Tuesday , Nov , 08 , 2005 C.Y. Ellis

College Basketball Preview – Pacific-10 Conference

*** College Basketball Preview – Pacific-10 Conference ***

The Sports Network

By Scott Haynes, College Basketball Senior Editor

OUTLOOK: Despite what is perceived as an East Coast bias, the Pac-10 should
get plenty of recognition this season, as the conference has the opportunity
to put half, if not more than half of its members into the NCAA Tournament.
Although the conference took a big hit last year in terms of losing talent to
the NBA, there is still plenty remaining on the Left Coast to thrill fans up
and down the coastline. There will also be plenty of competition from all 10
members, which should make for an exciting season. Even though Arizona has
lost perhaps the most talent in Channing Frye and Salim Stoudamire, Lute Olson
still has enough left in the cupboard to be considered the preseason favorite.
UCLA may have the most talented roster in the league and will keep the
pressure on Arizona all season long, as will Stanford and Washington. The
Cardinal are healthy to start the season and could vie for a conference crown,
while Washington’s ascension to the top of the conference last year was no
fluke and Lorenzo Romar is eager to prove that. Improvement is expected in
both Berkely and Eugene this season, as the Bears and Ducks will be tough all
year long. A new regime at USC could see Tim Floyd’s Trojans make modest gains
in the league standings. Oregon State posted its first winning season in 15
years in 2004-05 and there is plenty of talent in Corvallis to make it two in
a row. Washington State plays tough defense, but may lack the offensive talent
to avoid the conference cellar, while Arizona State will be there as well,
after the early departure of the Pac-10’s best player in Ike Diogu.


PREDICTED ORDER OF FINISH: 1. Arizona , 2. UCLA, 3. Stanford, 4. Washington,
5. California, 6. Oregon, 7. USC, 8. Oregon State, 9. Washington State, 10.
Arizona State


ARIZONA – The Wildcats won 30 games last season and won the regular season
Pac-10 championship with a 15-3 league ledger. The losses of Frye and
Stoudamire cannot be minimized, but the one player that may benefit the most
is 6-4 swingman Hassan Adams, who will now take a prominent role as the team-
leader. Adams does a little bit of everything and could improve in all areas
this year after averaging 12.7 points, 6.0 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game a
year ago. The team will miss Frye’s presence in the paint, but the hope is
that forwards Ivan Radenovic (8.6 ppg, 5.5 rpg) and Isaiah Fox (2.0 ppg, 2.3
rpg) can give the team a personality in the frontcourt. The backcourt will be
anchored by point guard Mustafa Shakur (8.1 ppg, 4.5 apg) and Chris Rodgers
(5.5 ppg), who should see more looks at the basket with Stoudamire moving on.
Sophomore guard Jawann McClellan (5.8 ppg) will get increased minutes as well
and could develop into one of the team’s primary perimeter threats. The
recruiting class is highlighted by 6-7 Marcus Williams, who averaged over 27
points per game in his last two seasons at the prep level.

UCLA – Ben Howland is beginning to turn around the Bruins and it showed some
last season, as the team went 18-11 overall and 11-7 in Pac-10 play (third-
place finish). The team will certainly miss the versatile Dijon Thompson (18.4
ppg, 7.9 rpg), but there is an awful lot to like about the returning roster.
Sophomore guards Jordan Farmar (13.2 ppg, 5.3 apg), Arron Afflalo (10.8 ppg)
along with Josh Shipp (9.3 ppg, 5.2 rpg) give the team a young and talented
core. The return of senior swingman Cedric Bozeman, who missed last season
with a knee injury, could be the x-factor for this group, as his role as point
guard has been filled, allowing Howland to use his size (6-6) to his advantage
elsewhere. The team lacks a true monster in the paint, but 7-0, 270-pound
center Michael Fey (8.6 ppg, 4.8 rpg) will anchor the middle. Freshmen Alfred
Aboya (6-8, 242) from Cameroon and Ryan Wright (6-8, 230) may be asked to
produce immediately up front. Fellow freshman Michael Roll (6-5, 205) could
also make an impact in his first season with great perimeter talent.

