Wednesday, November 1, 2006

Pac-10 Conference Preview


Player of the Year: Arron Afflalo, SG, UCLA

Newcomer of the Year: Spencer Hawes, Washington

All-Conference Team:
G- Arron Afflalo, UCLA
F- Nick Young, USC
F- Malik Hairston, Oregon
F- Marcus Williams, Arizona
F- Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, UCLA

Second Team:
G- Ayinde Ubaka, California
G- Gabe Pruitt, USC
G- Mustafa Shakur, Arizona
F- Jon Brockman, Washington
F- Jeff Pendergraph, Arizona State

Third Team:
G- Aaron Brooks, Oregon
G- Justin Dentmon, Washington
F- Josh Shipp, UCLA
F- Ivan Radenovic, Arizona
C- Devon Hardin, California

1. UCLA- How many teams can lose three starters from the national title runner-up and still be the favorite to win their conference? UCLA is the only I can think of (it's actually the only possible choice, but that's not the point). Even without first-round pick Jordan Farmar at the point, the Bruins will still be one of the best teams in the country thanks to Ben Howland and one of the best inside-outside combos in the country. All-American Arron Afflalo leads the way. He is a very good scorer who is one of the best shooters and on-ball defenders in the country. He has the ability to impact the game at both ends of the floor. Afflalo is also a decent rebounder. Inside, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute returns. The Pac-10 Freshman of the Year a season ago, Mbah a Moute is a versatile player that can do nearly everything on the court. He is an outstanding rebounder, both offensively and defensively. Moreover, he is extremely efficient shooting the ball and is a decent passer. He is also one of the best defenders in the conference. The key could be the play of point guard Darren Collison. He is an excellent defender and is extremely quick with the ball. He needs to improve his shooting and his ability to take care of the ball, but he should be a suitable replacement for Farmar. Josh Shipp will join Afflalo in one of the nation's top wing duos. He played in only four games last season due to a right hip injury, but should be healthy this year. He is an excellent scorer and shooter who will provide a very good second option on the perimeter for the Bruins. Shipp is also an underrated rebounder. The starting spot up for grabs is the center position. There are several candidates for the job, mainly Lorenzo Mata and Alfred Aboya. Mata is a good shot-blocker and rebounder who does not have much of an offensive game, while Aboya is a decent inside scorer and rebounder. Providing depth in the frontcourt will be McDonald's All-American James Keefe, who can make an impact with his size and shooting ability, and Ryan Wright. Wing Michael Roll and forward Nikola Dragovic are big-time three-point shooters, while freshman Russell Westbrook will get minutes backing up Collison. Prediction: NCAA

2. Arizona- The Wildcats had somewhat of a disappointing season a year ago, finishing 20-13. However, they played well in the NCAA Tournament, blowing out Wisconsin in the first round before falling late to Villanova. This year, Arizona should be back in the national eye. On paper, the Wildcats look very similar to last year's Memphis team, meaning that their plethora of wings will create mismatches all over the floor against most teams. Marcus Williams will be the go-to-guy. He played very well down the stretch who could have a huge season this year. He is an outstanding inside-outside scorer who is one of the best shooters in the conference. Williams is also a solid defender. Also returning on the perimeter is point guard Mustafa Shakur. Heading into his fourth season as the starter, Shakur has not yet lived up to the hype he had coming out of high school. However, he played well late in the season last year and looks to carry that over to this season. He is a very good passer who is a capable three-point shooter and a good defender. Moreover, Shakur takes care of the ball and does turn it over often. Two more wings will likely start. Junior Jawann McClellan only played in two games last season due to injury and suspension. However, he has enormous potential who could become one of the team's top scorers. He is very athletic and is a good three-point shooter who is also an excellent rebounder from his guard position. Freshman Chase Budinger will be an immediate difference-maker. The most talented recruit ever at Arizona, according to Lute Olson, Budinger is extremely athletic and versatile. He is a very good rebounder and passer who can also score from a variety of spots. Also seeing playing time on the perimeter will be guards Daniel Dillon, J.P. Prince, and Nic Wise. Dillon is a lock-down defender, Prince is a versatile combo guard, and Wise could be one of the top impact freshmen at the point guard position. Up front, senior Ivan Radenovic will likely be the lone starter. He is a very good inside-outside scorer who can shoot the ball with efficiency and is also the best rebounder on the Wildcats. Kirk Walters will see plenty of minutes down low, but he needs to improve his scoring and rebounding numbers. Forward Fendi Onobun is a decent scorer and shooter. Prediction: NCAA

