Posted on: March 7, 2010 1:18 am
UCLA's regular season concluded Saturday with a resounding thud in Tempe against ASU. The Bruins face resurgent Arizona in the opening game of the Pac-10 tournament, with the winner, likely, advancing to play league champion Cal. In this bizarro world of Pac-10 seasons, all nine teams have to feel they have a realistic chance to string together a couple of wins and find themselves playing for a ticket to the Big Dance. Due to USC admitting they run a corrupt, outlaw athletic program the Trojans are sitting out the post season. Without further adieu, my fearless predictions on UCLA's outlook next week as well as the school I feel will win the conference's automatic bid into the 2010 NCAA Basketball Tournament.
Wed. 3/10: 8 Oregon (15-15) vs 9 Washington State (16-14)
The Ducks swept the Cougars in the regular season and are coming off a 74-66 win versus Wazzu that closed the curtain on venerable McArthur Court. Look for the Ducks to continue their improved play of late and move on to face California in the quarter finals.
Prediction: UO 72 - WSU 63.
Thurs. 3/11: 4 Arizona (16-14) vs 5 UCLA (13-17)
The Wildcats enter the Pac-10 tourney needing to win the automatic bid to run their amazing NCAA tournament appearance streak to 26 consecutive seasons. The Bruins are looking for a measure of revenge after getting swept by the Tucson Kitties this season. UCLA hung tough with U of A last week without Reeves Nelson and, likely, would have won the game if not for the untimely leg cramps suffered by Malcolm Lee. Kyle Fogg has been a three-point shooting thorn in the side of Ben Howland, lighting up the Bruins for career highs his last two times facing the 11-time National Champions. For UCLA to win the Bruins need to hold their own on the boards, limit turnovers and take advantage of opportunities in the open court. Arizona has integrated some talented freshman with veteran point guard Nic Wise, but their inexperience shows more away from the McKale Center. Gut tells me familiarity with the opponent and the return of Nelson gives UCLA a real shot at the upset. Look for Fogg to not get comfortable shooting in the cavernous Staples Center, and the Bruins to advance.
Prediction: UCLA 71 - Arizona 67
Thurs. 3/11: 1 California (21-9) vs 8 Oregon (15-15)
The Golden Bears captured their first league crown in fifty years and look like the only conference team that has wrapped up an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament. Cal swept the Ducks during the regular season and just match up extremely well with Ernie Kent's squad. Look for Oregon to attempt to take advantage of their superior inside play. Cal is prone to lapses on both ends of the court, but have to be concerned with the leg injury suffered by versatile sixth man Jorge Gutierrez.
Prediction: Cal 83 - Oregon 69
Thurs. 3/11: 3 Washington (21-9) vs 6 Oregon State (14-16)
The Huskies are finally playing like many predicted they would to start the season. UW is the deepest and most athletic team in the conference but took a while to adjust to the losses of Justin Dentmon and Jon Brockman. The Beavers are a program on the come under Craig Robinson, but just don't have the horses to keep UW off the boards and out of transition. Due in large part to the late season collapses of bubble teams across the country, the Huskies stand a great shot of receiving an at-large invitation to the Big Dance if they can make it to the conference final.
Prediction: UW 75 - OSU 64
Thurs. 3/11: 2 Arizona State (22-9) vs 7 Stanford (13-17)
Herb Sendek, the runaway choice for conference Coach of the Year, has the Sun Devils playing solid ball on both ends. ASU center Eric Boteng has emerged as a consistent low post presence and a quartet of snipers surround him. ASU uses a match up zone defense to frustrate the opposition, slow tempo and create easy offense. However, Stanford is precisely the type of team that will give the Devils fits. Led by outstanding performers Landry Fields and Jeremy Green the Cardinal play smart and will make the most of open looks they get. Boteng had a career night against Stanford in Palo Alto a couple weeks ago, but Stanford head coach Johnny Dawkins is an underrated strategist and look for the Cardinal to bust the bubble of Sendek's Devils.
Prediction: Stanford 67 - ASU 64
Fri. 3/12: 1 California vs 5 UCLA
The teams split their regular season meetings, both teams winning on the opposing home courts. UCLA figures to go as long as its uneven guard play will allow. Cal will look to flood Nikola Dragovic's side of the zone with Jamal Boykin and Theo Robertson/Patrick Christopher. The Bears have had a lot of success attacking the Bruins zone from the baseline and wings, penetrating to the foul line and kicking out for wide open threes. UCLA, again if it limits turnovers, has the personnel to make this a game. Dragovic and Bruins MVP Mike Roll have to step up big if UCLA has any chance to beat the Golden Bears. Look for the Bruins to play a spirited game, only to fade in the final five minutes as their shaky ball handling and inconsistent free throw shooting do them in.
