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2010-2011 BTD College Basketball Preview: Pac-10 North

We continue our preview with a look at the Pac-10 North. Below you will find a team preview for Washington, Washington State, Oregon, California, and Stanford. Enjoy!

Washington Preview

by ConnorOSU

Washington comes into the 2010-2011 season with a lot of hope and hype. After winning the Pac-10 Tournament last season and going to the Sweet 16, the Huskies are looking for more this season. The Huskies lose star Quincy Pondexter, but will welcome in a big recruit in Terrence Ross. The keys are there for the Dawgs to have a big season, but can they put it all together?

The Huskies backcourt will be led by Isaiah Thomas, Abdul Gaddy, and Venoy Overton. Thomas averaged 17 ppg last season, while Overton averaged 8.5 ppg and 1.4 steals. All three players are threats from beyond the arc and explosive off the dribble, so expect that trio to give Pac-10 defenses fits all season.

Leading the bug guys will be Senior Forward Matthew Bryan Amaning. MBA averaged 9 points and 6 rebounds per game last season, and will be the key down low. Otherwise, Washington is pretty weak down under. Justin Holiday is back for his Senior season, but he will have to step up big time. 

Overall, I think this team is very dangerous. Still, I don't think they are that far ahead of the other top tier Pac-10 teams. They are defintiely athletic, but so are most teams in the conference. Overall, I think the Huskies season will come down to their games against UCLA and Washington State. If they sweep both of those teams, they should easily win the conference. But if they split those games, who knows what will happen.

Now we welcome in Jeff Nusser of CougCenter with our WSU preview. Make sure to check CougCenter throughout the season for updates on Washington State.

Last season could hardly have ended in a more disappointing fashion, both literally and metaphorically. The Cougars were eliminated from the Pac-10 Tournament by their nemesis Oregon Ducks in overtime, after E.J. Singler somehow got his one-handed tip to go in as time expired in regulation. It was a fitting end to a season that ended up in the toilet (losing 10 of 12, last place in the Pac-10) after such a promising start.

Still, there's a lot of hope for this season. The Cougs' big three -- Klay Thompson, Reggie Moore and DeAngelo Casto -- return, giving WSU as good of an offensive trio as there is in the conference. Ken Bone has proven throughout his career to be an excellent coach, and though last season's transition to an up-tempo style from Tony Bennett's slow-down philosophy was rough, there's a lot of confidence that Bone now has much better pieces in place to do what he wants to do.

The keys for the Cougs this year are three-fold:
1) Thompson will need to carry this team at times. Can he? He wore down as the year drug on and was ineffective during most of Pac-10 play last year.
2) Who will help Casto in the frontcourt? If he goes down for any reason, or gets in foul trouble, can this team survive? The Cougs are very thin there.
3) Can the Cougs play credible defense under Bone? Last season was quite the culture shock, dropping from routine national top 10 finishes in defensive efficiency to No. 155 last year. This team must be better.

Now we welcome in David Piper of Addicted to Quack with our Oregon preview. ATQ will have all the information you could ever want on a last place basketball team, so make sure to stop in and say hi.

Oregon comes into this season at a 20 year low point for the program.  Back to back last place finishes in the Pac-10, a drawn out coaching search that became a national embarrassment, and lost six players to transfers, pro contracts, or flunking out,  putting them in a predicament where they had to wonder if they were going to be able to field a roster of ten scholarship players for this season.  No rational fan expects the Ducks to finish anywhere other than the cellar again this season.  That said, there is a lot of optimism in Eugene.  Not only is Oregon opening the brand new Matthew Knight arena, but new coach Dana Altman currently has the 14th ranked recruiting class in the country for 2011.


Optimism for the future aside, not a lot can be expected out of Oregon this season.  They were able to piece together a roster of ten scholarship players, but only one of them is a proven difference maker at the Pac-10 level.  That player is point guard Malcolm Armstead, who is not only Oregon’s returning leading scorer (10.2 ppg), but also finished 3rd in the conference in both assists and assist/turnover ratio.  While Armstead is a solid point guard, he’s not going to carry a team by himself.  He needs another very good player to share that load.  The only player on the roster really capable of developing into that type of player is two guard Teondre Williams, who has all the skills on both sides of the ball, but has never had consistent enough playing time to put it together.  He’ll have the PT this year, but time will tell what he’s able to make of it.  Those two will start in the backcourt, and the front line will consist of Jeremy Jacob, EJ Singler, and Joevan Catron, who missed last season due to injury.  While all of these players bring something to the table, they are all role players, and all need to improve significantly to prove that they should be starters in the Pac-10.


