The Pac-10 will improve from last season's treacherous campaign; it could hardly be worse. The Pac-10 is coming off one of the worst seasons in conference history- sending only two teams to the 2010 NCAA Tournament and just one player in the 1st Round of the NBA Draft. Storied programs UCLA and Arizona suffered last season, as the Wildcats ended their 25-year NCAA Tournament appearance streak, and Southern California regulated a self-imposed postseason ban. What will 2010-11 bring for the Pac-10?
Defending regular-season champion, Cal, lost its two best players in Jerome Randle and Patrick Christopher, leading to the Washington Huskies being the team to beat.
This season? Teams have started to rebuild around the returning talent such as Malcolm Lee and Tyler Honeycutt from UCLA, Derrick Williams at Arizona, Washington State's Klay Thompson and Isaiah Thomas and Abdul Gaddy in Washington. Arizona is on its way back up, while UCLA was en route before summer injuries derailed their track. Washington State has Thompson, one of the nation's most dangerous scorers, but finished last in the lowly conference in its first year without coach Tony Bennett, who left the Cougars for the Virginia Cavaliers.
The Huskies bade farewell to its senior star Pondexter but still have Thomas and Gaddy spearheading the backcourt attack. Thomas was the team's second-leading scorer a year ago, while Gaddy has gained valuable experience playing for Team USA's Under 18 team this summer. Coach Lorenzo Romar will have three seniors in his rotation, guard Venoy Overton, wing Justin Holladay and forward Matthew Bryan-Amaning.
UCLA and Coach Ben Howland have always been able to reload, instead of rebuild, but last year, the team finally suffered with all of its early departures. The 2009 recruiting class that topped the nation had just two contributing players, Tyler Honeycutt and Reeves Nelson. Forwards Mike Moser and Brendan Lane weren't in the regular rotation and when they were on the court, they made very little impact. Moser, along with starting center, Drew Gordon have since transferred to other program's. And life could get a little rougher for the Bruins- guards Jerime Anderson and Tyler Lamb, one of the top incoming freshman shooting guards, underwent surgery earlier this summer. While returning scorer Malcolm Lee suffered a torn meniscus and Brendan Lane also underwent procedures that will keep them out the rest of the summer. Josh Smith, an incoming freshman, joins a frontcourt that hasn't had a superior talent since Kevin Love a few years ago, but also the Wear twins, Travis and David, join coach Ben Howland after one year of sitting out.
Along with Klay Thompson, Washington State has a rising-sophomore Reggie Moore, and junior big man DeAngelo Castro to lean on. Both players averaged double-figures to go along with Thompson's team-high 19.6 points per game. Castro put things together late in the season, scoring 14 points per game, hitting the double-figure mark eight times in the last nine games, after reaching that mark only nine times in the season's first 22 contests. Reggie Moore, on the other hand, was much more effective early in the season, both scoring the ball and as a distributor, but seemed to disappear as conference play went on. The Cougars key is for all three players to be on the same page for all of the 2010-11 season.
Although Arizona lost guard Nic Wise to graduation, the team returns one of the best frontcourt talents in the conference in forward Derrick Williams; he has good size and great athletic ability and can score both inside and out. Joining him will be guard Kyle Fogg and talented, but underachieving swingman, Jamelle Horne. Solomon Hill, a rising-sophomore, returns to the frontcourt, while Daniel Bejarano is a new face in the backcourt. Bejarano is a true spot-up shooter, who would have thrived with a point guard like Wise, but he should still perform well in Sean Miller's system without him. The key to the Wildcats success is keeping Derrick Williams from floating and sticking out on the perimeter; he needs to stay down low more often than not and dominate the paint area on both ends of the court.