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Husky Men's Basketball Blog

Seattle Times staff reporter Bob Condotta provides a running commentary on the Huskies.

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April 10, 2008 10:32 AM

Assessing the Pac

Posted by Bob Condotta

It's fairly insane to try to guess what might happen next year at this early date.

But then it's also insane to offer college basketball coaches $6 million, as Oklahoma State is reportedly doing to Bill Self.

And hey, it's all part of the drill these days, right, to start speculating about next year the minute one year ends?

So here is my first look at the Pac-10 next season in order of finish (subject to multiple changes):

1, UCLA --- Best guess is that Kevin Love and Darren Collison are gone and that Josh Shipp and Luc Mbah a Moute return (and who really knows yet about Russell Westbrook). Should Westbrook return, UCLA will be a no-brainer to pick at the top. Even if he leaves, and the rest return, UCLA should still be the favorite considering a standout recruiting class and a proven philosophy. (Here's a good update on UCLA's current situation).

2, Arizona State --- Everybody's back, and that should be a big advantage next season in a conference that doesn't figure to be as deep or strong as it was this year. James Harden should take the next step to stardom, Jeff Pendergraph could be the best defensive player in the conference, and the rest of the cast should be able to provide a little better support.

3, USC --- O.J. Mayo is gone (was there ever really any doubt?) but sounds like Taj Gibson and Davon Jefferson could be back. If so, those two (as well as Daniel Hackett and some other quality guys) will welcome the nation's top-recruit, swingman Demar DeRozan, who may be an even better fit than was Mayo.

4, Cal --- Taking a hunch here that the addition of Mike Montgomery may also compel Ryan Anderson to return. If so, Bears could take a pretty big leap as they seemed to almost play better this year without DeVon Hardin, indicating they won't miss him all that much. Return-to-health of Theo Robertson will help, and Montgomery should add a defensive emphasis missing this year.

5, Arizona --- A really hard team to assess until we know if Chase Budinger stays. If he goes, Arizona will drop in this ranking. If not, a trio of Budinger, Jordan Hill and Brandon Jennings will make the Wildcats more than capable of a top five finish. And don't forget that the Wildcats are also bringing in two quality freshmen big men in center Jeff Withey and forward Emmanuel Negedu.

6, Washington --- Return of just about everyone plus the addition of three guards that should solidify the backcourt will make the Huskies again a contender for an NCAA Tournament berth. If one or more of the young big guys makes a big leap in production (or an immediate impact in the case of the freshmen) Huskies could climb higher (especially if the team figures out a way to make free throws again).

7, Washington State --- Cougars lose a lot, but they aren't going to fall off the edge of the earth, either, bringing in a solid recruiting class and possibly getting some big help from guys who sat out this season such as Fabian Boeke and Abe Lodwick. And there are yet more stories saying DeAngelo Casto wants to become a Cougar.But it figures to take some time to adjust to life with Derrick Low and Kyle Weaver.

8, Oregon --- Ducks could finish a whole lot higher than this if a fabulous recruiting class pays immediate dividends. And the Ducks are still hoping to add standout local point guard Brad Tinsley, which might solve a lot of their playmaking problems. But the Ducks lose a lot of production and experience and the M.O. at Oregon under Ernie Kent has been that even the best of classes take a year or two to mature.

9, Stanford --- Really hard to judge right now given the coaching uncertainty. Stanford brings in some decent players but the loss of the Lopez Twins will obviously be hard to overcome quickly --- and until we know who the coach is, hard to figure exactly how they plan to do it. Speaking of their coaching situation, Jon Wilner has another good piece assessing what went wrong with Trent Johnson and what happens now.

10, Oregon State --- Still a mess, and we still wonder why they didn't go with Ken Bone, though at least there's now the off-chance that the future President of the United States will be in attendance. The Corvallis Gazette-Times is reporting that there is no chance that C.J. Giles will be back and that he is preparing for a pro career.

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Posted by Jim Basnight

11:08 AM, Apr 10, 2008

Ryan Anderson is gone for Cal, despite Montgomery being hired. That said, Cal will be better than a lot of people think, as Mike has done well with PG's and Posts. With Randle being a key to a team with plenty of SG/SF talent in Christopher, the return of Robertson and the arrival of Seeley, Montgomery's influence could allow Jerome to blossom. Cal's success at that position will certainly make or break Cal either way. The center and PF spot will be manned by Wilkes and Kamp, but again this has been a strong suit to of Monty's to get solid play out of guys that were not expected to do so at the post position. Your assesment of Cal is probably about right, but not the Anderson reasoning. Kamp is also worth mentioning as a surprise performer for next year.

