasson Randle have eyes on the bigger prize.
7. Oregon State – The Beavers are hoping to be known for more this year than just Jared Cunningham‘s vertical (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iX_yAi_M1Y8). Missing out on a chance to get their groove on for over twenty years, the Beavers may very well still find themselves sitting in the bleachers, but at least they will be a fun group to watch trying to get a date.
8. Arizona State – Not much has gone right for the Sun Devils in recent years, including an ugly 4-14 Pac 10 record last season. The building blocks are in place with junior forward Trent Lockett and diaper dandy point guard Jahii Caron, but the team needs a third scoring option to step up this season, the question however is who?
9. USC – The Trojans made a surprise appearance during the Madness last year, but a lot of that success lied within the talents of departed forward Nikola Vucevic and injured guard Jio Fontain. With Fontain on the IL as a result of a torn ACL, the Trojans will have no senior experience on their roster. Hopes are that a trio of freshmen (Byron Wesley, Alexis Moore and Greg Allen) will step up to the plate.
CAN’T BUY AN INVITE (Lucky to make the CBI)
10. Washington State – Oh what might have been for the Cougars had Klay Thompson and DeAngelo Casto remained on campus for one more season. No such luck for Coach Ken Bone, who will desperately need someone other than guards Fasial Aden and Reggie Moore to provide a scoring source this season. The focus for the Cougars this season will be to establish depth and a identity for next season. Freshmen DaVonte Lacy and Greg Sequele should be given a fair chance to show their worth.
11. Utah – I hate to have to put the newcomers at the bottom of the list, but with consideration to their roster, they really don’t belong anywhere else. Coach Krystkowiak can only hope to plant the seeds needed in order to return the Utes to an elite club. Senior guard Josh Watkins should have the green light to as he sees fit, as quite frankly there isn’t much else in the cupboard.
12. Colorado – After getting the shaft from the tournament committee last spring, the Buffaloes will fall on hard times this year, losing four double digit scorers, most notably guard Alec Burks. With little left over, the impact players may come in the form of two transfer guards, Jeremy Adams and Carlon Brown.