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2007-2008 Pac 10 Conference Preview

The Pac 10 has been over looked in the past but they have jumped to a new echelon when it comes to college basketball. UCLA went all the way to the final four and this year it has paid off in the preseason rankings. The Pac 10 has 3 teams in the top ten alone in the latest preseason top 25, but can they live up to the hype?. Now we will break it down team by team with expectations on the upcoming season.

UCLA
Is there anyone in the Pac 10 that will be able to challenge UCLA? If so they are in for quite the fight. The UCLA Bruins are defending champions of the PAC 10 and they went to the final four last year and that made them deserving of the highest ranking in the preseason polls. The Bruins return four starters to include Darren Collison at the point and are ready to make another serious run. The Bruins do have to replace PAC 10 player of the year in Arron Afflalo but are deep enough and talented enough. The Bruins are the team to beat in the PAC 10.

Washington St.
Washington St will be hard pressed to match last years run. They notched a record tying 26 wins and went to the second round in the NCAA tournament. That won’t stop them from trying as they return 4 starters from last years club to include an All PAC 10 backcourt and the leagues best defense. The Cougars spent the summer playing with each other in the off season in over seas tournaments and they will be back in full force.

Oregon
Beware of the duck! Last year Oregon had a stellar season and its just going to get better as they bring back four starters from last years team. That will include two 1,000 point scorers Malik Hairston and Bryce Tyler to try and go farther than the NCAA Midwest regional finals. The one starter they did lose could be a problem as it was Aaron Brooks, a gutsy point guard that will always rise to the challenge. The Ducks are ready to try and match the school record 29 wins that they notched last year.

USC
USC had a good year last year and getting some good looks in the preseason as they are ranked in the top ten in plenty of preseason polls. To perform up to those standards they will have to make up for the loss of three starters. Taj Gibson does return and he was the 3rd leading rebounder in the league and the top scoring on the team. One of the nation’s top recruits is the reason for all the excitement. OJ Mayo is the highly rated guard in the country and will make an impact the minute he steps on the floor. They will take some time to find chemistry but will be in the hunt the entire year.

Arizona
Arizona will have a ton of work to do as they lose three starters that combined for 55.2 percent of their offense. The good news is they return Chase Budinger and he was the Pac 10 freshman of the year and Arizona’s leading scorer and rebounder last year. Don’t look for them to be too thin with a great recruiting class to include Jerry Bayless one of the top prep point guards in the nation. Lute Olsen knows how to build winning teams with winning attitudes. The schedule is too tough for Arizona as they play 16 teams that went to the post season, which will keep them on the bubble.

Stanford
The Cardinal had a huge upset this football season and look for the basketball team to follow suit and have plenty of wins this year. They return every starter form a team that went to the NCAA tournament last year to include All PAC 10 junior forward Lawrence Hill. Stanford has a great inside outside attack with Twin Towers Brook and Robin Lopez playing down low. The only thing that the Stanford will have to get over is the late season swoon where they dropped eight of twelve and got blown out in round one of the big dance.

Washington
Washington did not fare so well last year in the standings but that sill change this year. The Huskies return four starters from last year’s team that will bring experience and depth to this year. All PAC 10 Junior forward Jon Brockman returns to the lineup and he is the key to this team as he led the Huskies in scoring last year. The huskies will look to run an up tempo offense which could give some teams fits as many teams will play a slower paced game. The Huskies missed the post season last year but with a tougher schedule they could find themselves on the bubble.

California
California is ready to make some noise in the Pac 10 and jump out of the bottom tier into a tight race for the title. It all started when DeVon Hardin took his name out of the NBA draft and decided to return to the Golden Bears. This is huge news for the Bears as he will be a part of one of the biggest front courts in the Pac 10 as he joins Jordan Wilkes, Jamal Boykin, and All freshmen selection Ryan Anderson. Ayinde Ubaka will be hard to replace at the point guard spot but they have ample bodies to fill the void. The time is now for the Bears and they take a big leap forward!

Oregon St
The good news is that Oregon St. returns two starters from last year and they started every game. The Bad news is that is about it for returning experience. Out of the seven returning letter winners that come to the beavers only three of them have more than two years of experience. The Beavers got killed on the boards last year and that will not change with the cast that remains behind. The Ducks won’t come close to competing with the rest of the Pac 10.

Arizona St.
Herb Sendek came to Arizona St and although he did not produce a super team in the sun devils he did teach them how to play some serious defense. The Sun Devils had the fourth lowest defensive scoring average in school history and then they went out and recruited well. James Harden was highly recruited nationally but chooses the Sun Devils and the McDonald’s All American will join them fresh out of high school, rare for this school. Arizona St is not ready for a title run yet but they should jump out of the cellar in the Pac 10 this year.

Pac 10 Champ: UCLA
Dark Horse: Stanford (closely followed by California)
Cellar Dweller: Oregon St.