Leadersof the Pac

Feb 26, 2008 2:27 AM

It’s been a year of "The Big Two" for Pac 10 in basketball, with UCLA and Stanford duking or dunking it out much of the season.

Here’s a look at the strengths and weaknesses of some of college basketball’s best teams in the Pacific 10.

UCLA: Ben Howland has another super-talented team. Up front, 6-8 junior Luc Richard Mbah a Moute just returned from an ankle injury. The 6-10 freshman center Kevin Love (17 ppg, 11 rpg) has been a force in the middle. They are joined by juniors point guard Darren Collison (13.9 ppg) and Josh Shipp (14 ppg), who anchor a deep backcourt on a team that beats opponents by 16 points per contest (74-58 average). UCLA is 53-37 ATS the last three years.

Stanford: The Cardinal is hot on the trail of UCLA. The centerpiece for Stanford is a pair of big sophomore 7-foot twins Brook and Robin Lopez, who anchor the frontcourt. Brook leads the team with 19 points and eight boards per game. Robin chips in nine points and six rebounds. Stanford plays great defense, starting 16-8 under the total.

Wash St: The Cougars are not always pretty slowing things down, but allow just 55 ppg for second-year coach Tony Bennett. The Cougars also win, topping 20 for the third time in four years. The backcourt leads the team in scoring with seniors Derrick Low (13.8 ppg) and Kyle Weaver (11 ppg). State is 9-6 SU and 10-5 ATS in the last 15 as a dog.

Arizona: The Wildcats haven’t been as explosive an offensive team under interim coach Kevin O’Neill as they were with Lute Olsen. Arizona relies on the scoring punch of freshman guard Jerryd Bayless (21 ppg) and 6-7 junior Chase Budinger (17 ppg, 5 rpg), while 6-9 senior Jordan Hill (12 ppg, 8 rpg) works the glass. They should have motivation over the next few weeks, being on the bubble for the NCAA tournament. Arizona is 6-2 ATS as a dog.

USC: The Trojans remind many of UCLA just a few years ago — very talented and inexperienced. Freshman guard O.J. Mayo leads the Trojans in scoring at 19.5 ppg. He’s had an outstanding season, but can be prone to turnovers. He had 10 turnovers in last week’s loss to UCLA. His school-record 23 consecutive double-figure games to start a career ended against UCLA.

The frontcourt has 6-6 sophomore Taj Gibson (10 ppg, 8 rpg) as the leading rebounder, along with 6-8 freshman Davon Jefferson (12 ppg, 6 rpg). Tim Floyd has USC playing great defense, allowing 38 percent shooting.