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This Week In The Pac-10: Revisiting Bold Conference Predictions

Can you see the half court line?  Apparently, neither could Creighton!
Can you see the half court line? Apparently, neither could Creighton!

Finally, every Pac-10 team has finished their season, with Oregon naturally emerging as the last team to both play and win a game.  But way back in December, just before conference play began, I made a series of predictions.  And making predictions isn't very courageous if we don't look back to see if they were anywhere close to reality.  Just how wrong was I?  Actually, not so bad.  But be sure to hit the jump and see which CGB reader came up with one prediction more accurate than all of mine put together!

Washington St.'s Klay Thompson will win Pac-10 Player of the Year, but it should probably go to Arizona's Derrick Williams.

Well, at least I was right that Derrick Williams should have won Player of the Year.  Williams had a great freshman campaign, but I don't think anybody predicted the level of dominance he would have over the rest of the conference in his sophomore year.  Whatever chance Klay Thompson had took a hit when WSU was swept in L.A. to open the season and died when Thompson scored just 12 points on 4-13 shooting as the Cougs lost 69-43 to Oregon.  Getting suspended for a game for a marijuana bust just heaped more dirt on top.

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.

This is a cautionary example of why making predictions will always make you look stupid.  The prediction I though was the least bold was the most wrong!  Cal's offense wasn't remotely functional when I made this prediction.  Of course we all remember the infamous five point half against Notre Dame, but that wasn't some anomaly.    Cal only averaged a point per possession (a basic benchmark for average offensive production) in five of their first thirteen games, and most of those five games were against the cupcakes of the schedule.  Then Gary Franklin transferred.

And Cal magically transformed into the best offense during the Pac-10 schedule.

On the other hand, Oregon St. did pretty much have the worst defense in the conference.  So when Cal played Oregon St., both games were full of many, many Cal baskets - an eFG% of 55% in Berkeley and 71.7 in Corvallis.  Cal's 2nd and 3rd highest non-overtime point totals of the season came against the Beavers.

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.

USC and Washington did indeed split their match-ups, though each team oddly won on their opponents' home floor.  And USC did generally win the pace battle, beating a Washington team that averaged about 80 points in conference to 72 points (in overtime, but just 55 in regulation) and 60 points.  It's just that hard to speed up a game against a team dead set on running 30 seconds off the shot clock each time down the floor.

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.

Looking a little better here - replace Washington St. with UCLA and I'd be dead on the mark!  USC very much needed the 'first' round games to earn a spot (and arguably didn't even deserve that much) but four Pac-10 teams are still four Pac-10 teams.

It turns out that Washington St. had us all a bit fooled, though it wasn't entirely their fault.  When WSU beat Baylor I thought that was a win over an elite, top 15 team - not a win over a fringe NIT participant.  A close loss to Kansas St. looks better when you think they're a top 5 team rather than a marginal top 25 team.  And maybe that blow-out loss to Butler should have set off more alarm bells.

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.

Correct enough, though I'm not sure this was a very bold prediction.  I certainly wouldn't have predicted that Kevin O'Neill would get into a drunken argument with an ex-booster in public to earn a suspension during the Pac-10 tournament.  But even that evidently wasn't enough to get a coach fired this year.  And while UCLA fans aren't thrilled with getting bounced before the Sweet 16, is still available as a URL.

Next year could be important years for the job security of O'Neill, Craig Robinson (who has yet to move forward from a surprisingly decent first year) and, perhaps Johnny Dawkins.  In three years Dawkins has finished 6-12, 7-11 and 7-11 in conference play, with little in the way of tangible in the court progress.  Dawkins has brought in enough recruiting talent to probably get the benefit of the doubt for now, but another year at 6-12 or worse and another year of empty seats all over Maples might change things.

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.

I was frankly a bit disappointed that Matt Court wasn't involved in any controversy during the conference season - how could a court so goofy not lead to any questionable plays?  But my skepticism was rewarded in the final game of the season.  With Oregon and Creighton tied 69-69 with less than 30 seconds left, this happened (starts 50 seconds in).  Oregon took their free possession and scored the game winner to take home the same prestigious title that Oregon St. captured in 2009.

I didn't quite nail the right violation, but I still feel vindicated.  The real shame is that this happened in the last game of a tournament that nobody cares about - if I hadn't glanced at Beartalk (h/t - the always comprehensive Pac-10 reporting of Jeff Faraudo) I never would have heard about it.  And if the Pac-12 doesn't step in and force them to paint a real line on that court I'll be very annoyed.

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.

Nailed it.  And I'm pretty sure 'stunning several Pac-10 opponents into submission' is how they beat Washington.  I guess Jeremy Green was interesting every once in a while when he got red hot from deep, but I don't think I can say anything else interesting about the Cardinal.  I'm getting sleepy just remembering them.

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.

Ahh, the other prediction that Gary Franklin's transfer stunningly altered.  Allen Crabbe wasn't playing badly when I wrote this, but it certainly wasn't freshman of the year play either.  His transformation into the 6th leading scorer in conference play was a revelation and just one of many reasons Cal fans are optimistic about next year.  Easily the prediction I'm most happy to be wrong about.

If Crabbe hadn't surged in conference play, Smith likely would have taken the title despite limited minutes, and I suppose that would have been relatively underwhelming, despite the huge impact Smith managed to make when he actually was on the court.

Special CGB Reader Courage Award!

Arizona will win the league.  Washington will make the Tournament, but receive a seed (likely a 6 or 7) which will shock everyone except the people who actually pay attention to how the Selection Committee operates (hint: they don’t give you credit for "good losses," and they get irritable when teams schedule nothing but lollipop home games and the occasional neutral-site tournament or conference-wide challenge).

They will again make the Sweet Sixteen (prompting the wrongheaded people who think that seeding is supposed to be about the rich getting richer, rather than a deserved reward for accomplishments, to claim that Washington was "underseeded") before bowing out to a team that has a genuinely dependable scoring threat.

I also requested that CGB readers make their own predictions, but only PaulThomas elected to do so.  His reward for putting his neck out on the line?  One the best predictions of the year.  When everybody (myself included) ready to hand Washington the conference title, PT picked the Wildcats, nailed Washington as a 7 seed, and was a few inexplicable Venoy Overton decisions away from calling another UW Sweet 16 run.  Kudos!