The deadline for underclassmen to announce their final intentions for the NBA Draft came and went yesterday. Here's a quick look and the losers and winners, from biggest to smallest, along with my way-too-early Pac-10 power rankings for next season.
- USC: A couple of months ago, this pretty clearly would have been Arizona. Not anymore. Tim Floyd has resigned in disgrace and DeMar DeRozan, Taj Gibson and Daniel Hackett (!) are gone. I think it's become obvious that the program is in need of some serious house cleaning -- beyond these players leaving, there were some serious fractures on that team last year. The recruiting cupboard is all but bare, and there are likely sanctions on the way. Not a good day to be a Trojan. (But I guess we could say that about any day, right?)
- Arizona State: James Harden is gone, and anyone who watched the Sun Devils play when he wasn't on the floor the last two years -- or when his legs finally gave out from inexcusable overuse -- know what that means. Herb Sendek has what appears to be a good recruiting class coming in, but let's be frank: None of them are game changers like Harden. He was a special kind of player that made Sendek look like a darn good coach. Let's see what he can do now that he doesn't have Harden around to ride like Secretariat.
- Arizona: Boy, have the Wildcats pulled one heck of a magic act. In November, they were in complete disarray. Lute Olson was retiring just before the start of the season and their first choice for interim coach didn't want the job. Then, the season was mediocre by their standards, recruiting was at a standstill and it looked like their Big Three was bolting for the NBA. Now, they've got a fantastic coach in Sean Miller (after serendipitously being spurned by Tim Floyd), an unbelievable recruiting class considering the wreck this program was just a couple of months ago, and they're only losing Chase Budinger and Jordan Hill -- Nic Wise returns. Still not a great day for Arizona, but holy cow could it have been a lot worse.
- UCLA: Had UCLA successfully recruited a point guard for this draft class, I suppose it would be debatable whether UCLA even belonged in the loser category, even with the loss of Jrue Holiday, who was never as good in LA as he was supposed to be. But with Darren Collison graduating and Holiday staying in the draft, the Bruins have a ton of question marks at the lead spot. Their leading returning assist men? Nikola Dragovic and Michael Roll. Yeah.
- Cal: While traditional powers such as Arizona and UCLA got worse, Cal didn't have even one of its talented underclassmen test the draft waters. That means Jerome Randle, Patrick Christopher, Jamal Boykin and the rest of the Bears' roster will return. No team will be poised to take advantage of other teams' losses more than Cal, which will be a top 10 team heading into next season. The scary part is that they've got a coach who's used to his teams having to live up to high expectations. Watch out.
Washington: At the end of the year, people actually said with a straight face that Isaiah Thomas might declare for the draft. He didn't, and neither did Quincy Pondexter. With a fantastic recruiting class coming in led by Abdul Gaddy, the only thing keeping the Huskies from being a winner on Cal's level is the enormous question mark in the frontcourt where Jon Brockman used to be.
- Washington State, Oregon State, Oregon, Stanford: This is a great time to be a program on the rise in the conference. After having some of the best teams in the country in 2007-08 and being unbelievably balanced last season, this figures to be a good time to be heading north, what with the traditional powers being down. There's room to move, and each of these programs have hope for the upcoming season that they can make that move.
Way-Too-Early Pac-10 Power Rankings
Cal - New version of WSU 2007-08 ... but with more talent. Scary.
Washington - Could easily repeat as Pac-10 champs if even one of their big men steps up inside. None of this foo-foo face up stuff; who will get dirty?
UCLA - I'm betting Ben Howland can figure out an adequate solution at PG.
Arizona - This shows just how fast it drops off after top 3. Depth still will be a major issue, but the combo of Wise and Fogg will make for a formidable backcourt.
- Oregon State - This is a tough one: Does the Pac-10 stop being fooled by the Princeton offense, or does OSU get even better after another year in the system?
- Arizona State - Still lots of experience here. Derek Glasser is underrated -- I understand, it's tough to take that chest hair seriously -- and Ty Abbott could be the breakout player of the year in the conference out of Harden's shadow.
Washington State - My heart wants to rank the Cougs higher, but with a new coach and still loads of inexperienced players ...
Oregon - Lots of talent. However, Ernie Kent doesn't exactly have a track record of coaching guys up to dramatic improvements between their first and second year. Look for the Ducks to be better in 2010-11. If Kent can hang on that long.
- Stanford - Big losses (Goods, Hill, Johnson) and a solid-but-unspectacular recruiting class don't scream "mover and shaker."
- USC - Until they get a coach and one or two of the as-yet-unsigned recruits, this is a team staring at the bottom of the conference.