Thursday, March 10, 2005

Pac-10 Conference Tournament Preview

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According to the RPI, the Pac-10 was the second-best conference in the country for most of the season. According to human beings, the Pac-10 was nowhere close to that number. Arizona and Washington went back and forth for the league title the whole year, and the Wildcats ended up winning it outright after the Huskies lost to Stanford the final day of the season. Stanford and UCLA were the only other teams above .500 in league play.
Arizona is looking more and more like a Final Four team. Salim Stoudamaire is the best shooter in the country, while Hassan Adams can create his own shot if necessary. Channing Frye is one of the top centers in the country, and Mustafa Shakur is maturing more as the season progresses. Washington is deep and balanced. Nate Robinson is ridiculously explosive, while Will Conroy is one of the best passers on the west coast. Tre Simmons is a great scorer from the wing, and Brandon Roy is a versatile guy that can play inside and outside. Bobby Jones does a little bit of everything on both side of the ball. Stanford took a hit with the loss of Dan Grunfeld for the season with a torn ACL. However, they are still playing well without him. Chris Hernandez has taken on more of a scoring role lately, and Nick Robinson has tried to fill Grunfeld's shoes somewhat. The Cardinal have a solid post duo in Matt Haryasz and Rob Little. UCLA has been a bit inconsistent throughout the season, but seem to be playing their best ball of the year recently. Dijon Thompson can do everything for the Bruins; he leads the team in scoring and rebounding (18.2, 8.1). Jordan Farmar has developed into a very good freshman point guard, while fellow frosh Arron Afflalo and Josh Shipp are also steady contributors. The only other teams in the 8-team tournament that could make noise are Arizona State, lead by the most unstoppable player in the conference in Ike Diogu; and Oregon State, who have struggled to win away from home (0-9 on the road in Pac-10), but have one of the best backcourts in the league.
Prediction: The tournament championship is going to come down the same way the regular season championship did: Washington vs. Arizona. They split the regular season meetings, both winning at home. However, I think that Arizona has the ability to play at a pace other than top speed. Moreover, they play defense better than the Huskies. Channing Frye will be the difference against a smallish Washington team. The Wildcats will win the title and get the league's automatic bid.

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