Saturday, November 5, 2005

Pac-10 Preview


Player of the Year: Chris Hernandez, Stanford

Newcomer of the Year: Jon Brockman, F, Washington

All-Conference Team:
G- Chris Hernandez, Stanford
G- Brandon Roy, Washington
G/F- Dan Grunfeld, Stanford
F- Hassan Adams, Arizona
F- Leon Powe, California

Second Team:
G- Jordan Farmar, UCLA
G- Aaron Brooks, Oregon
G- Mustafa Shakur, Arizona
F- Nick DeWitz, Oregon State
F- Matt Haryasz, Stanford

Third Team:
G- Gabe Pruitt, USC
G- Aaron Afflalo, UCLA
G/F- Malik Hairston, Oregon
F- Bobby Jones, Washington
F- Rod Benson, California

1. Stanford- This season's Pac-10 race is going to be wide open at the top, with several teams in contention for the title. However, the leader at this point has to be the Stanford Cardinal. Going into last season, Stanford was not expected to have much success after they lost their coach and several key players. However, a six-game winning streak mid-season put people on notice that Stanford was a team to be reckoned with. One of the best trios in the country returns to lead the Cardinal. Point guard Chris Hernandez is a top player, and is possibly the most valuable player on the West Coast. His importance to his team does not just show up in the box score. He is an excellent distributor, and is a very clutch scorer. Hernandez is a solid defender, and shoots over 40 percent from behind the arc. Wing Dan Grunfeld tore his ACL last season and missed the final nine games of the season. He should be healthy and ready to go this year, though. Grunfeld is an excellent shooter, from both long-range and mid-range. He is just a natural scorer that knows where to go in order to put himself in a position to get points. With those two running things on the perimeter, Matt Haryasz owns the paint down low. He is a double-double machine, and could improve his numbers this season. Haryasz is also an underrated defender and passer. With those three set in stone, two starting spots are up for grabs. On the perimeter, Tim Morris, Jason Haas, and Fred Washington figure to see time. Morris will likely start. He wasn't eligible for the last 19 games of the season because of academics, but he is an explosive athlete that can score. Haas provides a solid backup for Hernandez. Washington is very physical and is a tremendous rebounder for his size. Inside, Peter Prowitt figures to get the starting nod. He needs to step up his production to take some of the pressure off of Haryasz. Taj Finger is a versatile forward that will see extensive minutes in the paint. With the Big Three leading the way, Stanford should win the Pac-10 and will be a darkhorse Final Four team come March. Prediction: NCAA

2. Arizona- The Arizona Wildcats should have been a Final Four team a season ago, and possibly a National Title Game finalist. They blew a 15-point lead with four minutes left against eventual National Runner-up Illinois. From that team, they lose their two best players, guard Salim Stoudamaire, the best shooter and clutch scorer in the country, and center Channing Frye, a lottery pick in the past NBA Draft. Coach Lute Olson isn't worried, though. He is changing his offense to a one-in, four-out set-up, with one post player, and essentially four perimeter players. That plays in perfectly to the personnel that the Wildcats have this season. Hassan Adams will lead the way on the perimeter. He was the third option last season, but is expected to have a huge year as the go-to-guy. He is extremely athletic and can do everything on the court. Adams is a very good defender and rebounder for his size. Mustafa Shakur returns for his third season as the point guard. He has been somewhat of a disappointment in some people's eyes, not living up to the hype that he came into school with. Still, he is a very good point guard who can penetrate and distibutor. Shakur is also an excellent defender and a capable three-point shooter. The third returning starter is forward Ivan Radenovic. He is the most underrated player in the conference, as well as one of the most versatile. He is a solid passer and can also hit the open jump shot. Radenovic is capable of playing the high post well and also getting points down low. Replacing Channing Frye as the low post man will be Kirk Walters, Isiah Fox, and Mohamed Tangara. Walters is the likely starter. He is a very good shot blocker and has the potential to be a decent scorer and rebounder. Fox is a strong inside player that won't be pushed around. Tangara is going to contribute as an excellent rebounder and defender. Replacing Stoudamaire will fall to two wings that have experience and plenty of potential. Chris Rodgers has the ability to be a very good scorer, as he already is the team's best on-the-ball defender. Jawann McClellan might have the most NBA potential of any Arizona player, according to NBA scouts. He is very athletic and can do nearly everything on the court, including shoot the jumper well. He is suspended until mid-December for academics, though. More depth on the perimeter will come from freshmen Marcus Williams and JP Prince. Williams is an excellent shooter and a very good athlete. He has been impressive in practice and could push for serious minutes. Prince is a 6-7 point guard than can pass the ball well. Arizona has a lot of talent but must replace their two leaders. With plenty of options inside and out, the Wildcats will have an excellent season. Prediction: NCAA

