Pac-10 Preview (#6-#4)
Posted by Patrick on November 4, 2008
The teams that are in the “middle of the pack” in any conference are sometimes the most dangerous. They’re often overlooked, but they still have the talent to upset some of the best teams (example: almost Cal over UCLA last season). Here are the schools that could make some noise in the Pac-10 and maybe even the nation, yet they could also find themselves in the NIT/CBI in March.
6. Washington State Cougars- Coach: Tony Bennett (3rd year)
Backcourt: Taylor Rochestie will be running the offense in Pullman, which should run pretty smoothly. Rochestie is a great outside threat, shooting over 40% from three last season. He reminds me a lot of Derek Raivio, a great player at Gonzaga. On top of being a great shooter, he also plays great defense. Mike Harthun was a huge recruit for the Cougars, and should fit in nicely at shooting guard. It will be interesting if he can play “Cougar-level” defense, but what we do know is that he can get to the basket and finish.
Frontcourt: Aron Baynes anchored this team last season, and will probably do the same in 2008. His inside presence is unlike many in the Pac-10; he has a huge frame and has a relentless knack for the ball. I think its easy to say that Washington State will go as far as Baynes takes them. Devin Harmeling will have an expanded role in the offense this season, and despite being 6’7” he shoots the ball relatively well. Klay Thompson was the top recruit in Bennett’s 2008 class, and should make an immediate impact at small forward.
Bottom Line: A team that plays defense as well as Washington State could go very far this season, but like most Pac-10 teams they are missing something, and that something is depth. Once Baynes comes out of the game, whether it be because of fouls or just rest, they don’t have a player that can fill in on offense or defense. Teams will probably attack the basket early to try and get Baynes some cheap fouls, and Bennett needs to recognize that. It will be interesting to see how one of the top coaches in the nation deals with a team that doesn’t have much depth.
PG-Taylor Rochestie (Sr.)
SG- Mike Harthun (Fr.)
SF- Klay Thompson (Fr.)
PF- Devin Harmeling (Sr.)
C- Aron Baynes (Sr.)
Projected Post Season Tournament: NIT
Key Games: Baylor (12/6), Gonzaga (12/10), Washington (1/3), at Arizona (1/31), Arizona (2/26)
5. Arizona Wildcats-Coach: Russ Pennell (1st year)
Backcourt: After losing two amazing point guards in the offseason (Jaryd Bayless and Brandon Jennings), Nic Wise (pictured above) gets the honor of being Arizona’s floor general. People may not know Wise very well, but he is a tremendous player that can shoot the three and find people on the court. Freshman Brendon Lavender will be a key addition to this roster, and if he can score like Arizona recruited him to do so, then the Wildcats could be in very good shape this season.
Frontcourt: Chase Budinger needs no introduction. Everyone that has watched college basketball the past two seasons knows that he is one of the top players in the game. Besides Budinger, Jordan Hill is the most experienced frontcourt players that the Wildcats have. While Hill can score with the best, he got into foul trouble last season (averaged over three fouls per game), limiting his minutes on the court.
Bottom Line: This team has had very rough off-season. Losing their best player to the draft, having their best recruit leave for Europe, and having three different coaches in three seasons. Russ Pennell has a great team to work with, but it will be a very tough job and in order to get this team to play to its potential he needs veteran leadership from the likes of Nic Wise, Jordan Hill, and Chase Budinger. Arizona has the talent to win the Pac-10, but do they have the desire?
PG- Nic Wise (Jr.)
SG- Brendon Lavender (Fr.)
SF- Chase Budinger (Jr.)
PF- Jordan Hill (Jr.)
C- Jeff Withey (Fr.)- may transfer
Projected Post Season Tournament: NCAA
Key Games: at Texas A&M (12/5), Gonzaga (12/14), Kansas (12/23), Arizona State (1/21), UCLA (2/14), at Arizona State (2/22)
4. USC Trojans- Coach: Tim Floyd (4th year)
Backcourt: Once again USC has a freshman phenom that will lead their team to the promised land. This year it’s DeMar DeRozan, and he may even be better than O.J. Mayo. He has the ability to take over games and may be the most athletic guard in the nation. Having Daniel Hackett at point guard is going to help this team tremendously because he is one of those players that you want to have the ball in key moments. Dwight Lewis will also anchor the Trojans strong backcourt.
Frontcourt: Taj Gibson has been a star for USC since he arrived on campus, and this season should be no different. Gibson loves to eat up rebounds and will be the backbone of this basketball team. Gibson also plays great defense, but like many big men runs into foul trouble and for USC to be an elite team they need Gibson on the court. Junior Alex Stephenson (if his waiver is accepted to play this season) and senior Keith Wilkinson will be the duo trading off time at the other forward spot.
Bottom Line: USC is a great team and could very easily contend for a Final Four, but last season it seems that this team doesn’t take care of the ball and had trouble controlling their star players. If DeRozan listens to the coaching staff and plays team basketball he could lead them very far (like Derrick Rose), but if he doesn’t USC will be another one-and-done in the tournament.
PG-Daniel Hackett (Jr.)
SG- Dwight Lewis (Jr.)
G/F- DeMar DeRozan (Fr.)
F- Taj Gibson (Sr.)
F- Alex Stephenson (Jr.)- waiver under review
Projected Post Season Tournament: NCAA
Key Games: at Oklahoma (12/4), UCLA (1/11), at UCLA (2/4), at Arizona State (2/15)