College Hoops: The
Best of the Pac 10

Feb 27, 2007 1:21 AM

It’s been a year of "The Big Two" in Pacific 10 college basketball, with UCLA and slow-down Washington State duking or dunking it out much of the season.

Here’s a look at the strengths and weaknesses of the best teams in the Pac 10.

UCLA: How would you like to be Coach Ben Howland? He has a super-talented and deep team, without a single senior! A deef backcourt is anchored by 6-foot-5 junior Arron Afflalo (17.5 ppg) along with sophomores Darren Collison (13.3 ppg) and sophomore Josh Shipp. UCLA’s average win margin is 14 points (74-60).

Up front, 6-8 sophomore Luc Richard Mbah a Moute and 6-9 junior Lorenzo Mata lead in rebounds. The Bruins beat Kentucky as a dog, flattened Georgia Tech and Michigan, and topped Texas A&M by 3. The 81-66 win at Arizona improved the Bruins to 2-0 SU and ATS as an underdog. UCLA is 10-3 ATS as a dog the last two seasons.

Washington St: The Cougars are not always pretty, slowing things down while allowing 58 ppg under first-year coach Tony Bennett. They also win, at home and on the road (7-3 SU, 6-4 ATS away). The backcourt leads the team in scoring with juniors Derrick Low (14 ppg) and Kyle Weaver (11 ppg).

State is a slow-down team with muscle up front in 6-7 sophomore Daven Harmeling, senior Ivory Clark and 6-10 senior center Robbie Cowgill. They lost 55-52 at UCLA as a +12 dog, but get a chance at revenge Thursday when the Bruins visit Pullman.

USC: The Trojans are not a tall or experienced team, but defensively allow just 62 points on average. Taj Gibson, a 6-9 freshman, is the leading rebounder, while 6-6 junior Nick Young tops the Trojans in scoring.

The backcourt features senior Lodrick Stewart, junior Gabriel Pruitt and frosh Dwight Lewis. USC is a strong 6-1 ATS on the road and 7-2 as a dog. Gibson acknowledged last week that he was wearing down a bit

Stanford: Talk about youth! Stanford has a ton of it. Leading the way is 6-8 sophomore and top scorer Lawrence Hill (16 ppg, 6 rpg), along with another sophomore Anthony Goods (13 ppg).

The centerpieces are a pair of big freshmen in 7-foot twins Brook and Robin Lopez, who anchor the frontcourt. They combined for 99 blocks through 24 games, more blocks than seven of Stanford’s nine Pac-10 opponents! Robin Lopez leads the conference with 2½ blocks per game, rated 16th nationally.

Oregon: Offense is not a problem for the Ducks, third in the Pac 10 in scoring and second in free throws. They run a four-guard lineup behind senior Aaron Brooks (17 ppg), Bryce Taylor, Tajuan Porter and 6-6 junior Malik Hairston.

All that backcourt speed is why the Ducks lead the Pac 10 in steals. They have an impressive 57-50 win at Georgetown as a dog and a 68-66 upset of UCLA. Oregonis 12-0 SU (7-3 ATS ) in nonconference games. One concern is that after reaching 19 wins, Oregon went 1-5 SU/0-5-1 ATS.

Arizona: Coach Lute Olson’s Wildcats like to get out and run with opponents, leading the Pac 10 in scoring (80 ppg) and shooting over 48 percent from the field. The frontcourt leads the way behind 6-7 sophomore Marcus Williams (16.7 ppg, 7.2 rpg), 6-7 freshman Chase Budinger and 6-10 senior Ivan Radenovic.

The Wildcats haven’t played well when stepping up. A loss at No. 5 UCLA (81-66) continued a downward spiral. The Wildcats tried unsuccessfully to use zone and man-to-man against the Bruins. The loss was by the second-biggest margin at home in the 24-year Olson era at Arizona.