With the exception of Cal's game against Hartford and Stanford's game against Yale, the Pac-10 non-conference schedule is over! No longer will the week's schedule be filled with thrilling matchups like Arizona vs. Northwest Polytechnic State or Oregon St. losing to generic Southland Conference team from Texas du jour. In just a few days we'll be treated to real conference games, like Washington @ USC and Washington St. @ UCLA. So with a full slate of non-conference games as evidence, here's my official BOLD PREDICTIONS IN BOLD!
- Washington St.'s Klay Thompson will win Pac-10 player of the year, but it should probably go to Arizona's Derrick Williams
- Movable object vs. resistible force: Cal's worst-in-the-Pac-10 offense vs. Oregon St.'s worst-in-the-Pac-10 defense will result in lots of wide open missed jumpers. Ok, fine, that's not really a bold prediction.
- Contrast in styles: Washington's ultra fast offense vs. USC's plodding size and clogging defense will probably result in a home/road split, but USC will have more success imposing their style of play on the Huskies.
- Barring an unexpected run in the Pac-10 tournament from a lower seed, the Pac-10 will get four teams into the NCAA tournament: Arizona, Washington and Washington St. will all make the field relatively safely, while USC will make a run in the Pac-10 tournament and benefit from the NCAA tournament's expansion to 68 teams by sneaking in with one of the last at-large selections and participate in the play-in games prior to the full tournament.
- No coaches will be fired during or after the 2010-11 season, though a segment of UCLA fans will insist that Ben Howland is on the hot seat.
- The result of at least one game played on Oregon's new court will be impacted by a highly questionable call on a disputed three pointer or out of bounds play. Fairly or unfairly, the court will be blamed by many.
- With Landry Fields off in New York, Stanford will be the most boringly average team in the Pac-10, stunning several Pac-10 opponents into submission with their blinding mediocrity.
- UCLA's Joshua Smith wins Pac-10 freshman of the year in a surprisingly underwhelming race after last year's apparently successful recruiting season for Pac-10 programs.
Your challenge: make equally bold predictions of your own, and point out which of mine are going to make me look stupid in March!
Around The Pac
In which we take a look at a few of the more interesting and/or important games that happened last week
Washington St. 77, Baylor 71; Butler 84, Washington St. 68
Washington St. did the heavy lifting for the Pac-10 this week, combining to play a full half of the relevant games. And while visiting Hawaii they managed to put together two rather diametrically opposed performances, and in a rather head-scratching fashion. The Cougars defeated the nominally better team, then came back two days later to get run out of the gym by Butler. The difference is really rather simple: Against Baylor Washington St. shot the lights out (eFG% of 66%!!) and then didn't against Butler (eFG% of 46.7). Both Baylor and Butler were able to outrebound the Cougs, something that a number of Pac-10 teams should be able to do. But only Butler was able to hold one of the best shooting teams in the country to a bad night from the field. We'll see if WSU just had an uncharacteristic off-night, or if Klay Thompson and the rest of his merry band of sharp-shooters can be rattled.
USC 65, Tennessee 64
Since getting Jio Fontan into the lineup USC was thisclose to breaking Kansas's epic home winning streak, then went to Tennessee and knocked off the Vols. That's pretty impressive, and something that should frighten the rest of the Pac-10. Fontan himself has been solid in each of the three games he's played so far, and has even improved slightly each time out. If he's all the kick USC needs to turn their offense from below average to average or better, then USC will absolutely be a factor in the conference race . . . and perhaps the best basketball team in Los Angeles for the 2nd year in a row. Home games against the Washington schools will give everybody an excellent idea of how seriously the Trojans need to be taken.
The Pac-10 starts in style, with at least one conference game on every day of the week from Wednesday through Sunday. Without too much effort you could watch 7 conference matchups this week!
The Arizona schools will both try to start Pac-10 play on the right foot in Oregon with the easiest road trip in the conference, while UCLA and USC will invite the Washington schools in an important early season clash that probably includes four of the best 5 teams in the conference. And after presumably dispatching with overmatched mid-majors at home on Tuesday, Cal and Stanford will meet in Palo Alto on Saturday night in a game both teams will badly want to win before the schedule gets much much stiffer.
Hartford @ Cal
Yale @ Stanford
Washington @ USC
Washington St. @ UCLA
Arizona @ Oregon
Arizona St. @ Oregon St.
Washington @ UCLA
Washington St. @ USC
Arizona St. @ Oregon
Cal @ Stanford
Arizona @ Oregon St.