Despite the prognostications that the PAC-10 would have down years, six teams have received NCAA Tournament bids in each of the past two seasons, including three Sweet-16 finishes and one Final Four.
But thanks to a mass exodus of talent (27 NBA draftees in three seasons) has the four-season streak of 60% of the conference in the NCAA Tournament in jeopardy, and appears that the pundits prognostications will prove that the third time truly is a charm.
The biggest reason why the PAC-10 could have a down year is because of their youth and lack of quality veteran players. The PAC-10 lost ten players to the NBA draft in 2009, seven of which were first-round picks. If that’s not bad enough, only two players (Patrick Christopher and Jerome Randle) from the All-Conference team will return for a 2010 encore. Don’t take a down-year for the PAC-10 to mean they won’t be competitive – after all, this isn’t C-USA.
With a large influx of young talent, including four Top-25 recruiting classes (UCLA, Arizona, Washington, and Oregon State) according to both Rivals.com and Scout.com, the PAC-10 as a whole is staving off the rebuilding process.
In the conference only three teams can be considered to be on the rise compared to a year ago, three more remained stagnant, while four teams have taken a hit on the talent front and have no sure replacement for it.
If the player changes aren’t enough to cause some concern for a lull in the performance of the conference, the coaching changes should. The conference continues to get its coaching make-over with three new coaches taking the sidelines bringing the total to half the league in the past two years.
With all the changes occurring during the off-season, the conference will likely get off to a bumpy start, and fans every where will have to withhold judgment until the end of the season when the obstacles of coaching changes, and youth have all been overcome.
The biggest trend to be aware of is what team can get solid frontcourt play. If any team solid gets surprising dominance in their frontcourt they could have an fast-track to the top of the conference since there is but a select few quality big men in the conference.
Arizona – It was an unfortunate end to a well respected and endeared coach, but it had to happen sometime. Arizona improves their situation as they were finally able to go away from the interim coaches and bring in Sean Miller. They dodged more than one bullet in the process though.
Washington State – The final day for Bennett in Pullman was rumored to have been on the horizon for over a year before he finally left. The Cougars get a solid coach in Bone, but the transition will take a few years before the Cougars could become truly competitive.
USC – The biggest losers in all of the off-season changes were spared the changes at coach either. Scandal, or rumor of one at the very least, ran of Tim Floyd. To replace him they brought in the ever-wandering Kevin O’Neill who has had limited success any where he has gone.
1. Cal (NCAA)
2. Washington (NCAA)
3. UCLA (NCAA)
4. Arizona (NCAA)
5. Oregon (NIT)
6. Oregon State (NIT)
8. Washington State
Player of the Year: Jerome Randle
Freshman of the Year: Abdul Gaddy
First-Team All PAC-10: First All-Freshman Team:
*Chosen by position
PG - Patrick Christopher (CAL) PG - Abdul Gaddy (UW)
SG - Jerome Randle (CAL) SG - Trent Lockett (ASU)
SF - Quincy Pondexter (UW) SF - Tyler Honeycutt (UCLA)
PF - Joevan Catron (OU) PF - Reeves Nelson (UCLA)
C - Michael Dunigan (OU) C- Kyryl Natyazhko (UofA)
Team by Team:
The Wildcats aren't the same team they were a year ago. They've lost Chase Budinger and Jordan Hill, and Lute Olson is now completley out of the picture. But new head coach Sean Miller has done a sensational recruiting job bringing in a Top 25 recruiting class with just under a month's worth of work.
The 'Cats are young and will be relying on freshman or returning role players for significant production, so expect a rough start to the season. But once PAC-10 play rolls around, expect the 'Cats to be ready to compete for a finish in the top half of the conference.
The Big Question: Can the 'Cats over-come the adjustment to their third coach in three seasons, and needing impact play from former role players and incoming freshman to make it to their 26th consecutive NCAA Tournament?
Key Departures: Jordan Hill, Chase Budinger, Zane Johnson
Key Additions: Kyryl Natyazhko, Solomon Hill, Lamot "MoMo" Jones
Arizona State Sun Devils
The Sun Devils are the second team to lose their best two players, James Harden and Jeff Pendergraph, to the draft, but they did little to compensate for it. The Sun Devils will return to their meticulous, slow-down offense hoping to grind opponents down with fundamental play.
The Big Question: Can the Sun Devils compesate for the loss of Harden and Pendergraph with a turnaround performance by Eric Boateng and a Freshman of the Year type performance from Trent Lockett?
Key Departures: James Harden, Jeff Pendergraph
Key Arrivals: SG Trent Lockett, SF Victor Rudd
California Golden Bears
With five seniors and two juniors, Cal is by far the most experienced team in the conference. Thanks to that, and returning All-Conference players Patrick Christopher and Jerome Randle, the Golden Bears should be the odds-on favorite to win the conference.
