Pac-10 Basketball: The Most Exciting in the NCAA

Rebound, outlet, 2-on-1 fast break, 3 ball, cash.

As far as NCAA men’s basketball goes, the Pac-10 has been one of the most exciting conferences to watch over the years. Nowadays, however, the trend in college basketball has moved away from the fast-paced, offensive-minded Pac-10. The country is now dominated by Big East teams like UConn and ACC teams like North Carolina, which have taken over with their brand of smash-mouth basketball.

These 6-foot-10-inch, 230-pound bruisers (who would lose horribly in a three-point contest against the Pomona-Pitzer Sagehens), bang around in the paint, battle for rebounds, and generally are very effective in college basketball.

Sure they are good, but the thrill of watching an up-and-down, high scoring three-point shootout in the Pac-10 is much more fun.

While the Pac-10’s style of play will be no different, this year the conference looks to be the weakest it’s been in a long time. If I told you ten years ago that UCLA and Arizona would be at the bottom of the Pac-10 and in jeopardy of missing March Madness, you wouldn’t have believed me.

However, this seems to be the current situation, as the Washington Huskies and the California Golden Bears will likely be the ones battling for the Pac-10 crown, while the Bruins and Wildcats will be lucky to make the big dance.

So far this season, UCLA has lost games against mid-majors Cal-State Fullerton, Butler and Long Beach State, and the Bruins suffered their worst lost since 2003 in a 74-47 thumping, not at the hands of North Carolina, or even another PAC-10 team, but by Portland, a WCC team not even picked to win its own division. An older UCLA fan at the game yelled, “Come on, you’re embarrassing us!” UCLA is 2-4 and hasn’t even started conference play.

The Huskies, on the other hand, are making some noise in the great Northwest, and most experts have picked them to repeat as conference champions.Lighting-fast guard and reigning Pac-10 Freshman of the Year Isaiah Thomas returns, and will anchor a Washington offense that looks to put some big numbers on the board. Pre-season Pac-10 first team guard Quincy Pondexter also returns for the Huskies alongside 6-foot-9-inch bruiser Matthew Bryan-Amaning, who hopes to replace John Brockman—who averaged 12 rebounds per game last season—as the team’s enforcer inside the paint.

The California Golden Bears return their top four scorers from last year, including Jerome Randle, who averaged 18.3 points per game last season and is an early front-runner for Pac-10 Player of the Year.

Last year’s Pac-10 tourney champion USC may have taken the biggest hit over the off-season. Head coach Tim Floyd resigned amidst allegations of recruiting violations, but he wasn’t the only key member of last year’s team to leave. Taj Gibson, Demar DeRozan and Daniel Hackett went to the NBA draft, and most of USC’s signing class chose to go elsewhere.

The Oregon State Beavers will be getting a lot of attention this season as they return their top four starters. Coach Craig Robinson (Barack Obama’s brother-in-law) is an early candidate for Pac-10 Coach of the Year.

As a whole, the Pac-10 looks like it may be at its weakest since 2004. After sending six teams to the Big Dance last year, the conference will be lucky to send even five. My predictions for the final Pac-10 standings are as follows:

1. Washington2. California3. Oregon State4. Washington State5. Arizona6. Oregon7. UCLA8. Arizona State9. USC10. Stanford

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