The bench will really be a work in progress, as only Garrett Sim, a guard who is not very good, was with the team last season.  The four other bench players (Jay-R Strowbridge, Martin Seiferth, Tyrone Nared, and Johnathan Loyd) are all newcomers, and I have no idea what to expect from any of them.  The numbers will provide depth at all positions, but the quality of that depth is a giant mystery to all.


Oregon’s schedule won’t do them any favors.  While the non-conference does have its share of cream puffs, three games are particularly brutal:  Oregon hosts Missouri, goes on the road to Virginia, and faces Duke at the Rose Garden.  The Ducks are likely to lose all three games badly. As for conference play, I think this will be a better team than the one that only won two conference contests two years ago, but I also don’t see a team that Oregon should finish higher than, either.


All and all, success for the Ducks this season won’t be judged in wins and losses.  It will be judged on how the transition is going.  Dana Altman is bringing big changes to Oregon.  No longer will this be the Ernie Kent high-tempo-jack-up-a-bunch-of-threes-and-play-no-defense style.  Altman will install a high post offense and a full court pressing defense.  Is the team understanding the offense?  Are they buying into the defense?  Working hard.  And, while I don’t expect them to win a ton of games, are they staying competitive for long stretches?  These are the questions I’ll be asking when judging the success of this team.  Other than the three games listed above, they probably should win their other non-conference games, and they should pull off 4-5 Pac-10 victories.  Anything above that is gravy, and a sign that the team is making progress sooner than we hoped.  But this year is about installing a foundation until the calvary comes in 2011.

California and Stanford previews after the break

We continue our preview with Erik Johannessen of California Golden Blogs with our California preview. Make sure to check CGB throughout the season because it's the funniest blog you'll ever read.

Fans of the 2009-10 Pac-10 Champion California Golden Bears had waited for fifty years since the school's last conference title.  With Mike Montgomery remaining at the helm and a very highly-regarded recruiting class coming in, there is promise that the wait for the next one won't be nearly so long.  However, there will be a wait.  Anyone expecting Cal to successfully defend its first conference title in half a century hasn't been paying much attention to this team.

At least at the outset, the 2010-11 Golden Bears will be defined as much by who isn't playing for them as who is.  Gone from last year's championship squad are 8 of the top 10 players in the rotation, including:


* 4 of 5 starters, all seniors, including Pac-10 Player of the Year Jerome Randle.  Also gone are Patrick Christopher, Theo Robertson, and Jamal Boykin.  All were talented, experienced and savvy, and none of them are immediately replaceable by anyone still on the Bears' roster.


* Senior backup point guard Nikola Knezevic.


* Junior F Omondi Amoke and Sophomore G D.J. Seeley both transferred to Cal State Fullerton.  Amoke was beginning to push for starter's minutes towards the end of last season, but an undisclosed incident ("violation of team rules") left him suspended for the NCAA Tournament, and a transfer soon followed.  Seeley, whose production and playing time never quite matched his talent, soon followed.


* 7' 3" Junior C Max Zhang decided over the summer to remain in China, rather than return to school, in the hopes of making his country's 2012 Olympic team.  He's since signed with a Chinese professional team, and his NCAA career is over.


All in all, the Bears' returning roster boasts just 7 returning players (just 5 on scholarship) with a total of 9 years of experience at Cal.  Their only senior is a JC transfer.  This is almost a completely different team from last year, and the question is not "Will the talented freshman class see the court?" but "How many freshmen will the Bears start?"


Returning for the Bears:


* Senior C Markhuri Sanders-Frison has good size inside -- perhaps too much size.  MSF struggled to stay on the court in his first year with the Bears, dogged by both back trouble and foul trouble.  Still, the big man has talent, and is a good passer inside as well.


* Redshirt Junior F Harper Kamp is another good passer inside, as well as a smart, fundamentally sound player, and he can score a little, too.  He returns after missing more than a year with knee troubles, but if he's fully healthy now, I think he'll surprise some teams that haven't seen him at full strength since his freshman campaign.


* Junior G Jorge Gutierrez is the type of player that I'm sure fans of opposing team absolutely hate.  A tenacious, in-your-grill defender who plays with passion and energy, I'm sure opposing fans constantly wonder why more fouls aren't called on him.  His scoring ability started to come around last year, but how does the best sixth man in the Pac-10 maintain his energy level while absorbing heavy starter's minutes, and how much of that time can he spend manning the point for the Bears?