Posted by MT Husky

11:19 AM, Apr 10, 2008

Thanks Bob for doing that. Pretty gutsy with so many question marks still.

On a slower more boring day I'm going to present my arguments, reasoning and logic as to why I think Huskies can finish in the top 4 next season (my argument will center around a few optimistic but realistic assumptions and Huskies experience and maturity they'll have).

I'll also throw myself to the savage blog attackers by defending my earlier prediction that Joel Smith will be the 5th starter with QP, Brockman, MBA and Overton.

Thanks Bob!

Go Huskies!!!

Posted by Becky

12:16 PM, Apr 10, 2008

just curious about this year... what difference do you think it would have made ot have ao and phil nelson on the team? would have improved us enough, you think?

Posted by MT Husky

12:32 PM, Apr 10, 2008

I think losing both Oliver and Nelson really hurt the Huskies...maybe even more next year than this because by next year their maturity and both being good 3 point shooters (with the line back) really would be nice to have.

On the other hand, Huskies would now be THREE over the limit regarding scholarships and so maybe a few years from now if these incoming freshmen really pan out we'll be grateful for them.

It seems like next year will reveal so much regarding the Huskies future. If these freshmen can meet or even surpass expectations...and if MBA and Overton can continue to improve (along with Holiday and Gant) - I think the next few years will be a ton of fun.

Both of those 'ifs' are very realistic, but they are still 'ifs'. If the incoming freshmen class disappoints...and the current freshmen don't continue to develop....then I suspect we'll really be wishing for Nelson and Oliver. Personally, I'm betting on the former and am already looking forward to next season.

Posted by Matt

1:06 PM, Apr 10, 2008

I like this list here. Its very similar to mine at http://www.asusportsreport.com/. There is so much cahnge going on in the Pac-10 this off season, its hard to say which teams will finish where. A few guys still need to decide on the NBA or staying put, and some coaches need to be hired as well before we can finalize these rankings.

http://www.asusportsreport.com/

Posted by CDUB

1:27 PM, Apr 10, 2008

You call that recruiting class at WSU good? I guess when they are used to getting guys that would have to walk on at any other Pac 10 school. Sorry but the class is still in the bottom half of the Pac. Cougs drop a ton next year.

Posted by boycott nike

2:13 PM, Apr 10, 2008

Should Bennett have moved on while his star was shining brightest?

Posted by MT Husky

2:37 PM, Apr 10, 2008

I wondered the same thing boycott. Remember 2 years ago when Romar was listed as a top 5 'most desired' coach and got the new contract to keep him from bolting to the NBA?

We can continue to debate for the next 6 months how good/bad of coach Romar is...but in today's impatient and fickle society a coaches market value goes up and down just about as quicly and dramatically as the Dow.

I'm not predicting ANYTHING...and I do think Bennett is a GREAT coach...but it only takes a couple bad breaks in recruiting classes, injuries or even several losses of close games and a coaches star dims considerably.

That will be interesting to monitor.

I know this...I hope Romar is back on the list of 'most desired' coaches in the next few years!

Posted by Tone

4:20 PM, Apr 10, 2008

I see UW ahead of both Cal and Arizona.

Posted by MTK

4:55 PM, Apr 10, 2008

"You call that recruiting class at WSU good? I guess when they are used to getting guys that would have to walk on at any other Pac 10 school."

Those same "guys" owned the Huskies for 2+ years!

Posted by Carlton

4:57 PM, Apr 10, 2008

Move on while his star is shining brighest? That is an ignorant comment if I have read one, so is saying these recruits couldn't play at any other school in the Pac-10. See the state player of the year from Ferris who picked WSU of UW. Sure WSU is going to miss Weaver and Low, but likely will only really miss Weaver. Lows shooting can be replaced by Taylor stepping up. I suspect WSU will be a lot like ASU was last year and make the tourney as a 12 seed. Remeber WSU plays in a system that allows for less talent to win. See WSU vs. UW last 7 contests for example.....

Posted by Coug4Life

6:46 PM, Apr 10, 2008

There is little doubt that if Bennett's goal was to maximize his income then he should have moved on. But that was obviously not the most important thing to him. Huskies continue to not understand that some people like Pullman and enjoy the atmosphere at WSU. I would rather work and raise my family in Pullman than Seattle for the same reasons I would rather do so in Seattle than in LA.