3. Washington- The Huskies fell just short of reaching the Elite Eight last season, losing in a heartbreaker to Connecticut in the Sweet Sixteen. Lorenzo Romar and Washington will look to reach the Sweet Sixteen again this season. That will depend a lot on the freshmen class. Spencer Hawes could be one of the biggest impact freshmen in the country. He is an extremely difficult match-up due to his all-around talents and size. The 6-11 center is tough to stop on the offensive end and is an outstanding shot-blocker. Hawes is also a good passer and rebounder. Another freshman could also start in the frontcourt. 6-7 Quincy Pondexter is an unbelievable athlete who could thrive in Washington's up-tempo style. He is very good at getting to the basket and has a developing perimeter game. He is also a decent passer. Another forward, Phil Nelson, will fight for a starting spot. He is one of the best three-point shooters on the team who is also a solid athlete. A fourth freshman, Adrian Oliver, is going to be a threat to start in the backcourt. The 6-3 point guard is a very good three-point shooter and passer who will make an impact. The returnees aren't too bad, either. Sophomores Justin Dentmon and Jon Brockman come back as starters. Dentmon, a 5-11 point gaurd, improved steadily as the season went on and will be even better this season. He is a good ball handler and does not turn the ball over often. Dentmon is also a good passer and a very solid rebounder who plays tough on-ball defense. Brockman, a 6-7 forward, will be an excellent complement to Hawes on the interior. He was very highly-touted coming out of high school and demonstrated why last season. He is an excellent rebounder and a potentially dominant interior scorer. Look for him to breakout this year. Guard Ryan Appleby was the team's sixth man last year, but could start this season. He is a phenomenal outside shooter who is also a decent passer. Guard Joel Smith and frontcourt players Hans Gasser and Joe Wolfinger will provide depth for the Huskies. Prediction: NCAA

4. USC- After the top three in the conference, there is no clear-cut #4. However, with USC coming off of a 17-13 season and losing only one starter, the Trojans could be the best bet. They did take some offseason hits, though. First, starting point guard Ryan Francis was shot and killed in a tragic incident in May. Next, star guard Gabe Pruitt was ruled academically ineligible for the first semester. Once he comes back, the Trojans could be a tough team to beat come March. Wing Nick Young leads the way. He is one of the most underrated players in the country, and is overshadowed on a national scale. The 6-6 junior is extremely athletic and is one of the best open-court players around. He is also a good shooter with an excellent mid-range game. Young is also a very good rebounder and a solid defender. Pruitt and senior guard Lodrick Stewart join him on the perimeter. Pruitt is one of the best shooters in the country who had to play the point at times last season. He is a very good scorer who is also a solid defender and passer who can rebound well. Stewart is an excellent three-point shoter who is arguably the team's best defender. Fighting for the point guard spot will be freshmen Kevin Galloway and Daniel Hackett. Galloway is a 6-7 wing who can play a variety of positions due to his size and passing ability. Hackett graduated high school early to play, and will likely be the starter until Pruitt gets back. Up front, returnees Abdoulaye N'diaye and RouSean Cromwell will mix with freshman Taj Gibson to form a solid post trio. N'diaye is very athletic and is an efficient scorer who is a good shot-blocker and rebounder. Cromwell has shown flashes of his potential, but needs to stay healthy. Gibson could develop into big-time player due to his scoring ability and rebounding prowess. Prediction: NCAA

5. Oregon- While the Ducks return one of the most talented teams in the conference, they have not lived up their potential since that talent has been in Eugene. If the Ducks don't make the Big Dance this season, though, coach Ernie Kent could be out of a job. It all starts with Malik Hairston. The 6-6 wing is one of the best all-around players in the conference. He is an excellent scorer who can shoot the ball from deep and slash to the basket. He is also a good rebounder and passer who can play solid defense. Joining him on the perimeter is point guard Aaron Brooks. He takes very good care of the ball and is a solid passer. He needs to become a better decision-maker as well as a more efficient scorer. Guards Chamberlain Oguchi and Bryce Taylor also get significant minutes on the perimeter. Oguchi is a very good athlete who is one of the best three-point shooters in the Pac-10, while Taylor is a very good defender who can also score. Xavier transfer Churchill Odia, and three-sport star Jordan Kent will fight for playing time. Up front, the Ducks need better production. Marty Leunen is the best returnee. He is a good inside-outside scorer who can pass the ball and is one of the best rebounders in the Pac-10. 7-footer Ray Schafer is a decent rebounder and defender who is a solid passer. Upperclassmen Mitch Platt and Adam Zahn will see time in the post. Prediction: NIT

6. California- While the Bears are coming off of an impressive 20-11 season, they lose All-America Leon Powe and need to replace him if they are going to reach the NCAA Tournament again. Three starters do return, though, led by all-conference guard Ayinde Ubaka. The 6-4 senior can play both backcourt spots and will be the team's go-to-guy. He is a very good three-point shooter who is also an excellent passer and ball-handler. Providing inside balance for Cal will be Devon Hardin. He is a candidate to have a huge season in the post. He is an extremely good shot-blocker and rebounder who uses his athleticism to get points in the paint. If he stays out of foul trouble, look out. The leading candidates to replace Powe down low will be 6-9 freshman Ryan Anderson and 6-11 sophomore Jordan Wilkes. Anderson is an inside-outside scorer, while Wilkes provides good size and rebounding. On the perimeter, Omar Wilkes and Theo Robertson will likely start. Wilkes is an outstanding three-point shooter who could become a nice second option in the backcourt. Robertson is a match-up problem who can stroke the ball from deep and get points on the low block as well. Freshman Patrick Christopher will see extensive minutes at the guard position. Prediction: NIT