STANFORD – Trent Johnson’s first year at the helm in Palo Alto was not what he
had hoped for, as key injuries were the cause of Stanford’s third-place finish
in the Pac-10. Still, the Cardinal won 18 games on the year, before bowing out
in the first-round of the NCAA Tournament. This season, a healthy Stanford
program may be able to make a pitch for another conference crown, thanks in
large part to the return of three key contributors from a year ago. After
flirting with the idea of turning pro, guard Chris Hernandez decided to return
to Stanford and brings one of the conference’s top perimeter games back to the
conference. Hernandez was the team’s second-leading scorer last year (15.2
ppg) and was topped by only 6-6 swingman Dan Grunfeld (17.9 ppg), who shot a
sterling 43 percent from three-point range, before being lost to a knee injury
in February. Senior forward Matt Haryasz averaged a near double-double last
season (12.5 ppg, 9.1 rpg) and will be the centerpiece of Stanford’s
frontcourt in 2005-06. He will get help from sophomore Peter Prowitt (6-10,
250), who will be force-fed the center position this season as well as
incoming freshman forward Lawrence Hill, who averaged 16 points, 12 rebounds
and three blocked shots last season, being named the Gatorade Player of the
Year in Arizona.

WASHINGTON – The Huskies emerged last season as a national power, winning the
Pac-10 Tournament title and earning a top-seed in the Big Dance. Matching the
29-6 record will be almost impossible in 2005-06, as the team must replace
Nate Robinson, Tre Simmons and Will Conroy. Still, there is plenty of talent
in Seattle to remain among the conference elite and earn another trip to the
NCAA Tournament. Senior swingman Brandon Roy (12.8 ppg, 5.0 rpg) will now take
over as team-leader and his versatility both in the backcourt and up front is
a huge plus for Coach Romar. Forwards Bobby Jones (11.2 ppg, 5.6 rpg), Mike
Jensen (6.3 ppg, 4.1 rpg) and Jamaal Williams (9.9 ppg, 3.6 rpg) will be
called upon to provide frontcourt depth, along with newcomer Jon Brockman. The
6-7 freshman was a McDonald’s All-American, who averaged 30.2 points and 14.0
rebounds per game as a high school senior. Fellow newcomer Justin Dentmon and
sophomore Ryan Appleby will battle for time at the point this year. Dentmon
averaged 21.7 ppg as a high school senior, while Appleby will make his debut
after sitting out a year after transferring from Florida.

CALIFORNIA – Ben Braun and the Golden Bears were supposed to be players in the
Pac-10 last season, but one injury ended all that, as All-American candidate
Leon Powe blew out his knee and redshirted the season. In his absence, the
Bears went just 13-16 overall and just 6-12 in-conference. If he returns to
100-percent, Powe (6-8, 245) will be one of the top big men in the Pac-10, if
not the country, and could average a double-double this season if he stays in
one piece. What remains to be seen is if the rest of the Bears will follow
where he leads. With the loss of forwards David Paris (academics) and Dominic
McGuire (transfer), Powe will look to center Rod Benson (13.3 ppg, 6.3 rpg)
for help in the frontcourt. There will be plenty of backcourt support from
guards Richard Midgley (12.9 ppg) and Marquise Kately (9.3 ppg). Sophomore
Omar Wilkes (from Kansas) will be eligible this season and the 6-3 guard will
provide valuable depth in the backcourt. Son of former Laker Jamaal Wilkes,
Omar can play both backcourt positions. A big man with a great deal of
potential is 6-10, Jordan Wilkes, who averaged 20 points, 10 rebounds and four
blocks a game as a high school senior.

OREGON – The Ducks are perhaps the one team that could finish anywhere in the
conference standings and it wouldn’t be a surprise. There is an abundance of
talent in Eugene and the team should be able to build on a 14-13 season a year
ago. It all starts in the backcourt, with the explosive trio of sophomores
Malik Hairston (13.1 ppg, 5.0 rpg) and Bryce Taylor (11.6 ppg) and junior
Aaron Brooks (14.7 ppg, 4.6 apg). The big question mark lies in the
frontcourt, where the team lacks a proven scorer. Junior forward Mitch Platt
(3.1 ppg) has transferred and center Ray Schafer (2.6 ppg) will need to
improve significantly this season to aid talented sophomore Maarty Leunen (5.6
ppg, 4.3 rpg), who had a decent freshman campaign. Schafer is a skilled big
man despite his numbers last season and the seven-footer could be a difference
maker inside for the team. Juco transfer Ivan Johnson is a big body (6-8, 255)
and will give Oregon a physical presence in the paint. He averaged 22.3
points, 12.2 rebounds and 2.4 blocks last season in the juco ranks.