Posted by Kristian

7:50 PM, Apr 10, 2008

Klay Thompson and Michael Harthun aren't that bad... especially fitting into an established system that has some veterans. Add Casto in.... we'll see.

Posted by UW didn't offer Casto a scholarship

10:09 PM, Apr 10, 2008

If Wazzu fans are pinning their hopes on Casto, then it will be a long season for you guys next year. Wide open dunks over shorter players don't happen every possession in college, especially the Pac-10.

Posted by grant

10:23 PM, Apr 10, 2008

I agree Tone,
Cal gets a new coach, but loses the leading scorer in the Pac-10 (probably) and they are somehow transformed from 9th to 4th? I don't see it (they lost that European shooter Verniesal sp? too). Basically they have Patrick Christopher, not enough, sorry.
As for Arizona, if Budinger stays, they contend. But if they lose him AND Bayless, they lose their top two scorers (and McClellen and Dillon to graduation). They will be dangerous, but likely inconsistent. Still, better than Cal.

Posted by CDUB

11:38 PM, Apr 10, 2008

Casto makes my point exactly. The only division one offer recieved according to Scout.com is from WSU. So no he is not choosing WSU over UW, he had no offer from them. He was state player of the year in a down class for talent. But I will give it up to the cougs for beating the dawgs with lower level recruits the last few years. They find players that fit the system well and Bennett has things figured out over there.

I guess the recruiting class is solid for WSU standards.

Posted by Bob Condotta

11:50 PM, Apr 10, 2008

To be clear, I have Cal fourth "if'' Anderson cames back. If he doesn't, I'll move them down. NBADraft.net has Anderson 27th in the 2009 Draft in its latest mock http://www.nbadraft.net/index.asp?content=mock2009
If that's the kind of stuff he hears from scouts and Gms, have to think he'd come back.

Posted by Alex in Harlem

4:22 AM, Apr 11, 2008

I don't see how you can't have UW in the top three in the conference. The PAC is weak next year, and the Dawgs will be much stronger, with Oliver's improved point, than they were this year. Hell, they've got a good chance of coming in first.

Posted by Randy

8:09 AM, Apr 11, 2008

Alex in Harlem,

OLIVER???????????

Where have you been man, Oliver bailed.

Posted by Alex in Harlem

9:47 AM, Apr 11, 2008

Overton, sorry, it's just a slip.

Posted by johnnycougar

10:08 AM, Apr 11, 2008

Even as a Cougar, I have to agree with CDUB. This class is clearly not in the top half of the pac 10 but what should worry everyone else is that it is the best we've had at WSU in years. Maybe it'll take a couple years for us to get back to where we were this year, but when we do our ceiling will be higher because these players have the potential to be even better than Low / Weaver / Cowgill.
Also, regarding Casto, I did see that Scout.com reported an offer being given but I don't think that's true. All the local papers say otherwise, and an interview with Casto himself (earlier this week) quoted him as saying that WSU honestly doesn't have a scholly to give. He would make an impact right away for us but I trust Bennett to make the right decision whether or not he comes here.
Also Also, UW definitely has to be in the top 4. Maybe it's just me, but I think Arizona will have some lasting effects from this whole coaching ordeal, and they'll be inconsistent again next year like they have been the last three or four - too inconsistent to really compete for the pac 10 title.
I'd say Tier 1 is UCLA, USC and ASU; Tier 2 is UW, Cal (w/Anderson), Arizona and maybe WSU; and Tier 3 is the rest of the field.

Posted by Geno

3:07 PM, Apr 11, 2008

What pretty funny is how EARLY in the season Bob could have a friggen opinion on NEXT YEAR. Hello Bob....anyone up there....you know, inside your brain??

Predicting next year NOW is like predicting how will win the Super Bowl before the draft.

I now know why I visit the comical site from time to time.

Posted by Geno got rejected =(

4:35 PM, Apr 11, 2008

Geno......if by "time to time" you mean everyday, then you are right. You coming to this site is as close as you can get to being a part of the UW........it's called an inferiority complex, look it up. Yes I am arrogant, and I don't care.

Posted by Triscuit70

6:06 PM, Apr 11, 2008

ESPN has Thompson as the #45 player and the country and Hurthurn #100. Witherill grades out as a good prospect and the other two have not been scouted. Maybe you all shoud use a recruiting service that has been updated since last fall if you want to discuss next years recruiting classes

Posted by ST

10:38 PM, Apr 12, 2008

Johnnycoug: unless I'm mistaken, with the announcement that Steven Sauls isn't returning after his concussion, WSU now has a scholarship available for Casto

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