Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Pac-10 Conference 2005-06 Season Preview

By Bruin Basketball Report

The Pac-10 conference began the year with four teams ranked in preseason polls - Arizona, Stanford, UCLA, and Washington.

However, both Arizona (7-3) and especially Stanford (4-4) have stumbled in non-conference play. With the Pac-10 season opening this week, only two teams from the conference remain ranked - No.7 Washington and No.11 UCLA.

Although both Arizona and Stanford appear to have gotten back on track, the Pac-10 conference lost some of it's luster in the preseason. Teams within the conference look to regain some of their respectability during conference play.

The Pac-10 conference still looks to be one of the top conferences in the nation.

Bruin Basketball Report - Pac-10 Predictions

1.UCLA 2.Arizona 3.Washington 4.California 5.Stanford 6.Washington St 7.USC 8.Oregon 9.Oregon St 10.Arizona St

Team Previews

1. UCLA (10-1)

Probable Starters
G-Jordan Farmar (So, 6'2, 180), G-Arron Afflalo (So, 6'5, 210), F-Cedric Bozeman (Sr, 6'6, 205) F-Luc Richard Mbah a Moute (Fr, 6'7, 224), C-Lorenzo Mata (So, 6'8, 235)

Key Resevers
Darren Collison (Fr, 6'0,155), Josh Shipp (So, 6'5, 207), Ryan Wright (Fr,6'8, 225), Alfred Aboya (Fr, 6'8, 233)

see 12/26 article: UCLA Bruins Basketball: Progress Report

2. Arizona Wildcats (7-3)

Probable Starters
G-Mustafa Shakur (Junior, 6'3, 190), G-Chris Rodgers (Sr, 6'4,205), G-Hassan Adams (Sr, 6'4, 220), F-Ivan Radenovic (Jr, 6'10, 244), F-Marcus Williams (Fr, 6'7, 205)

Key Reserves
Bret Brielmaier (So, 6'6, 235), J.P. Prince (Fr, 6'6, 180), Kirk Walters (Jr, 6'10, 241)

The Wildcats have been distracted by preseason troubles and controversy around the team, however, Lute Olson always seems to pull it together for conference play. This year should be no exception. Arizona is still the most athletic teams in the conference led by their three guard group of Hassan Adams (19.3 points, 6.7 rebounds), Mustafa Shakur (9.8 points, 3.7 assists), and Chris Rodgers (12.3 points).

However, the team sorely misses Salim Stoudamire's 3-pt shooting from last year's squad as the Wildcats are shooting an anemic 26% from behind the arc. The team has also been weak on the defensive boards. Although Kirk Walters block shots (2.1 blocks), both he and Radenovic are not the toughest low post defenders.

The strength of the team lies in their defense and athletic perimeter players. Arizona has forced over 23 turnover a game mostly by their guards; Adams (2.8 steals), Rodgers (2.7 steals), and Shakur (1.8 steals). The Wildcats have won their last 5 games in a row and appear ready to put their preseason troubles behind them.

3. Washington Huskies (10-0).

Probable Starters
G-Justin Denton (Fr, 5'11, 185), G-Brandon Roy (Sr, 6'6, 210)), F-Bobby Jones (Sr, 6'7, 215), F-Jon Brockman (Fr, 6'7, 245), F-Jamaal Williams (Sr, 6'6, 235).

Key Reserves
Ryan Appleby (So,6'2,170), Mike Jensen (Sr,6'8,250), Joel Smith (So, 6'4, 205)

The Huskies are an athletic and physical team but not as physical as last year. They lack a big inside presence although Mike Jensen recently returned from a shoulder injury. Brandon Roy, a preseason Wooden award candidate, is the leader of the team and leads the team in scoring (16.0), second in rebounding (4.6) , and second and assists (4.0). The Huskies are counting on their freshmen to contribute to this team, and they're getting it from Jon Brockman (11.4 points, 7.2rebounds) and Justin Dentmon (4.5 assists)

The Huskies are off to their best start since 1976. Through ten games this season, the Huskies have thoroughly dominated their opponents by out-scoring teams by +25 point margin - shooting over 52 FG%, outrebounding teams by a 7.7 margin, averaging over 21 assists per game, and maintain a 1.33 assist/turnover ratio.

However the Huskies have not really been tested this year. They have only had one game against a quality opponent- Gonzaga, which they won but have a low SOS rating of 152. Without a big dominant presence down low, the Huskies will be severely tested in Pac-10 play. Their game against Arizona this week will tell the real story about this Huskies team. Contenders or Pretenders? We'll see.

