2006 PAC Ten Basketball Predictions
2006 Pac Ten Preview
The Pacific Ten Conference will see some change from last season. In 2006 look for UCLA and Arizona to again battle for the top spot, with Washington, Washington State, and Oregon all gunning for the Brunins and Wildcats. On the other end of the standings Cal, Arizona State and Oregon State will likely be fighting it out for the cellar. The jury is still out on where Stanford and USC will fit into that mix.
Can the UCLA Bruins get back to the NCAA Finals this year and finally win championship banner number 12? Coach Ben Howland is looking at a team that got there with one of the finest defenses in the nation. But key “D” players are gone, which means more scoring is needed. There’s potential, but it won’t be easy for UCLA to finish first again in the PAC-10 or to get back to the endgame of March Madness.
The Arizona Wildcats and coach Lute Olson will continue their winning ways this season. With Marcus Williams at swing, Mustafa Shakus playing point and Ivan Radenovic creating opportunities up front, this team will surely score points. They felt they should have gone deeper into March than they did. Expect them to do just that this year with the Elite Eight being attainable.
Ernie Kent may be in his final year as the coach of the Oregon Ducks, a team that possesses fine talent and sound experience. If Kent can get his group to play up to expectations, then the Ducks will find themselves in the NCAA Tournament and Kent will have saved his job. There’s no doubt that Oregon has a shot at going from seventh place last year in the PAC-10 to as high as second this year. That may or may not be enough to turn the tide.
Head coach Lorenzo Romar believes that his Washington Huskies can not only get to the NCAA tourney for a team record fourth year in a row but that they can go much deeper. He may be right. This club has some great guys upfront and if their backcourt pans out, these Huskies could be a handful for any team they meet.
At Washington State, Tony Bennett takes over from his dad, Dick, to run the Cougars. There’s not a lot of experience or scoring on this team, which on paper looks destined to finish the bottom half of the league once again. This is not to say that the Cougars are in a downward trend; they are on the rise, have a good coach, and could surprise some experts this year. We will go out on a limb and give'em 5th this season.
The USC Trojans were coached by Tim Floyd to be extra-tough on the defensive and it certainly started to pay off for them last season. Expect more of the same from this up and coming team, along with more offensive output. This is a team with a future and a NIT berth looks like it’s on the horizon.
Stanford Cardinal coach Trent Johnson must replace three key scorers from last year’s squad. This is a young team that would do well to make it into the NIT in 2006- 07. With talent abounding, the Cardinals will be occupying higher ground in a few more years. They have a very fine looking frosh class that should see substantial experience this season.
It’s tough to evaluate exactly how the California Golden Bears will finish. Star forward Leon Powe, who could snatch the ball off the rebound and score from inside and out, left early, resulting in a much weaker Bear club. Although the Golden bears won’t be anywhere near the top, don’t expect to see coach Ben Braun’s team in the cellar either. Whatever happens this season, it’s definitely a rebuilding year for the Bears.
Arizona State hired North Carolina State’s Herb Sendek in the hope that they can tap his ability to transform an also-ran into a winner. Having lost two major scoring elements, this is certainly a rebuilding season for the Sun Devils. In 2006- 07, they will be one of the bottom teams in their conference; within a few years, look for them to be one of the top four clubs, contending for the conference crown.
Coach Jay John enters his fifth season with a team that looked ready to break out after a winning 2004- 05 season only to regress in 2005- 06. With depleted scoring potential and major questions in the backcourt, it looks as though the Oregon State Beavers will have a tough time migrating to the middle of the pack.
2006 Pac 10 Basketball Predictions
Projected Order of Finish, Click on Team Name for Individual Team Preview:
2) Arizona Wildcats
3) Oregon Ducks
4) Washington State Cougars
5) Washington Huskies
6) USC Trojans
7) Stanford Cardinals
8) California Golden Bears
9) Arizona State Sun Devils
10) Oregon State Beavers