Next: Pac-10

Inspired by a recent article by Andy Katz of ESPN, I thought it would be fun to label who/what/where is “next” in the Pac-10. In his own article Katz labels Washington as “West Coast Guard U.”

So here is who is “next” in the Pac-10 according to Montlake Fast Break.

Washington/UCLA Rivlary

It appears that Washington is quickly jockeying towards a perennial spot among the top teams in the Pac-10, joining long time titan UCLA at the top of the conference. What makes this rivalry even more intriguing is how Washington has been able to play with the Bruins consistently, owning a 6-4 advantage over UCLA since 2004.

As the Bruins have grown back into the old national power that they used to be, Washington appears to be the team closest to compete with UCLA year in and year out for the conference title. With a young core of talented players on both sides, whenever the two schools matchup during the season it could have serious conference title implications on the line.

What may be even more of a sign of a budding rivalry is the recruiting battles that Ben Howland and Lorenzo Romar will have. Romar has lifted the Huskies to a level of prominence never seen before with recruits. The Jrue Holiday recruitment was no bigger sign of a changing of the guard when Romar had the Huskies in a close battle with the Bruins for the services of a L.A. kid ranked as one of the top five players in the country. While Washington did end up losing the battle to the Bruins, being the other school besides UCLA is a sign of Romar’s ability to recruit.

Then look at the Abdul Gaddy recruitment in which the Huskies beat out the Bruins. While Gaddy had originally committed to Arizona, when he made that original commitment it was the Wildcats over the Bruins. However after it was confirmed that Lute Olson would not be returning, Gaddy then chose the Huskies over the Bruins.

Expect more recruiting battles to be waged between the two schools. There are already battles for Josh Smith and Terrence Jones, and the recruitment of 2011 guys like Angelo Choi and Norvel Pelle could come down to the two rivals as well.

Sean Miller

When Arizona was originally courting Tim Floyd to be their head coach, I absolutely loved it because I knew at some point Floyd would lead the program into a basketball version of the Hindenburg (which coincidentally happened to him and his USC program right after turning down Arizona). But then Arizona recovered and made a smart move by hiring the young and energetic Sean Miller away from Xavier.

I was immediately impressed by this hire, and Miller has done nothing short of exceeding my expectations already. Convincing Nic Wise to stay another year was a big move for the program, but then adding a stellar recruiting class has actually put the program in a position to out perform last year’s team and start the Miller era off on the right foot.

Originally I only saw a near bottom finish for the Wildcats. Now they could even make it into the top-3 of the conference if they play to their ability.

While I originally thought I was seeing the fall of the once mighty Arizona program, Miller may bring the Wildcats back to the top.

Oregon State

This all depends on one man, and that is if Craig Robinson will stay there long term and not bolt at job offers that will most definitely come should the Beavers put together a tournament run. Right now the program just oozes of good vibes. Whether it is the presence of Robinson, a stellar incoming recruiting class, or the fact that key players remain from last year’s team; the Beavers have a great shot at establishing themselves as perennial top-5 team in the conference if they play their cards right. With the fall of Oregon basketball last year, the Beavers could put their stamp on the state of Oregon and own that state for the near future. Especially if Ernie Kent is out at the end of the season and the Ducks will be forced to go through more rebuilding under a new coach.

The Beavers could very well be undefeated when they kick of Pac-10 in Seattle on the 31st of December.

Malcolm Lee

Lee will likely be sliding into the starting two guard spot that was vacated by Jrue Holiday. His skill set paired with his height make him an obvious NBA candidate, but before he leaves for the league.

Lee possesses tremendous playmaking ability that should make him a deadly weapon at shooting guard. His ability to get to the basket and create his own shot make him a tricky guy to defend for opposing defenses, especially when he will be the primary ball handler at times for the Bruins.

Michael Dunigan

If there is a reason to hope for the Ducks next season, it is that this talented sophomore will put the team on his back and lead them back to respectability. Last season Dunigan put up respectable numbers as a freshman, 8.5 points and 4.5 rebounds in 20 minutes of work on average. Expect those numbers to significantly climb as he has a year of experience under his belt. His frame is monstrous in its own right, 6’10” while weighing 255 pounds. If Kent cam make sure that Tajuan Porter finds Dunigan under the basket more this year, he could be a potential first teamer in the Pac-10. I expect him to be someone similar to Jordan Hill, one of my favorite and most feared players in the conference last season.

Abdul Gaddy

You probably knew it was coming, but Abdul Gaddy could easily establish himself as the top point guard in the conference by this time next year. He possesses all the tools to contend for Pac-10 Player-of-the-Year at a young age, and could very well be the next lottery pick that Washington puts in the league by the end of his sophomore year. Gaddy could team up with Isaiah Thomas and be the face of this Husky generation, much like Brandon Roy and Nate Robinson were when they played in Montlake.

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