Unlike last season, it has been a free for all for supremacy in the Pac 10, with UCLA, Washington and Cal smacking heads, surprising Arizona State, plus hard charging Arizona.
Here’s a look at the strengths and weaknesses of the Pacific 10 elite.
UCLA: Ben Howland has another talented team, especially in the backcourt with seniors Darren Collison (14.8 ppg) and Josh Shipp (12.7 ppg). Howland knows how to teach defense and the attacking Bruins allow 62 ppg, second best in the Pac 10. After allowing 42 percent shooting last season, the Bruins allow 43.6 this year
UCLA is 65-49 ATS the last four years while making back-to-back Final Four appearances.
Washington: After going just 16-15 last year and starting 2-3 this season, the Huskies have been on a tear. The backcourt makes this team fly, averaging 80 points behind 5-foot-8 freshman Isaiah Thomas (16.5 ppg) and senior Justin Dentmon (15.8 ppg). These guards attack the basket.
Washington is tops in the Pac 10 in scoring and rebounding.
Arizona State: The Sun Devils had 19 wins last season, then became the first Pac 10 team to reach 20 this year. They are doing it with defense, allowing 59 ppg, plus allowing 43 percent shooting in conference play. 6-9 senior Jeff Pendergraph (13 ppg, 8 rpg) mans the frontcourt, but the guy who makes the offense hum is 6-5 sophomore James Harden (21.3 ppg), a likely NBA lottery pick.
Arizona State is second in the Pac 10 Conference from the line, hitting at 74 percent
Cal: The Bears have used a strong home court edge and a three-guard attack to have a solid season. The three-guard offense leads the team in scoring behind junior Jerome Randle (18.4 ppg), 6-5 junior Patrick Christopher (14.6 ppg) and 6-6 junior Theo Robertson (12.4 ppg).
The streaky Bears went 1-4 SU/0-5 ATS, then turned around and went 3-0 SU/ATS.
Arizona: The Wildcats stumbled in midseason under interim coach Russ Pennell, but have caught fire the last month while on a sizzling 7-0 SU, 6-1 ATS run. Arizona relies on the frontcourt scoring punch of 6-7 senior Chase Budinger (18 ppg, 6.5 rpg) and 6-9 senior Jordan Hill (18 ppg, 11 rpg).
Arizona snuck into the NCAA Tournament last season to extend its nation-best streak of appearances in the Big Dance to 24 years.