Pac-10 preview: Huskies are top dogs
The Pac-10 was brutal last season.
It may be much of the same this year.
Two teams made their way into the NCAA tournament a year ago — Washington and California — and it could be a two-bid league again this time around.
The Huskies should be a virtual lock, but after that it’s anyone’s guess.
PAC-10 PRESEASON PREDICTIONS
1. Washington: Lorenzo Romar has guards with Isaiah Thomas, Venony Overton and Abdul Gaddy and bigs with Matthew Bryan-Amaning and Aziz N’Diaye.
2. UCLA: The Bruins were a disaster last season, and while the point guard situation may not be much better, expect Ben Howland’s team to contend.
3. Arizona: The Wildcats have a star in Derrick Williams, but the area of concern is at point guard following the departure of Nic Wise.
4. Arizona State: Herb Sendek has some veterans with Ty Abbott, Rihards Kuksiks and Jamelle McMillan, but it’ll be the young guys who determine whether the Sun Devils can get in the mix for an NCAA tourney bid.
5. USC: Kevin O’Neill can ill afford an injury, but he’s got talent among his top five with forwards Nikola Vucevic and Alex Stepheson — and guard Jio Fontan becoming eligible at the break.
6. Oregon State: The Beavers didn’t live up to expectations last season, but still have Calvin Haynes and add a quality freshman class led by guard Ahmad Starks.
7. Washington State: The Cougars boast one of the league’s best in Klay Thompson, but he and Reggie Moore need some help from the supporting cast.
8. Stanford: It’ll be tough to replace Landry Fields, but Johnny Dawkins has brought in some quality recruits — including Top 100 freshman Dwight Powell.
9. California: Mike Montgomery lost Jerome Randle, Patrick Christopher and Theo Robertson. It’s going to be a tough year for the Bears.
10. Oregon: Dana Altman inherited a mess that will take a while to clean up. The Ducks are woefully thin and don’t possess much talent.
PACK YOUR DANCING SHOES
Preseason Player of the Year: Derrick Williams, Arizona
Preseason Rookie of the Year: Gary Franklin, California
Preseason All-League First Team
F – Tyler Honeycutt, Soph., UCLA
F – Nikola Vucevic, Jr., USC
C – Derrick Williams, Soph., Arizona
G – Malcolm Lee, Jr., UCLA
G – Klay Thompson, Jr., Washington State
Top Backcourt: Washington
Top Frontcourt: USC
Coach on the Hot Seat: None
Most Underrated: Venoy Overton, Washington
You Don’t Know Him … Yet: Aziz N’Diaye, Washington
THREE CAN’T-MISS FROSH
1. Dwight Powell, Stanford: He opted for the Cardinal over a bunch of big-time programs and should be an immediate impact guy for Johnny Dawkins.
2. Gary Franklin, California: Mike Montgomery lost his starting backcourt. Look for Franklin, who can really shoot it, to get minutes right away.
3. Keala King, Arizona State: He could be one of the keys to getting the Sun Devils to the Big Dance this year.
TOP FIVE STORYLINES
1. Is the league any better?
Last year it was dreadful, the laughingstock of college basketball — especially with Washington stumbling out of the gates. Really, how much better will it be this season? Probably not much.
2. Bruins back?
UCLA went to a trio of consecutive Final Fours under Ben Howland, but the Bruins were a disaster last season. Look for UCLA to take a step forward now that Tyler Honeycutt is healthy and has a year under his belt and Malcolm Lee can play off the ball. But they still won’t be the Bruins of a few years ago.
3. No dance in Tucson
Let’s see if Arizona’s absence from the NCAA tournament is just one year or whether it continues. The Wildcats have talent and are a year older, but point guard is a concern with the loss of Nic Wise.
4. Who’s No. 2?
Everyone has Washington penciled in for the top spot in the league, but it’s a crapshoot after the Huskies. In fact, it could be just about anyone. I’m going with UCLA because of Honeycutt and Lee.
5. Husky frontcourt
Lorenzo Romar has a quality backcourt trio in Isaiah Thomas, Venoy Overton and Abdul Gaddy. The key to whether U-Dub can be a legit Final Four contender rests on the shoulders of Englishman Matthew Bryan-Amaning and Aziz N’Diaye.