4. California Golden Bears (6-3)

Probable Starters
G-Ayinde Ubaka (Jr, 6'3, 200), G-Richard Midgley (Sr, 6'3, 195 ), G-Omar Wilkes (So, 6'4, 185), F- Leon Powe (So, 6'8, 240), C-DeVon Hardin (So, 6'11, 235)

Key Reserves
Theo Robertson (Fr, 6'5, 240), Rod Benson (Sr, 6'10, 220), C-Jordan Wilkes (Fr, 6'11, 225)

The Bears have the biggest front line in the conference and are anchored by 2004 Pac-10 freshman of the year, Leon Powe (20.8 ppg, 9.4 rpg) who redshirted last year with an injury. The front line also includes center DeVon Hardin (12.1 points , 7.4 rebounds, 1.6 blocks) and Rod Benson a 6'10 senior off the bench who started last year.

Cal is second in the conference in team scoring behind Washington. Powe has returned with avengence scoring 22, 26,and 27 in three of the six games he's played this year. Cal has five players scoring in double figures including their backcourt of Ayinde Ubaka (14 points, 4 assists), Richard Midgley (11.8 points) both who are also good 3-pt shooters - shooting over 40% from behind the arc.

Although Cal has a big front line they are last in the conference in blocks and near the bottom in FG% defense - allowing over 50% FG shooting by opponents in 4 of their 9 games. The Bears have also experienced key defensive break downs leading to some of their losses. On offense, they've had a tendency to rely too much on Leon Powe down the stretch leading to poor execution at the end of games. If this Cal team can pull together as a team it may be the surprise of the conference.

5. Stanford Cardinal (4-4)

Probable Starters
G-Chris Hernandez (Sr, 6'2, 190) , G-Tim Morris (So, 6-4, 215) , F-Dan Grunfeld (Sr, 6'6, 220), F-Taj Morris (So, 6-8, 190) , C-Matt Haryasz (Sr, 6'11, 230)

Key Reserves
Fred Washington (Jr, 6'5, 205), Lawrence Hill (Fr, 6'8, 205), Jason Haas (Sr, 6'2, 190)

Stanford has stumbled big time during the preseason and will need to play almost perfect ball in the Pac-10 to make the tournament come selection time in March.

The Cardinal team begins and ends with their big three seniors, Matt Haryasz (18.1 points, 10.1 rebounds), Dan Grunfeld (14.8 points), and Chris Hernandez (11.5 points, 3.1 assists).

While Haryasz has been the most consistent Cardinal performer this year (7 double-doubles this year), the other two seniors have struggled. Grunfeld, returning from knee surgery, has not returned to full form shooting only 37% from the field after averaging 50% last year. Hernandez has had his own shooting woes with a 39% FG% versus 43% in 2004. As a whole, the Cardinal team is last in the Pac-10 with 40% FG%. and are only shooting 3-pt shots at 29%.

Aside from Haryasz, Stanford has not been a strong rebounding team. Throw in the fact they are last in steals and assists in the conference, and the picture begins to explain the horrible start by Stanford. But they still have their three seniors - and if they can pull it together in conference play then the season still may not be a loss.

6. Washington State Cougars (7-2)

Probable Starters
G-Derrick Low (So, 6'1, 186), G-Randy Green (Sr, 6'3, 190), G-Kyle Weaver (So, 6'5, 185), F-Ivory Clark (Jr, 6'5, 212) , C-Robbie Cowgill (So, 6'10, 207)

Key Reserves
Josh Akognon (So, 5'10, 198), Aron Baynes (Fr, 6'10, 247) , Chris Henry (So, 6'8, 257), Daven Harmeling (So, 6'7, 216)

No one likes playing Washington St. No one. In head coach Dick Bennett's last season, the Cougars are once again the conference's stingiest defense. The Cougars allow only 54 point per game, and although they only have one player scoring over 10 points per game, they are still outscoring their opponents by almost 10 points per game. Washington St allows only 35% FG% shooting and 25% 3-Pt shooting.

Guard Derrick Low is the leading scorer on the team (10.1 points, 1.2 steals). Center Robbie Cowgill averages 9.5 points and 4.8 rebounds per game. The Cougars shoot well from behind the arc at 37% 3-Pt FG% per game. They have only lost twice this year (once to Gonzaga) but have quality wins over Kansas St. and Utah and will once again be a thorn to the side of every Pac-10 team this year.

