With the Pac-10 season about to begin, here’s an updated look at how the league race shapes up (with teams listed in their predicted order of finish from the preseason media poll):
Preconference numbers: 8-4 record. Jerome Randle, 19.3 ppg and 4.6 apg; Jamal Boykin, 7.2 rpg. Leads Pac-10 in free-throw percentage (.749).
Conference outlook: They’ve had trouble getting their best guys together on the floor. But with players like Jerome Randle and Patrick Christopher and a coach like Mike Montgomery, the Golden Bears figure to contend the whole way.
Preconference numbers: 9-2. 17th ranked. Quincy Pondexter, 21.9 ppg and 8.4 apg; Venoy Overton, 2.9 apg. Highest-scoring team in Pac-10 (83.5 ppg).
Conference outlook: The lack of either outside shooting or a dominant post usually means big trouble. However, these Huskies are managing to work around that as long as they play smart defense and share the ball.
Preconference numbers: 5-7. Malcolm Lee, 14.5 ppg; Reeves Nelson and Nikola Dragovic, 5.8 rpg; Jerime Anderson, 4.2 apg. Tied for Pac-10 lead in assists (15.6 apg).
Conference outlook: It’s hard to imagine UCLA being this down for a whole season. But losses to Cal State Fullerton and Long Beach State suggest these Bruins may not be among the top five teams in California.
Preconference numbers: 6-6. Nic Wise, 16.3 ppg and 4 apg; Jamelle Horne, 7.9 rpg. Last in Pac-10 field goal percentage (.442).
Conference outlook: Nic Wise was the difference in a couple of recent wins at the buzzer, proving the value of experience. Unfortunately for the Wildcats, this roster is dominated by underclassmen. That quarter-century streak of NCAA tournament bids seems about to snap.
5. OREGON STATE
Preconference numbers: 6-5. Seth Tarver, 13.4 ppg, 5.2 rpg and 2.2 apg. Leads Pac-10 in steals (8.9 spg).
Conference outlook: Probably came in a bit overrated after improving to .500 last season and taking the College Basketball Invitational title. New conventional wisdom sees a bit of a sophomore slump as Craig Robinson continues to rebuild the Beavers.
Preconference numbers: 8-4. Tajuan Porter, 11 ppg; Joevan Catron, 5.8 rpg; Jamil Wilson, 4.2 apg. Four players averaging between 11 and 10 points per game.
Conference outlook: They’re balanced, they’re athletic, they’re inconsistent. The ups and downs should even out to something near the middle of the league as the Ducks play their final full season at Mac Court.
7. ARIZONA STATE
Preconference numbers: 10-3. Rihards Kuksiks and Derek Glasser, 11.8 ppg; Eric Boateng, 6.3 rpg; Glasser, 5.7 apg. Leads Pac-10 in scoring defense (54.5 ppg).
Conference outlook: James Harden and Jeff Pendergraph have departed, but somehow the victories have remained. It’s beginning to look like Herb Sendek has a system that gets the job done even in the absence of top-tier talent.
8. WASHINGTON STATE
Preconference numbers: 10-2. Klay Thompson, 25 ppg; DeAngelo Castro, 7.3 rpg; Reggie Moore, 5 apg. Thompson leads Pac-10 in scoring. Leads Pac-10 in field goal percentage (.498).
Conference outlook: Ken Bone has worked wonders with a roster of players mostly recruited for a fundamentally different style of basketball. However, the record could be inflated by a mediocre early schedule. And there may not be enough depth to keep the Cougs running into March.
Preconference numbers: 8-4. Mike Gerrity, 14.8 ppg; Nikola Vucevic, 9.8 rpg; Dwight Lewis, 1.7 apg. Taking 6-game winning streak into league play.
Conference outlook: Another startling coaching job being turned in by Kevin O’Neill. He inherited a program in shambles, and somehow has the Trojans heading into league play with a six-game winning streak. USC is 4-0 since Gerrity became eligible at mid-month.
Preconference numbers: 6-6. Landry Fields, 23.4 ppg and 9 rpg; Jarrett Mann, 5.7 apg. Last in Pac-10 in field goal percentage defense (.453).
Conference outlook: Fields is second in the league in scoring and rebounding, and he projects as an all-league first-teamer and MVP candidate. But the Cardinal has lost far more talent over the past two seasons than it has been able to replace.