Another sign of the season's changing: It's time for me to file my predictions in the Pac-10 men's basketball preseason media poll.
My vote is due Monday, so as has become our custom, I'll post a first draft here and you guys can tell me what I might want to reconsider.
Here's the way I'm leaving (influenced somewhat by yesterday's events out of Arizona):
1. UCLA: Lost enough talent to sink almost any program ... except UCLA.
2 USC: Subtract one-and-one O.J. Mayo, add one-and-done DeMar DeRozan. Bring back some solid veterans, add some mostly forgotten injured guys. Who knows what comes out? I don't really see a clear second-best team in the conference this season, so this is sort of a vote that Tim Floyd's system is about to click in.
3. Arizona State: Two huge building blocks in James Harden and Jeff Pendergraph, but I'm not as taken with the rest of the roster as some others are. This is mostly last season's team, plus a year of experience. And last season, they were 9-9 in the conference. (Plus, I picked the ASU football team No. 2, and look where that got me.)
4. Washington: Talented young players complemented by a solid core of veteran leadership. You can count on Jon Brockman as a conference player of the year candidate. But after that, optimism calls for some leaps of faith: That Isaiah Thomas will be a difference-making freshman. That Quincy Pondexter and MBA take solid steps up. That the free-throw hex has passed. If so, the Huskies could go dancing again.
5. Arizona: The Wildcats have become wild cards with the awkward retirement of Lute Olson leaving a lot of confused and probably unhappy players. Will the band together in adversity or fall apart?
6. California: There's a disturbing lack of proven big men, but I think Mike Montgomery might be able to do something with the talent on hand.
7. Washington State: A lot of people I respect don't think the Cougars will fall nearly this far. And Aron Baynes and Taylor Rochestie gives a nice inside-outside foundation for the rebuilding. But I'd be surprised if the replacement parts will be ready this quickly.
8. Oregon: The Ducks paid dues with young players and then got progressively better as they matured. Now it's back to dues-playing time again.
9. Stanford: Goodbye Lopez twins. Goodbye Trent Johnson. Hello rebuilding.
10. Oregon State: New coach Craig Robinson will have to build from the ground up... actually from the basement up. Sticking with the analogy, it's hard to imagine anything but a foundation being laid this season.