7. Stanford- After failing to live up to their high expectations heading into last sason, the Cardinal enter this year without much hype due to the loss of three starters. A lot of their success this season will be based on the performance of freshmen Brook Lopez and Robin Lopez. The 7-foot McDonald's All-American twins will form the post duo of Stanford for the next couple of years. Robin will likely play the center position, as he is the better rebounder and shot-blocker, while Brook adds some more athleticism and scoring at the forward position. Also seeing playing time up front will be returning starter Taj Finger. He is a good rebounder who is a solid shot-blocker and a decent scorer. Forwards Lawrence Hill and Fred Washington will fight for minutes. Hill is a good defender who is also a decent scorer and rebounder, while Washington is a very good rebounder who creates match-up problems. The perimeter is very weak. Point guard Mitch Johnson returns at the point guard position. He takes care of the ball and is a good defender who is a decent passer and playmaker. However, he needs to improve his shooting ability. Joining him in the backcourt will be sophomore Anthony Goods. He is a role player at best, and will need to improve his production. Prediction: No Postseason

8. Arizona State- Although the Sun Devils are projected to finish near the bottom of the league, new coach Herb Sendek has ASU headed in the right direction. Aside from the addition of Sendek, much of the optimism centers around the inside duo of Jeff Pendergraph and Duke transfer Eric Boateng. Pendergraph is an all-Pac-10 candidate who is one of the best post players in the conference. He is a good rebounder and shot-blocker who could be poised for a breakout season offensively. Boateng is an outstanding shot-blocker who was highly-touted coming out of high school and could contribute immediately on the interior. Another post player that returns is starter Serge Angounou. He is a decent scorer and rebounder who will fight for his starting job with Boateng. Wing Sylvester Seay is a very good offensive player who is one of the best shooters on the team. His versatility and size make him a match-up problem. Allen Morill provides depth. The point guard will be run by Antwi Atuahene. He was a part-time starter a season ago and is a good all-around player. He is a decent scorer who can also rebound and pass the ball well. The playmaker also contributes on the defensive end. Several freshmen will fight for minutes on wing. Prediction: No Postseason

9. Oregon State- Like last season, the Beavers are a potential sleeper if they can get any sort of consistent production from their backcourt. OSU's strength is clearly in the frontcourt. Sasa Cuic is a match-up problem due to his size and outstanding shooting ability. The 6-10 forward is one of the best three-point shooters in the country and is one of the top scorers in the conference. Marcel Jones is a very good rebounder. He is also a good defender who could develop into a solid scorer. Kyle Jeffers is arguably the team's best defender but needs to improve his scoring and rebounding. Aside from those three, however, the Beavers lack consistent producers, both off the bench in the frontcourt and overall in the backcourt. Leading the way on the perimeter will be 6-3 Wesley Washington. He is explosive when driving to the basket and could be the go-to-guy in the backcourt. The point guard spot will be fought over by sophomore Brett Casey, who takes could care of the ball, and freshman Josh Tarver, who is the favorite to be the starter heading into the season. Shooter Angelo Tsagarakis provides depth on the wing. Prediction: No Postseason

10. Washington State- The Cougars will enter this season with a new coach. However, they won't be too far from their old coach. Dick Bennett's son, Tony Bennett, will likely keep the same slow-down offense, defensive-minded strategy that his father used. The backcourt leads the way. Juniors Derrick Low and Kyle Weaver are the go-to-guys on the perimeter for WSU. Low is a good three-point shooter who is an excellent defender. If he improves his ability to take care of the ball, he will develop into a solid point guard. Weaver is also an outstanding defender who is a better all-around player than Low. He is a very good passer and a solid rebounder who could have a breakout season. Tulane transfer Taylor Rochestie could make an immediate impact on the perimeter after averaging double-figures two seasons ago. Up front, Robbie Cowgill is the main man. The 6-10 center is a good shot-blocker who could develop into one of the best big men in the Pac-10. He is also a solid passer and scorer. Forward Ivory Clark is a good defender and rebounder who will see plenty of minutes, while sophomores Aron Baynes and Caleb Forrest are good producers on the inside who will fight for minutes. Prediction: No Postseason

1 comment:

  1. In Stanford's opening game against Sienna, "role player" Anthony Goods erupted for 30 points - thanks in part to the open looks created by Sienna's double-teaming of Robin Lopez. I'll take it :)