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):
1. CALIFORNIAPreconference 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.
2. WASHINGTONPreconference 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. 3. UCLAPreconference 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.
4. ARIZONAPreconference 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.
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5. OREGON STATEPreconference 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.
6. OREGONPreconference 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 STATEPreconference 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 STATEPreconference 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.
9. USCPreconference 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.
10. STANFORDPreconference 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.