Because it’s never too early …
And because I don’t mind looking silly if there’s a chance to look really smart (still waiting for that to happen, however) …
The following projections are based on 1) the quality of the returnees — as defined by me; highly subjective in many cases — and 2) the signed recruits.
And yes, the projections will change, and perhaps drastically, as a result of spring recruiting, roster attrition, coaching changes and of course NBA defections.
(I’ll have revised projections after the NBA in-or-out deadline, which is May 8.)
For now, I’m basing the projections on what seems the most likely course of action.
10. Oregon. So much depends on the coaching hire, but it’s tough at this point to project the Ducks any higher than 10th even though they have better-than-last-place talent.
9. Stanford. With only one established impact player (Jeremy Green), a heavily reliance on freshmen and lingering injury/health issues, the Cardinal once again projects much closer to last than to first. Landry Fields did so much at both ends — more than any other player in the league — that his departure counts double.
8. Cal. The Bears never scored fewer than 61 points this season, but I’d expect them to see the 50s at least a half-dozen times 2010-11. Mike Montgomery has won a lot of games in his career with tough, defensive-minded rosters and usually squeezes the most out of his team. But he’ll be hard pressed to get the Bears into the top half of the conference even if Harper Kamp is healthy and Allen Crabbe’s as good as advertised.
7. Oregon State. A solid two-man core (Calvin Haynes and Jared Cunningham) gets much better if Roberto Nelson is eligible and Rhys Murphy is healthy. But the Beavers will miss Roeland Schaftenaar and Seth Tarver.
6. USC. The Trojans lose their leading scorer (Dwight Lewis) and their point guard (Mike Gerrity). But the dropoff won’t be steep given the returning talent and the presumed lifting of the postseason ban (although we’ll have to wait for the NCAA’s ruling before drawing any firm conclusions).
5. Washington State. The Cougars are set for a solid season with the returning trio of Reggie Moore, Klay Thompson and DeAngelo Casto – plus a full year in Ken Bone’s system. Then again, it’s possible that Bone is not the right man for the job, and if that’s the case the Cougars won’t be in fifth place next March.
4. Arizona State. The ‘10 regular-season runner up – and massive overachiever — must replace point guard Derek Glasser and center Eric Boateng. But Ty Abbott leads a solid returning core and Herb Sendek’s system is well entrenched. The rest of the league will be better, but not so much better as to knock ASU into the lower half.
3. UCLA. The Bruins are in very good shape at three spots (wing Malcolm Lee and forwards Tyler Honeycutt and Reeves Nelson) and perhaps four if freshman center Josh Smith makes a rapid adjustment to the college game — and drops a few pounds. Point guard is the issue. With solid play from Jerime Anderson or JC transfer Lazeric Jones, the Bruins could win the league. Without it, they could finish sixth.
2. Arizona. The loss of point guard Nic Wise is a blow, but not a major one – not with the Wildcats’ core of young talent (Derrick Williams, Kyle Fogg, Jamelle Horne, Solomon Hill, Kevin Parrom, MoMo Jones and touted frosh Daniel Bejarano, to name seven). The Cats finished fourth in 2009-10 and should be the most improved team in the league — improved enough, it seems, to start a new NCAA streak.
1. Washington. Assuming Isaiah Thomas returns and Abdul Gaddy develops, the Huskies will have the best perimeter unit in the conference. But the conference title depends on Elston Turner and Matthew Bryan-Amaning playing like they did down the stretch and on the young big men making decent progress. There are enough quality pieces to offset the departure of Quincy Pondexter, but it’s by no means a given that everything will coalesce. At this point, UW is the pick by default.
By Jon Wilner on April 7th, 2010 at 3:55 pm
April 8, 2010
Because it’s never too early …