3. UCLA- This was supposed to be the year that everything came together for UCLA. However, an NCAA berth came earlier than expected. The Bruins, with three freshman starters, finished third in the Pac-10 and was good enough to earn an at-large berth. They could be even better this season. Those three freshman starters on the perimeter are now sophomores and a year older and a year more experienced. That bodes well for the Bruins. Jordan Farmar is one of the best point guards in the West, and potentially the nation. He is a very good scorer and an excellent passer that can carry the Bruins. He needs to cut down on his turnovers, though. Arron Afflalo is overshadowed by Farmar and is underrated across the country. He is a near-39 percent shooter from deep, and is one of the better defenders in the Pac-10. Josh Shipp contributed in many categories last season as a freshman starter. He played solid defense, and provided solid production in the scoring and rebounding categories. With all of the perimeter talent, Cedric Bozeman, who was out last season with an injury, might move to forward. Bozeman led the Pac-10 in assists two seasons ago, but won't replace Farmar anytime soon. He would give the Bruins athleticism and a tough matchup in the frontcourt. The post spots are the question marks for UCLA. 7-footers Michael Fey and Ryan Hollins split time last season at center, and could do the same this year. They also might start beside each other. Fey is a good scorer and rebounder, but could improve those numbers. Hollins is a good shot blocker that is another big body down low. Freshman Alfred Aboya and Ryan Wright are expected to see minutes inside for UCLA, while returnee Lorenzo Mata is a good rebounder who will play. UCLA has an excellent perimeter group with no proven post scorers. If they can get consistent production from their big guys, the Bruins will be tough to bear. Prediction: NCAA

4. Washington- The Washington Huskies of last season essentially turned the program around. Two years removed from a string of 10 and 11 win-seasons, they won the Pac-10 and received a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. However, this year's version is not going to be as good. They lost three starters, including first-round pick Nate Robinson. They will still be competitive, though. Brandon Roy could develop into one of the best players in the country as he is given the role of go-to-guy. He is an excellent defender and a very good rebounder for a guard. His scoring average should jump by a few points with more minutes. Joining him in the backcourt is Florida transfer Ryan Appleby. He will run the point for the Huskies, and is an excellent shooter. Wing Joel Smith will provide depth. The frontcourt is deep and talented. Bobby Jones is one of the most versatile players in the country, and can guard anyone on the court, one through five. In addition, he can score and rebound well. He shot over 50 percent from beyond the arc. Jamaal Williams is a 6-5 forward that can score inside and out. He came off the bench last season, but will start this year and should have an all-conference-type year. Mike Jensen is a returning starter at forward. He is experienced and is a good shooter for a big man. Freshman Jon Brockman could have one of the biggest impacts of any freshman in the country for the Huskies. He will have an immediate difference on this team. The Huskies will take a slight fall from last season's team, but will still be in the hunt for a Pac-10 title, especially if Appleby steps in at the point. Prediction: NCAA

