This is not the best of times for the Pac-10. The ball out on the coast is fun to watch, but they are definitely having a mostly down year. Brighter days are ahead, but for now it just isn’t meant to be.
Best Team – Washington. It’s close between them and the Bruins, but for novelty sake I’ll give them the edge. They won the conference by a game, they took care of their home turf, and they split with UCLA.
Worst Tournament Team – Cal. Any team that gets swept by Oregon State isn’t going to go anywhere in the dance.
True Contenders – UCLA and Washington could go as far as the Elite Eight if all went well, but I find it hard to imagine either team going beyond that.
Team That Bugs Me – Arizona. I’m not at all convinced that they will get off the bubble and into the field. I’m quite sure they don’t deserve to. This team annoys me, though, because of what they could be. A team with a trio like Jordan Hill, Chase Budinger, and Nic Wise should not be stuck in the tenuous position they are in. A team as proud as this one should have been able to handle their coaching situation without turning it into such a soap opera, too.
Potential to Rise Up – Arizona State. The Sun Devils faltered a bit down the stretch, but they certainly had their moments – they beat UCLA twice, and they took Washington to overtime on the road. They also had a couple of nice wins over San Diego State and BYU in non-conference play. Sophomore James Harden is a heck of a player who elevates his play in the biggest games.
Likely to Disappoint – UCLA. I don’t think UCLA is going to do worse than their current potential. I do think they will be a disappointment to many, though, because this version of the Bruins isn’t nearly as good as people are used to them being in recent years. This is a team that will have inflated odds thanks to the public.
Best Player – James Harden, Arizona State. Harden is an all-round talent, but more importantly he is incredibly explosive – he’s usually good and often great. There aren’t that many players out there who hold the fate of their team on their shoulders more than Harden does.
Player to Watch – Isaiah Thomas, Washington. Thomas is a thrilling player and, more importantly, he’s incredibly confident and controlled for a freshman – it’s more than just his name that makes him notable. He’s just the kind of player that could emerge as a fan favorite if Washington makes a run.
Overrated Player – Patrick Christopher, Cal. He’s a talented player, but he falls into slumps way too often, and they can last for multiple games.