Prediction: Cal 77 - UCLA 69
Fri. 3/12: 3 Washington vs 7 Stanford
The Huskies swept the Cardinal during the regular season on the strength of Quincy Pondexter and too much ball pressure from their guards. Look for the formula to not change too much. Stanford makes some threes and puts a scare in Lorenzo Romar's crew, but in the end Washington's athleticism and depth wear down the Cardinal.
Prediction: UW 80 - Stanford 69
Sat. 3/13: 1 California vs 3 Washington
The Bears and Huskies split their two meetings during the year, both winning on their home courts. Washington has the quickness at guard to bother, likely, Pac-10 Player of the Year Jerome Randle. Randle torched the Huskies in their last contest. The game comes down to the boards. UW has played at entirely different level once it reinserted Matthew Bryan-Amaning back into the starting lineup. MBA goes post graduate on the Berkeley Bears, teaming with Pondexter to lead Washington to the title.
Prediction: UW 78 - Cal 73
Pac-10 gets two teams into the dance. Cal, in my opinion, under seeded as, likely, a 10 seed and Washington rides its late season momentum to an 11 seed and becomes one of the sexy picks nationally to knock off a team or two and advance to the Sweet 16. It won't really seem like March Madness without our Bruins in the party.
Posted on: March 7, 2009 8:05 pm
Another competitive year in the most underrated basketball conference in the country. These are a few of my observations on the 2008-09 season, predictions of how certain teams will fair in the NCAA tournament and my choices for various conference awards.
2009 Pac Ten Player of the Year
James Harden (ASU) - Harden carried a pretty ordinary supporting cast to an expected bid to the NCAA tournament and was the conferences most dominant player. Harden edges out Arizona's Jordan Hill and UCLA's Darren Collison for POY honors.
2009 Pac Ten 1st Team
G James Harden (Arizona State)
G Darren Collison (UCLA)
C Jordan Hill (Arizona)
F Jon Brockman (Washington)
F Chase Budinger (Arizona)
2009 Pac Ten 2nd Team
G Jerome Randle (California)
G Isaiah Thomas (Washington)
F Jeff Pendegraph (Arizona State)
F Taj Gibson (USC)
F Josh Shipp (UCLA)
Honorable Mention: Nic Wise (Arizona), Roeland Schaftenaar (Oregon State), Anthony Goods (Stanford), Taylor Rochestie (Washington State), Patrick Christopher (California), Justin Dentmon (Washington), Tajuan Porter (Oregon), Lawrence Hill (Stanford).
2009 Pac Ten Coach of the Year
Mike Montgomery (California) - The Golden Bears were expected to finish in the bottom half of the conference after losing its best two players. Montgomery implemented an up tempo offensive scheme built around Cal's strong group of returning perimeter players. The results were a return to the NCAA tournament. Oregon State's Craig Robinson and Lorenzo Romar of Washington were close runners up.
2009 Pac Ten All Freshman Team
G Isaiah Thomas (Washington)
G Klay Thompson (Washington State)
G Jrue Holiday (UCLA)
C Michael Dunigan (Oregon)
F DeMar DeRozan (USC)
2009 Pac Ten Defensive Player of the Year
Jordan Hill (Arizona) - Hill averaged nearly 2 blocks per game, was a monster on the defensive boards and the most dominating presence in the conference.
2009 Pac Ten Most Improved Player
Alfred Aboya (UCLA) - Aboya displayed his senior leadership on both ends of the floor and established himself as a bona fide offensive low post presence for the Bruins. Aboya edges out Landry Fields (Stanford) and Calvin Haynes (Oregon St.) for the honor.
2009 Conference Game of the Year
California 88, Washington 85 (4-OT) - The Bears victory was the only home loss suffered by the Huskies.
2009 Conference Pest of the Year
The award is shared by Venoy Overton of Washington and Daniel Hackett of USC.
Team Most Likely to win 2009 Pac Ten Tournament
UCLA Bruins - Bruins benefit from a mostly home crowd advantage, their depth and experience in this environment.
Darkhorse pick to surprise in Pac Ten Tournament
USC Trojans - They might not like each other, but they can fake it long enough to string together three wins. Their lack of a bench doesn't help them in this type of tournament. Coach Floyd's crew has to be the most disappointing team in the conference.
Team most likely to advance furthest in NCAA Tournament
I expect UCLA and Washington to advance past the first weekend. Without seeing match ups or venue, I'd say Washington has the best chance to advance past the Sweet 16 because of their rebounding and defensive pressure.
It wouldn't surprise me...
If Arizona went on a run if invited to the NCAA. When the Wildcats aren't in a true road game they are extremely dangerous and their big three of Hill, Wise and Budinger is as good as any in the country.