USC – There is plenty of inexperience on the USC roster this year, but there
is still something intriguing about Tim Floyd’s first team in Los Angeles. The
Trojans went just 12-17 a year ago and Henry Bibby didn’t leave much behind.
Still, Floyd has a pair of capable sophomores in Nick Young (11.1 ppg) and
Gabriel Pruitt (12.3 ppg), who had solid freshman campaigns. Junior guard
Lodrick Stewart (12.1 ppg) can be as good as he wants to be, but it remains to
be seen if Floyd can light a fire under the 6-4 guard. The frontcourt is a
little thin, with Floyd hoping that juco transfer Abdoulaye Ndiaye (6-11, 230)
and freshman RouSean Cromwell (6-10, 215) can make immediate contributions.
Other youngsters that could make an impact include 6-8, 265-pound Jeremy Barr
and versatile guard Collin Robinson, who averaged 25.9 ppg as a high school

OREGON STATE – With the loss of David Lucas (18.5 ppg, 7.0 rpg) and J.S. Nash
(9.3 ppg), it would seem that Jay John would be in a rebuilding phase in
Corvallis this season. However, after going 17-15 overall last season, there
is a chance for a repeat performance. Senior forward Nick DeWitz is the star
this season, after putting up 14.0 points and 5.8 rebounds per game as a
junior. He will be joined up front by 6-10 sophomore Sasa Cuic, who knows how
to score (9.2 ppg), but must now add help on the boards. Veteran guards Lamar
Hurd (3.0 apg) and Chris Stephens (9.8 ppg) will anchor the play in the
backcourt, along with sophomore Angelo Tsagarakis, who redshirted last season
with a shoulder injury. Tsagarakis set a freshman record with 45 three-
pointers two years ago. Freshman Josh Tarver is the point guard of the future
and the 6-3, 175-pounder will learn under Hurd and senior Jason Fontenot (8.0

WASHINGTON STATE – Dick Bennett’s Cougars finished four games under .500 a
year ago (12-16) and there really isn’t any reason to think a monumental
improvement will occur this season. Gone are reliable scorers Thomas Kelati
(14.3 ppg) and Jeff Varem (10.5 ppg, 7.8 rpg), so there really isn’t a proven
scorer left on the roster. Scoring points will not come easy to Washington
State in 2005-06, so the squad will once again rely on its tenacious play at
the defensive end of the court. The best chance for a quality performer game-
in and game-out is sophomore center Robbie Cowgill, who averaged 6.0 ppg in
2005-06. Juco transfer Ivory Clark (6-6, 214) and freshmen Aron Baynes (6-10,
245) and Caleb Forrest (6-8, 215) are the likely candidates to aid Cowgill in
the frontcourt. Baynes is an aggressive low post player that could develop as
the season wears on. The backcourt lacks a bona fide scorer as well, with
sophomore guards Derrick Low (7.0 ppg), Josh Akognon (3.9 ppg) and Kyle Weaver
(4.8 ppg) headlining the list. Tony Bennett will eventually take over for his
father when Dick officially retires, so expect the same defensive approach to
the game continue after Dick Bennett leaves the program. A decision that could
come sooner rather than later.

ARIZONA STATE – There wasn’t exactly a stocked cupboard a year ago in Tempe,
but thanks to All-American Ike Diogu, the Sun Devils finished four games over
.500 (18-14) and got an invite to the NIT. Now that Diogu has moved on, Rob
Evans is left with very little. Junior guard Kevin Kruger is the top returning
scorer at 11.0 ppg a year ago and much will be asked of him in the backcourt
this time around. If senior Tyrone Jackson or sophomore Antwi Atuahene can put
in quality minutes at the point, Kruger’s three-point accuracy can be put to
better use. Joining Kruger along the perimeter will be Bryson Krueger, who
shot 43.5 percent from three-point range in 2004-05. There is no way to
replace Diogu’s 22.6 points and 9.8 rebounds per game in the paint, but junior
forward Serge Angounou (8.1 ppg, 6.5 rpg) will anchor the frontcourt
nonetheless. Juco transfer Bruno Claudino (6-8, 215) will need to make an
immediate impact, as will freshmen swingman Sylvester Seay (6-9, 200) and
sniper Seketoure Henry (6-3, 175).