The Big Question: With no major changes to their lineup, can the Golden Bears rely on their experience and depth to push them to the top of the conference in Mike Montgomerey's second year in Berkeley?
Key Departures: None
Key Arrivals: None
The Ducks were a surprising disappointment in 2008-2009. Be sure to keep that in mind as they the Ducks have plenty of young talent on their roster, but simply failed to capitalize on it a year ago. The biggest improvement should come from center Michael Dunigan who was a non-factor for much of the year last year. With rumors swirling aobut Ernie Kent's job, the clock could be ticking.
The Big Question: Can Kent capitalize on the young talent he has to save his job?
Key Departures: Franz Dorsainvil
Key Additions: SF Jamil Wilson, SF E.J. Singler
Klay Thompson and the Beavers are good. They're not great, but they are good. With a weakened PAC-10 and a solid recruiting class for the Beavers, they could have etched a top 5 finish for the first time in decades. It won't be easy, but they could fight it out. You have to like the progress they've made in just one year under Craig Robinson, and because of that it makes you wonder how high their ceiling will be in years to come.
The Big Question: After making significant strides last year, can the Beavers continue to surprise in 2009-2010 by jumping into the top five of the with the additions of some solid recruits?
Key Departures: Rickey Claitt
Key Arrivals: Roberto Nelson, Jared Cunningham
Landry Fields is the star for the Cardinal who enter their second year under former Duke assistant Johnny Dawkins. The Cardinal are likely hurting the most after their off-season losses, especially since they relied on bringing in transfers and only one recruit to replace Kenny Brown, Anthony Goods, Lawrence Hill, and Mitch Johnson..
The Big Question: Can the Cardinal take a step in the right direction despite losing 3 of their 5 starters and a key bench player or will they continue to suffer heavily for another year?
Key Departures: Kenny Brown, Anthony Goods, Lawrence Hill, Mitch Johnson
Key Additions: Gabriel Harris, Andrew Zimmerman
The Bruins once again have reloaded in the off-season. And thanks to arguably the best recruiting class in the conference they look to be in the mix for conference champs come late February. The boys of Westwood are one of only a few teams that managed to stave off a huge drop in talent thanks to their recruiting.
The Big Question: Can the freshman and role players from the past two years turn the Bruins into a serious contender, or will they be like seven of the other teams looking for table scraps after Cal and Washington have cleared through?
Key Departures: Alfred Aboya, Darren Collison, Josh Shipp, Jrue Holiday, James Diefenbach
Key Arrivals: Tyler Honeycutt, Brendan Lane, Mike Moser, Nelson Reeves, Anthony Stover
Scandal has been associated with USC for the past several years, but that was football … or so we thought. When Tim Floyd basically admitted to the major violation by stepping down, the entire program effectively went with him. The Trojans still have some talent, and a new coach in Kevin O’Neill who demands hard work out of his players, but its not enough. This will be their best year for a while, but they’ll still be in the bottom-half of the conference.
The Big Question: It's not really if, but how far will the Trojans fall without a premier freshman on the wing and no threat to speak of inside the paint.
Key Departures: Tim Floyd, DeMar DeRozan, Taj Gibson, Daniel Hackett, Terence Green, Marcus Johnson, Keith WilkinsonTheir entire 2009 recruiting class.
Key Arrivals: Kevin O’Neill – wow, that’s SAD that he isn’t just a key arrival, but the only key arrival
The Huskies electrified people with their backcourt a season ago, and with the addition of Abdul Gaddy, they’ll look to do it again this year. The Huskies, however, are now without Jon Brockman and look to Matthew Bryan-Amaning to fill the void.
The Big Question: Can the Huskies get enough production out of their frontcourt to overcome the Golden Bears for top spot in the conference, or will the loss of Brockman be too much?
Key Departures: Jon Brockman, Justin Dentmon, Artem Wallace
Key Additions: Abdul Gaddy, Charles Garcia, Clarence Trent, C.J. Wilcox
Washington State Cougars
The Cougars were successful the past few seasons thanks to “Bennett-ball.” The Cougars took another hit with the graduation of Taylor Rochestie, Aron Baynes and others that made that offense work. With all the departures, new head coach Ken Bone will give the Cougars a different look as he wants to push the ball and become an up-tempo team. Sure, they have Klay Thompson, but they don’t have the personnel across the lineup to make an up-tempo team work with the success they’ve come accustomed to in Pullman.
The big question: Can Ken Bone capitalize on players like Klay Thompson to make this team a viable running team and prevent the Cougars from falling into the 8-10 spots in the conference?
Key Departures: Tony Bennett, Aron Baynes, Caleb Forrest, Daven Harmeling, Taylor Rochestie
Key Additions: Xavier Thames, Anthony Brown, Reggie Moore