5. California- California finished in eighth place in the conference last season, and didn't get any program-changing recruits. Why the optimism? Two words: Leon Powe. The potential All-American missed all of last season with an injury, but is back this year. He can carry the Bears. Powe is a double-double threat everytime he steps on the court, and could be the conference's best player by the end of the season. Teaming with him on the inside is Rod Benson, who had a big year last season with Powe out. He showed that he can be a go-to-guy down low who can score and rebound. With Powe back, Benson's numbers could go down. The last frontcourt starting job is up for grabs. Freshman Jordan Wilkes and 6-10 sophomore Devon Hardin are both post players who will see minutes inside, but might not start because of the presence of Powe and Benson. Wilkes is going to be an impact newcomer, while Hardin is a good rebounder and shot blocker. He is also a decent scorer. Forward Eric Verneisel is one of the team's best long-range shooters. The perimeter is also loaded. Guard Richard Midgley will once again be the leader in the backcourt. He is a very good all-around player that can score, distribute the ball, and play defense. On the wing next to Midgley will likely be Kansas transfer Omar Wilkes. Wilkes is a good shooter and can also drive past defenders to the basket. Point guard Ayinde Ubaka will run the team from the top. He is quick and has the potential to be a very good scorer and penetrator. Part-time starter Martin Smith is also back. He will provide depth at the point. The Bears have the personnel to make some noise on the West Coast, and should beat some quality teams with Powe back in the mix. Prediction: NCAA

6. Oregon- The Ducks looked to be on the path to an NCAA berth last season at 9-1 before falling off the map. They went 3-10 the rest of the way. With another year of experience, the young Ducks should be able to handle the rigors of an entire season, and will have the stamina to stay on the bubble down the stretch. One of the best perimeters in the country returns for them. Aaron Brooks is an underrated point guard that is extremely quick. He is a very good shooter and passer that can score very well. Malik Hairson should live up to his potential this season. He can do everything on the court, and showed flashes of that last season. Bryce Taylor is an excellent shooter that slowed down late in the season. If these three contribute night in, night out, the Ducks will be a tough out everytime they take the floor. There is depth on the perimeter as well. Chamberlain Oguchi is a good scorer on the wing; Brandon Lincoln provides a backup to Brooks at the point; and Jordan Kent is a multi-talented bench player. The only question mark is the frontcourt, but it is a big one. Ray Schafer and Maarty Leunen are decent options in the low post, but neither stands out down low. Schafer is a solid shot blocker who should improve his numbers with increased minutes, while Leunen is a potentially very good power forward that can rebound well and score inside and out. Ivan Johnson could solve their problems if he makes the impact that is expected of him. The JC transfer should make an immediate difference inside. Since the backcourt is loaded, the frontcourt is what will hold them back if they don't make the NCAA Tournament. The Ducks will be a bubble team right until the end, but unless their frontcourt steps up their production, it will be the Field of 40, not 65, for Oregon. Prediction: NIT

7. Oregon State- The Oregon State Beavers were one of the more interesting cases of last year's bubble teams. They finished fifth in the Pac-10 and had a few quality wins. However, they went 0-9 on the road in the conference. That is not the recipe for an NCAA berth. They do lose all-conference forward David Lucas, but if they turn around their performance on the road, they could make some noise on the West Coast again. Nick DeWitz is one of the best unknown forwards in the country. He is extremely versatile and can do everything on both sides of the ball. He hit over 50 percent of three-pointers, and filled the stat sheet every night out. He gathers blocks and steals, and is an excellent scorer and a solid rebounder. Joining him in the frontcourt is center Kyle Jeffers. He was a part-time starters last season, but did not produce much. He needs to improve his numbers. 6-10 Sasa Cuic has the potential to form a very potent forward combo with DeWitz. He has shown he can score well, but he could have a break-out season up front. Marcel Jones provides depth at forward. On the perimeter, two starters return. Lamar Hurd is a very good defender who is not much of an offensive force. Chris Stephens is a good shooter that is a solid wing option for points. Jason Fontenet could get the starting job at the point due to his quickness and scoring abilities. The personnel is there for a postseason berth, but the Beavers' performance on the road will dictate which tournament. Prediction: NIT

