By: David Kay
Part two of thesportsbank.net week long Pac-10 preview spotlights three programs that have faced some major question marks during the past year.
Arizona has been one of the most successful programs in all of college basketball during the past couple decades and have finally found some stability with the hiring of former Xavier coach, Sean Miller who will be the Wildcats’ fourth head coach in four years. USC faced some major controversy this off-season, but should still be a factor in the conference race. It was a serious re-building year in Eugene last year for Oregon as they nearly went winless in conference play. But the Ducks bring back a lot of young talent and should be vastly improved from a season ago.
5. Arizona (T-5th in Pac-10, 9-9 in P-10, 21-14 overall, NCAA Sweet 16)
‘Zona hit the jackpot by convincing Sean Miller to leave Xavier and take the vacant head coaching position. For the first time in three years, the Wildcats will finally have some stability at the top of their program and finally build for the future. As expected, Chase Budinger and Jordan Hill left for the NBA, but having Nic Wise return for his senior season was a huge get for Miller as Wise brings the leadership to a fairly young team. Arizona also capitalized off Tim Floyd’s decision to leave USC as three former Trojan commits decided to sign with the ‘Cats instead. Depending on how quickly the freshmen adapt to the college game, ‘Zona’s streak of 25 straight trips to the NCAA Tournament may not be in jeopardy after all.
Projected Depth Chart
C: Kyryl Natyazhko (Fr)/Alex Jacobson (So)
F: Jamelle Horne (Jr)/Derrick Williams (Fr)
SF: Solomon Hill (Fr)/Kevin Parrom (Fr)/D.J. Shumpert (So)
SG: Josh Fogg (So)/ Lamont Jones (Fr)/Brendon Lavender (So)
PG: Nic Wise (Sr)/Garland Judkins (So)
Gone: F/C-Jordan Hill, G/F-Chase Budinger, SG-Zane Johnson (transfer-Hawaii)
Player to watch: Natyazhko- Four of ‘Zona’s freshman are top100 recruits according to scout.com. Natyazhko’s presence needs to be felt immediately though as Jordan Hill’s absence leaves a major hole in the middle. Alex Jacobson is a bit of a stiff and better suited coming off the bench meaning the 6-10 Ukrainian needs to make an impact from day one.
6. USC (T-5th, 9-9, 22-13, NCAA Second Round)
No Pac-10 team had a worse off-season. Head coach Tim Floyd resigned under allegations of illegal payments involving one-time Trojan O.J. Mayo. Shocking, right? As a result, most of the talented recruits that had signed with USC asked out of their commitments and signed elsewhere. Add in that Taj Gibson, Demar DeRozan, and Daniel Hackett all declared for the NBA Draft, and there is a lot of questions surrounding the USC program. Still, there is some talent on this squad and new coach Kevin O’Neill could lead them back to the tourney.
Projected Depth Chart
F/C: Alex Stephenson (Jr)/Davis Rozitis (Fr)
PF: Leonard Washington (So)/Kasey Cunningham (Jr)/Evan Smith (Fr)
F: Nikola Vucevic (So)/Marcus Johnson (Sr)/James Boyd (Fr)
SG: Dwight Lewis (Sr)/ Marcus Simmons (Jr)/ James Dunleavy (Fr)
G: Donte Smith (Jr)/Mike Gerity (Sr)
Gone: PF-Taj Gibson, G/F-Demar DeRozan, PG-Daniel Hackett, PF-Keith Wilkinson, C-Mamadou Diarra (transfer-pro overseas)
Player to watch: Stephenson- The North Carolina transfer should help fill the void inside left behind by Gibson. He was a solid role player for the Heels before deciding to transfer closer to home and will bring his defensive presence and low post scoring ability to USC this season.
7. Oregon (10th, 2-16, 8-22)
Last season was a brutal one for the Ducks. They were young, inexperienced, and lost their first 14 conference games. The growing pains from last year should prove to benefit Oregon this year as they return eight of their top nine scorers and add a couple talented freshman who should help right away, including Racine Horlick product Jamil Wilson.
Projected Depth Chart
F/C: Michael Dunigan (So)/Josh Crittle (So)
PF: Joevan Catron (Sr)/Drew Wiley (Jr)/Jeremy Jacob (So)
G/F: LeKendric Longmire (Jr)/Jamil Wilson (Fr)/E.J. Singler (Fr)
G: Tajuan Porter (Sr)/Matthew Humphrey (So)/Teondre Williams (So)
PG: Garrett Sim (So)/Malcolm Armstead (Fr)
Gone: G-Kamyron Brown (transfer), G/F-Churchill Odia
Player to Watch: Dunigan- The Farragut HS alum (same school Kevin Garnett attended in Chicago) was highly recruited coming out of high school and got off to a great start in his freshman season at Oregon. However, as the season moved along, Dunigan’s game did not. He found himself battling foul trouble which limited his playing time and productivity. There is NBA talent in Dunigan and if he can improve his low post game and become a force down low, the Ducks could be a sleeper in the Pac-10.
Thesportsbank.net Pac-10 Preview/Power Rankings continue:
Tuesday: Teams 8-10 (Washingon State, Arizona State, Stanford)
Thursday: Teams 1-4
Friday: Post-season Award Predictions
Sportsbank.net Big East Previews/Power Rankings
Teams 13-16 (Rutgers, South Florida, Providence, DePaul)
Teams 9-12 (Notre Dame, Pitt, Marquette, St. John’s)
Teams 5-8 (Syracuse, Louisville, Cincinnati, Seton Hall)
Teams 1-4 (Villanova, West Virginia, UConn, Georgetown)
Post-Season Award Predictions