* And some miscellaneous bits and pieces.  Sophomore PG Brandon Smith didn't make a huge impact as a freshman; he'll need to make a big leap as a sophomore to warrant being entrusted with more than spot time at point guard.  Sophomore F Bak Bak (yes, both his first and his last name are "Bak") flashed some talent and athleticism as a freshman, but he is still raw, and he sat the entire Spring semester due to academic issues which have since been resolved.  Junior Nigel Carter didn't play much as a walk-on these past two seasons, and sophomore walk-on Robert Thurman hasn't played at all yet after transferring from a Division II school.


Sanders, Kamp and Gutierrez will definitely start for the Bears.  Bak Bak and Smith will get their shot in practice, but I didn't see anything from either last year that would suggest they're ready to start for a contending Pac-10 team.  One hopes that they can both take big leaps between their freshmen and sophomore campaigns.  However, I can very easily see one or both pushed by freshmen, especially with a Top 25 recruiting class coming in.  You hate to count on freshmen to carry your team -- it often takes a while for guys to adjust to the college game -- but after losing so many players, the Bears frankly don't have a choice.  The question to be resolved over the next few weeks and months is:  which guys will step on campus ready to play?


* 6' 6" guard Allen Crabbe, the 2010 Gatorade Player of the Year in California, seems a likely candidate.  I imagine we could see both him and Jorge Gutierrez starting as guards, especially if the coaches are comfortable with Jorge running the point.  It's hard to think that a player this highly regarded (No. 57 on ESPN's Top 100, No. 69 on Rival's Top 150) wouldn't find his way onto the court.


* 6' 2" guard Gary Franklin is the big hope among Cal fans in search of a point guard replacement for Jerome Randle.  The list of point guards who were ready to go from day 1 in college isn't long, but this is a definite area of weakness for Cal, and anything we can get from the highly-regarded Franklin (Top 20-ranked point guard by ESPN, Scout and Rivals) would be quite welcome.


* 6' 10" forward Richard Solomon definitely has talent, but like most 6' 10" guys his age, he has yet to finish growing into his body.  He'll certainly play, but power forward is not the most pressing need on this team, so if he's not ready, he may not see a whole lot of the court.


* 6' 3" guard Emerson Murray intrigues me; he was actually rated the second-best backcourt prospect in Canada by one service, though I'm not actually sure how much that means.  He was a late signing, and may have flown under the radar a bit due to a broken ankle suffered the summer before his senior season.  Could be a steal.

* 6' 6" guard Alex Rossi is the final freshman in this group, and I frankly don't know much about him.  Reports are that he's a sharpshooter from outside and a tough defender.  We shall see.


Overall, this is a team with talent, but very, very little experience in the Pac-10.  I can only guess who the starting five on this team will be, and it probably won't be the same starting five at the end of the year.  Leaning hard on freshman is a sure recipe for inconsistency, but with only three guys on the roster who've proven themselves in Pac-10 play, the Bears don't really have a choice.  I think this could be a dangerous team in 2011-12, but this year, Cal is going to take its lumps.  Mike Montgomery will find a system that works for the talent he has on hand, and I have no doubt they'll win some games, but even so...I'll say this: my hopes are high, but my expectations are low.

To round out our preview, we welcome in Scott Allen of Rule of Tree with our Stanford preview. Enjoy!

For a team that lost its best player–Pac-10 scoring champ Landry Fields–to the NBA, and won 14 games while missing the postseason for the first time since 1993, Stanford has a good reason to be optimistic about the coming season. Six good reasons in fact. While there isn’t a senior on the roster for the first time in school history, third-year head coach Johnny Dawkins welcomes a talented recruiting class that is widely regarded as one of the best in the country. Dwight Powell, who was rated a top-5 center by ESPNU, and wing Anthony Brown headline the six-man class, which will bring some much needed depth to a program that had only six healthy players who began their collegiate careers on scholarship for most of last season.

Junior Jeremy Green, who averaged 16 points and set a single-season school record for 3-pointers last season, will likely take on a bigger role in the offense, while the return of Josh Owens, who missed all of last season with an undisclosed medical condition, will also help make up for the loss of Fields. Owens’ return coupled with the experience of 6-foot-8 junior Andrew Zimmerman and 6-foot-9 junior Jack Trotter could provide the Cardinal a low-post presence that it lacked last season. In a wide open Pac-10, just how much Stanford can improve on last season’s record depends on how quickly the freshmen develop.

The Cardinal’s nonconference schedule includes dates with Murray State and Tulsa or UNLV in the Anaheim Classic, as well as a mid-December trip to Butler. That game should prove a good barometer of Stanford’s progress before the start of Pac-10 play. If Stanford is to challenge for a spot in the top half of the conference standings, it will need to improve on last year’s 2-10 record away from Maples Pavilion.

So there you have it. Make sure to check back tomorrow for the Pac-10 South preview.

Go Beavers!