8. USC- The Southern Cal Trojans have steadily gone down the ladder after a string of 20-win seasons four years ago. They should bounce back to a respectable record this season. USC has a very good perimeter trio that carries them offensively. Gabe Pruitt is one of the best point guards in the conference, and one of the most underrated in the country. He has good size for a point man, and can shoot it very well from distance. Pruitt is also a solid defender and a good defender with the ability to finish in the lane. Wing Nick Young is a very good scorer who could develop into an extremely solid all-around player. Lodrick Stewart is very athletic who can shoot the ball well from deep. He is also a tough defender. Dwayne Shackleford will produce solid numbers off the bench, providing quality depth. JC transfer Shaun Davis is very quick and is a good scorer who will see minutes at the point. The frontcourt will be made up of newcomers. JC transfer Abdoulaye Ndiaye will start immediately. He is a very good defender and rebounder who will be the main low-post option on offense. Freshman Keith Wilkinson is the leading candidate at the other forward spot, although fellow freshman Jeremy Barr and RouSean Cromwell will see minutes. The perimeter is one of the best on the West Coast, but their frontcourt is a mess. They have no proven players in the paint. If one or two players emerge, the Trojans will make it to the postseason. Prediction: NIT

9. Washington State- Washington State is not the most exciting team in the country, but they get results on defense. Coach Dick Bennett preaches a slow-down style of play that keeps his team in nearly every game. It is tough to blow the Cougars out. They don't change their philosophy for any opponent. The personnel is just not there yet for WSU to make it to the postseason. Center Robbie Cowgill is a solid shot blocker who can rebound well. He could develop into a very good inside player. Fellow frontcourt players Daven Harmeling and Chris Henry need to improve their production as well. Harmeling has potential to be a quality performer, while Henry will give WSU a body down low. Guard Derrick Low is a solid point guard. He can pass the ball well, and is a good scorer. His role will expand this season, giving him more freedom to score. Also in the backcourt, wing Kyle Weaver is a good shooter who can score going to the basket as well. Josh Akognon will also see plenty of minutes on the perimeter. Several newcomers will play significant roles in the rotation. If the offense of the Cougars ever becomes tough to stop, Washington State could make some noise. For now, though, the defense will keep WSU in games, but the offense will keep WSU from the postseason. Prediction: No postseason

10. Arizona State- Arizona State could not make the NCAA Tournament or even finish in the upper half of the Pac-10 with lottery pick Ike Diogu in the lineup. Without him on the team, the Sun Devils will fall to the cellar. The backcourt is fairly solid, but the rest of the team is a mystery with the loss of three starters, including do-everything All-America Diogu. Point guard Kevin Kruger is a good shooter who can pass the ball well. His scoring will need to go up to make up for the loss of production. Wing Bryson Krueger has the potential to be a big-time scorer on the perimeter. The 6-7 junior is one of the best shooters in the conference. Tyrone Jackson provides depth as a returnee, while freshman Seketoure Henry will also see minutes. The froncourt has a go-to-player in Serge Angounou. He is a very good rebounder and a decent scorer. He could have a big year up front without Diogu getting the ball every time down the court. Forward Sylvester Seay is highly regarded and is expected to get a starting role. ASU is a few years away from contending after the loss of Diogu. Prediction: No postseason

1 comment:

  1. Cheesman's Online Recruitment Blog: jobs vs. employment vs. careers
    Decisions. Decisions. For some reason, the employers I talk with hate the term jobs .
    Find out how to buy and sell anything, like things related to instant road repair on interest free credit and pay back whenever you want! Exchange FREE ads on any topic, like instant road repair!