Pac-10 men’s basketball capsules with teams listed in their order of finish as predicated by the annual media poll:
Received 37 of the 38 first-place votes. The NBA has taken three starters from last season’s Final Four and Pac-10 championship squad. However, returning seniors Darren Collison, Josh Shipp and Alfred Aboya will be complemented by another dazzling freshman class. If there’s a problem, it could be depth.
2. Arizona State
Received the only first-place vote that didn’t go to the Bruins. Expectations are high because all starters return from last season’s 21-win NIT squad. Top returnees are guard James Harden and forward Jeff Pendergraph, who chose another college season over the NBA draft. Still, there’s only one senior.
3. Southern California
USC lost its top two scorers: O.J. Mayo and Davon Jefferson. But the Trojans are aiming for a school-record third straight trip to the NCAA tournament behind guards Daniel Hackett and Dwight Lewis, forward Taj Gibson and an infusion of freshman and previously injured players expected to return.
The Wildcats have become the league’s wild card team as a returning threesome of stars Jordan Hill, Chase Budinger and Nic Wise is offset by the disruption of coach Lute Olson’s shocking resignation. Olson’s interim replacement is Russ Pennell, who was an Arizona State radio analyst last season.
Lorenzo Romar believes these Huskies are tournament contenders again because they have more experienced leaders than at any point since the team’s Sweet 16 days. That should make things easier on this highly ranked freshman class. Between the vets and the newcomers, Romar sees more playmakers.
6. Washington State
The core of WSU’s glory run – Derrick Low, Kyle Weaver and Robbie Cowgill – is gone. Now the challenge falls to guard Taylor Rochestie and center Aron Baynes to keep the program from dipping too far while a handful of first-year players are thrown immediately into coach Tony Bennett’s rotation.
Much like the Cougars, the Ducks will turn to a new generation of players now that the long run led by Malik Hairston, Maarty Leunen and Bryce Taylor is over. Returning starters Tajuan Porter and Joevan Catron will try to keep things afloat while another lauded freshman class eases in.
The Golden Bears lost forward Ryan Anderson and center DeVon Hardin to the NBA. However, they might have gained a lot with the hiring of Pac-10 coaching legend Mike Montgomery. His initial challenge will be getting enough out of his strong guard corps to compensate for the lack of big men.
First-year coach Johnny Dawkins steps in for Trent Johnson, who bolted to Louisiana State. And his top priority will be finding anyone to step in for 7-footers Brook and Robin Lopez, who bolted for the NBA. Their departure moves Cardinal hopes to returnees Lawrence Hill, Anthony Goods and Mitch Johnson.
10. Oregon State
The Beavers were 0-18 in league play last season, costing Jay John his job. With nowhere to go but up, OSU reached across the country to hire Craig Robinson, who went 30-28 in two seasons at Brown and is Barack Obama’s brother-in-law. It remains to be seen if Robinson or Obama has the tougher job ahead.