7. USC Trojans (9-2)

Probable Starters
G-Gabe Pruitt (So, 6'4, 170), G-Ryan Francis (Fr, 5'11, 170), G-Loderick Stewart (Jr, 6'4, 210), F-Nick Young (So, 6'6, 195), C- Abdoulaye Ndiaye (Jr, 6'11, 230)

Key Reserves
RouSean Cromwell (Fr, 6'10, 215), Jeremy Barr(Fr, 6'8,265), Dwayne Shackleford(Sr, 5'10, 185 )

After two bad early losses (CSUN, Oral Roberts), new head coach Tim Floyd earned his first big win at USC with a thumping of North Carolina. Floyd will try to leverage the impact of that game entering into Pac-10 play. The Trojans are led by their super sophomore pair, of Nick Young (16.2 points, 6.1 rebounds) and Gabe Pruitt (15.2 points, 5.1 rebounds). Guard Loderick Stewart (12.9 points) also returns to the team.

The Trojans are playing better defense this year allowing opponents to only 38% FG shooting and lead the conference in blocked shots with 5 per game led by transfer Ndiaye (1.8 blocks) and freshman Cromwell (1.7). The Trojans are also shooting better from the field (45%) this year with Young hitting on 53% and Stewart on 48% of their shots.

However, USC is not shooting well from the 3-pt land 29% and besides Young, Stewart, and Pruitt - the Trojans don't have another player averaging more than 7 point a game. The team also turns over the ball quite a bit averaging 16.8 turnovers a game and have a horrid assist/turnover ratio of 0.85. The Trojans have a good coach in Floyd but are probably still about 1-2 years away from approaching the top tier of the conference.

8. Oregon Ducks (6-5)

Probable Starters
G-Aaron Brooks (Jr, 6'0, 165 ), G-Malik Hairston (So, 6'6, 200), G- Bryce Taylor (So,6-5, 205), F- Maarty Leunen (So, 6-9, 215), F-Ivan Johnson(Jr, 6'8, 255)

Key Reserves
Chamberlain Oguchi (So, 6'5, 195), Adam Zahn (Jr, 6'8, 230), Brandon Lincoln (Sr, 6'4, 195)

With a star backcourt of Malik Hairston and Aaron Brooks one might expect the Ducks to be one of the elite Pac-10 teams, instead they are one of the biggest disappointments. Oregon is led by Malik Hairston (15.3 points, 46% 3-Pt%, 4.9 rebounds), Aaron Brooks (10.7 points, 4.8 assists), and Bryce Taylor (10.2 points). Maarty Leunen leads the team in rebounds (8.0)

Aside from Malik Hairston, the rest of this talented Duck team is underperforming which has resulted in a middle of the road Pac-10 team. The Ducks will win enough games to get to .500, but probably not win enough to save coach Ernie Kent's job.

9. Oregon State Beavers (6-4)

Probably Starters
G-Chris Stephens (Sr, 6'2,195), G-Jason Fontenet (Sr, 5'10, 168), F-Nick DeWitz (Sr, 6'8, 230), F-Marcel Jones (So, 6'8, 215), C-Kyle Jeffers (Jr, 6'9, 258)

Key Reserves
Sasa Cuic (So, 6'10, 253)), Lamar Hurd (Sr, 6'4, 195)

The Beavers made the NIT last year but no longer have David Lucas. The team is led by two returning starting seniors: Chris Stephens (15.9 points) and Nick DeWitz (11.0 points, 5.4 rebounds, 1.9 blocks rebounds). Marcel Jones leads the team in rebounding (6.9) Forward Sasa Cuic has added some punch to the team with 11.1 points and 4.5 rebounds per game.

Aside from beating a good Georgia team earlier in the year, the Beavers have been unimpressive during the preseason giving up over 70 points a game to opponents. The Beavers will have trouble making the NIT this year.

10. Arizona State Sun Devils (6-3)

Probable Starters
G-Bryson Krueger (Jr, 6'7, 190), G-Kevin Kruger (Jr, 6'2,186), G-Tyrone Jackson (Sr, 6'2, 186), F-Jeff Pendergraph (Fr, 6'10, 210) , F-Serge Angounou (Jr, 6'8 , 230)

Key Reserves
Antwi Atuahene (So, 6'4, 205), Chad Goldstein (Fr, 6'9, 241)

Ike Diogu is now in the NBA. End of story.

After sporting the best player in the conference for 3 years, the Sun Devils will learn what life is like without him - and it's not going to be pretty. How do you replace 23 points and 10 rebounds a game? Well, Arizona St couldn't. Without Diogu, the Sun Devils have already lost to Utah Valley St.

The team is led by Bryson Krueger (15 points) and Kevin Kruger (15 ppg, 4.6 assists). Their leading rebounder is Jeff Pendergraph (5.4). Without any size and depth it's going to be a long season in Tempe.



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