November 6, 2006

Pac-10 preview: UCLA, Washington still on top

Preseason Top 25
Preseason All-Pac-10 team
The College Basketball Wire

Get the inside scoop on your favorite team:

The more things change, the more they stay the same for Pac-10 basketball.

Arizona State and Washington State are bringing in new coaches. Herb Sendek escaped the hot seat at N.C. State, but it is just plain hot in Tempe. Tony Bennett is taking over for his father, Dick Bennett, with the Huskies.

Pac-10 Predictions
2. Arizona (NCAA)
3. Washington (NCAA)
4. Oregon (NIT)
5. Cal (NIT)
6. USC (NIT)
7. Stanford
8. Arizona State
9. Oregon State
10. Washington State
All-Pac-10 Team
USC finally got an on-campus home with the opening of the Galen Center. Washington and Cal said goodbye to star players in Brandon Roy and Leon Powe, respectively, but hope to reload in 2006-07.

And Arizona and Oregon are looking for fresh starts after frustrating seasons.

Looking at the top of the conference, a couple familiar teams are expected to battle for the conference title. UCLA, the national runner-up, and Arizona look to fight it out for Pac-10 supremacy.

Find out how the conference shakes out for the 2006-07 season in the Pac-10 breakdown: 2006-07 Pac-10 Preview
Team on the rise: USC. The Trojans have the right coach, a brand new on-campus arena and talent in Nick Young and Gabe Pruitt. The death of Ryan Francis will cast a shadow on the season, but Tim Floyd has the program going in the right direction.
Team on the decline: Oregon. Although the Ducks return nine juniors and seniors, Oregon has shown little signs of improvement in recent years. This Ducks have gone from 18-13 in 2003-04 to 14-13 to 2004-05 and 15-18 last year, giving little indication this team will turn around as it ages. Cal will also struggle to hit the heights of last season's success with the early departure of the team's best player, Leon Powe.
Coach on the rise: Lorenzo Romar, Washington. Romar has led the Huskies to consecutive Sweet 16 appearances. Judging by the contract extension and raise he and Washington agreed to during the offseason, the Huskies expect this run to continue. Romar loses Brandon Roy, but has a stellar recruiting class - led by Spencer Hawes - to help pick up the slack.
Coach on the hot seat: Ernie Kent, Oregon. Kent delivered a 26-win season in 2001-02 and a 23-win season in 2002-03 before slipping to 15-18 last year. The Ducks have talented players like Malik Hairston and Aaron Brooks, but will need to shake the underachiever label. Though Kent is signed through 2010, the fact that he did not receive his customary contract extension during the offseason doesn't speak well for his job security.
Best offensive player: Arron Afflalo, UCLA. Afflalo entered his name in the NBA Draft, but elected to return to the Bruins. He brings back his 15.8 points per game and 46.2 percent field-goal percentage. He averaged fewer than two assists per game, but that should increase with point guard Jordan Farmar gone.
Best 3-point shooter: Ryan Appleby, Washington. The Florida transfer was a 3-point specialist for the Huskies, with all but 15 of his baskets coming from behind the arc. He only started one game, but made 70 of 165 attempts (42.4 percent) from 3-point range.
Best defensive player: Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, UCLA. As a freshman, Mbah a Moute improved as the year progressed. He was the Bruins' best rebounder (8.2 boards per game), and also led the team in steals with 44.
Best player you don't know yet: Ayinde Ubaka, Cal. The senior guard has played the last two seasons in the shadow of Leon Powe. With Powe and his 20.5 points per game gone to the NBA, Ubaka will be asked to take up some of the scoring load. As a junior, Ubaka averaged 14.5 points per game and 37.3 minutes. After playing point guard a year ago, Ubaka could see more time at shooting guard as a senior.
Deepest bench: Washington. Ryan Appleby was a major contributor off the bench last year for the Huskies. He should be again this season - if he doesn't beat out freshmen Phil Nelson and Adrian Oliver for a starting spot. Nelson and Oliver were among four Rivals150 prospects signed by Washington. Redshirt freshman guard Harvey Perry should also see some time off the bench. Six-foot-nine senior Hans Gasser will add depth to the frontcourt.
Impact newcomer: Spencer Hawes, Washington. The headliner of Lorenzo Romar's recruiting class, the 7-foot center should step into a lineup stung by the loss of guard Brandon Roy. Hawes needed arthroscopic surgery on his right knee in early October, but should be ready to play in the opener against Pepperdine.
Freshman sleeper: Jerren Shipp, Arizona State. Herb Sendek's first recruit with the Sun Devils could start on a depleted Arizona State team. Shipp, a three-star guard from Los Angeles Fairfax, is familiar with the Pac-10. His brother Joe played at Cal from 1999-2003, and brother Josh is a forward at UCLA.
News and notes: Arizona is looking forward to getting more out of guard Jawann McClellan. Lute Olson anticipates him to be able to play 20 minutes per game or 25-30 if needed. McClellan played in only two games last year because of academic ineligibility and wrist and knee surgery. New coach Herb Sendek will have to lead Arizona State without its two leading scorers. Guard Kevin Kruger transferred to UNLV and Bryson Krueger was dismissed from the team. Oregon guard Aaron Brooks will be suspended for the season opener as well as the Ducks' game at Washington on Jan. 25 for the forearm he threw at the face of Huskies guard Ryan Appleby in the Pac-10 tournament. USC opened the on-campus Galen Center this year to replace the LA Sports Arena. Trojans guard Gabe Pruitt is academically ineligible until at least mid-December. Freshman point guard Daniel Hackett skipped his senior year of high school to enroll early at USC. He will have big shoes to fill. He could take over a starting role after the shooting death of Ryan Francis. Stanford will have double trouble in the frontcourt with 7-foot freshman twins Brook Lopez and Robin Lopez. The Bruins will welcome back Josh Shipp, who averaged 9.3 points per game in 29 games as a freshman. He missed all but four games with a hip injury last season. Washington State lost leading scorer Josh Akognon, but point guard Taylor Rochestie will be eligible this year after transferring from Tulane. He was a member of Conference-USA's All-Freshman team in 2004-05. Preseason All-Pac-10 Team

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