Look for our preview of the beginning of Pac-10 conference play in Thursday's editions of the Times, and online. In that preview, I break down the teams in order of predicted finish based on their play to date. What I'll do here is give you that list and compare it to the way I had the teams ranked in October, before Pac-10 media day.
Here's how I had them then:
7, Oregon State
8, Washington State
10, Arizona State
Here's how I have them ranked now:
1. Arizona - Some of their preseason play is a real concern, mostly that 29.6 percent average from the 3-point line. But they've also played the most arduous schedule to date and have won five in a row and they still have a ton of talent and Lute calling the shots.
2. Washington - They've done everything asked of them so far, but even many close to the program still seem to be unsure if the Huskies are really as good as that No. 7 ranking would indicate. I won't be surprised if they win the title this year, but still not sure that it should be expected.
3. UCLA - I still really like the Bruins and won't be surprised if they win it, either. They really look like they are buying into what Ben Howland wants and their backcourt is maybe the best in the conference. That said, they still lack frontcourt scoring and have been sporadic at times.
4. Cal - This is where it gets really hard as I think there is a real gap between three teams I just mentioned and everybody else. With Stanford, Oregon and Oregon State all underachieving, I like the Bears here, especially now that Leon Powe is back and healthy and averaging 20 points a game.
5, Stanford - No doubt, they've looked really bad at times. But there's still a lot of talent there and Maples is still a tough place to play. If the young guys continue to improve, this is the one team from the middle that could still sneak into that top three.
6. WSU - Talk about a trip no one really wants to make now. They are a lot better than Dick Bennett was saying they'd be in October, and are going to be tough every night, but their lack of big-time, experienced scoring threats will doom them often enough that I don't think they can crack the top five.
7. USC - Tim Floyd is doing a masterful job and their backcourt is as electric as anyone else's in the conference. But the recent injury to RouSean Cromwell was a killer and their lack of depth up front will be a real problem. They have to beat Cal and Stanford at home this weekend since five of their next seven will be on the road.
8. Oregon State - I thought they'd be a little better but they are apparently finding life without David Lucas to be much more difficult than they imagined. They are the only Pac-10 team that has been outscored for the season - 68.8 to 68.3 per game heading into their last non-league game Wednesday night. They are also last in the Pac-10 in scoring defense.
9. Oregon - The biggest disappointment in the conference to me, even more than Stanford, which at least has shown signs of life the last two games. The Ducks have been so bad that all the rumors about Ernie Kent's job are beginning to resurface. Oregon hosts Oregon State Saturday in a game it has to win otherwise this could get out of control in a hurry as the Ducks will then have four of six on the road, sandwiched around visits by Arizona and Arizona State. It looks like Aaron Brooks, for all of his obvious talents, still struggles to run a team in the half-court, and Oregon isn't able to impose its ability to run on opponents as well as it needs to.
10. Arizona State - They seem to be doing a lot of good things with what they have. I watched their Minnesota game and they seemed to be really hustling and trying and all that. But there just doesn't seem to be a lot of talent. Effort will win a few games, but not enough to really do anything.
UW had a light practice Wednesday with ASU on tap Thursday, the beginning of a stretch of three games in five days. Everyone's health is reported to be fine of those who have been playing, though Brandon Roy was battling a stuffy nose earlier in the week.
One glaring stat that jumped out at me about ASU - the Sun Devils are last in the Pac-10 in three-point percentage defense allowing foes to hit 40.9 percent of shots. That could either be bad luck, bad perimeter defense or, more likely, a combination of both. But considering UW has struggled to shoot threes lately, hitting 25 percent or less in three straight games, that stat could be a good omen.
For the season, UW is at 34.9 percent, off a bit from last year's 38.4 But Lorenzo Romar doesn't seem too worried.
"Certainly, we would like to shoot the ball better," he said. "The ball's got to go in. But it's not really a concern. We've just got to shoot the ball better."
Several readers pointed out that I mistakenly referred to Harvey Perry as a redshirt in this space here Friday. No decision has yet been made on Perry. He is due to see the doctor again Wednesday and if all goes well, could begin a rehab program this week that could have him on the court in a month or so.