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College Hoops: Best Pac-10 Teams
by Jim Feist - 02/22/2011
There's the Big 4 in Pac 10 in basketball with a string of teams battling for the top spot. Here's a look at the strengths and weaknesses of some of college basketball's best teams in the Pacific 10.
Arizona: A year ago the Wildcats were young, but now they have taken a step forward as the team to beat in the conference. The centerpiece of the team is 6-8 sophomore Derrick Williams (19 ppg, 8 rpg), an NBA prospect who shoots 63% from the field and takes 9.3 free throws per game, tops in the nation.
He has help with Solomon Hill and Kevin Parrom on a club that has been hot, on a recent 6-0 SU, 5-0-1 ATS run. Arizona is second in the Pac 10 in scoring, tops in three-point shooting (40.8%), tops in free throws (74%) and even plays defense, No. 4 in points allowed (66 ppg). This is a big weekend, playing at UCLA and USC.
Washington: The Huskies have junked the slow down, defensive approach of several Pac 10 teams and instead run a wide-open attack, leading the conference in scoring (86 ppg), No. 2 in the nation. They have a dynamite one-two punch with 6-9 senior Matthew Bryan Amaning (15.8 ppg, 7.8 rpg) and 5-foot-8 junior Isaiah Thomas (17 ppg), whose been Pac 10 Player of the Week three times.
They have a great home record, but the offense has not been as impressive on the road, losing three straight to start this month on the road, all as a favorite. That's not a new concern, either, as one year ago Washington had a victory at Stanford and it was their first win in 357 days on an opponent's court! The Huskies love the uptempo game and have been on a recent 5-1 run over the total.
UCLA: The Bruins didn't have a great start to conference play, but Ben Howland's boys have turned a corner during an impressive 9-1 SU, 6-4 ATS run. They are doing it with defense, as usual, allowing 41.6% shooting, second in the Pac 10. That also explains a recent 9-3 run under the total.
6-5 junior Malcolm Lee (13.8 ppg) leads the team in scoring, with a good frontcourt in 6-8 sophomore Reeves Nelson (13.7 ppg, 8.7 rpg) and 6-8 sophomore Tyler Honeycutt (12.5 ppg, 8 rpg). One concern would be the bench play, as in a win over Oregon State last week, Howland was forced to reinsert his starters with 43 seconds left. "I didn't want to have to take them out," Howland said of his walk-ons, "but I obviously don't want to lose the game." Defense won the game with the Bruins getting 16 blocked shots!
Washington State: The only team better than UCLA defensively in the conference is Washington State, allowing 38.7% shooting and 65.5 ppg. 6-5 junior Klay Thompson (20 ppg) carries the offense with 6-8, 255-pound junior DeAngelo Casto (11.2 ppg) handles the low post. Thompson doesn't have great athleticism and he's slender, but he does have that jumper.
They are sound fundamentally on offense, third in the conference in field goal shooting, three-point shooting and free throws. The Cougars have been decent when stepping up against Top 20 competition, beating then-No. 15 Baylor and No. 17 Washington (87-80), plus a 65-63 loss to Arizona. They wind up a three-game road trip this weekend with a trip to Washington on Sunday in a revenge-game for the Huskies.
Stanford: The Cardinal had a nice start to the season, but after that 58-56 win over Washington in January, Stanford went on a four-game slide with an ice-cold offense. They rely on 6-4 junior Jeremy Green (15.7 ppg) and 6-8 junior Josh Owens (11 ppg), but this team shoots .426% from the field, 233rd in the nation.
Green has rediscovered his rhythm of late, but for much of January he and Stanford's offense were awful. They failed to score 60 points in seven consecutive games, their longest stretch of sub-60 games in the same season since 1948-49. Green's personal slump coincided with his team's struggles. He shot just 28 percent from 3-point range as the Cardinal lost five of seven. The offense has been clicking the last two weeks, however, going four straight over the total.