Ten of the Pac-10: Long Term Stability

10. USC

They almost were not number ten because have Dwight Lewis and Alex Stephenson on the roster, meaning that they have some sort of shot at being competitive in the Pac-10 this year. With a somewhat positive year they can allow new coach Kevin O’Neill to go out and bring some guys in and assure them that being a Trojan will not be a complete failure in their four years on campus.

The problem with USC is a lack of passion behind the program from fans and the athletic department, it will always have the least amount of history compared to their California rivals, and it will always be a second thought compared to football. Recruits will not sign up for that, as Tim Floyd proved, the only way they would is if they were being paid to.

O’Neill however is a big problem for the future of the program. I just do not see him being a Pac-10 coach that will go out and lead the Trojans to the NCAA Tournament on a consistent basis or be among the top-five in the conference annually. Maybe a good season here or there, but nothing significant. In his one seasons as Arizona’s interim coach he was incredibly testy with his players, leading to unhappiness among players who expected to be playing under a legend in Lute Olson when they signed their letter of intent.

I remember people out of L.A. were saying the USC wanted to make a splash with their next coaching hire, a national guy. Names such as Jamie Dixon and Jeff Capel were being raised as potential targets. It was a ludicrous idea from the beginning that one of those guys would leave great situations for a future of sanctions that will be placed on the Trojans very soon as a result of Floyd’s wrongdoings.

USC basketball may witnessed its peak under Floyd, it does not look good in L.A.

9. Oregon

After last season’s debacle, it is pretty amazing to see Ernie Kent is still the man leading the charge in Mac Court’s final season. Some have speculated that it was new A.D. Mike Bellotti wanting to protect his friend in his first year in his new job, but I have always wondered why Duck fans have wanted Kent out so often. The guy has delivered in the past, most recently an Elite Eight run in 2007 (although I would have understood a firing after last season).

The team has some nice players to build off of, most notably big man Michael Dunigan who could be a force for the next three years in the Pac-10. But any time there is a coaching situation that is up in the air, the long term outlook for a team is normally bleak and recruiting normally suffers. Use our Husky football team last year with Tyrone Willingham as an example. It took a very long time to pick up a commitment, and after Keith Price became the first to jump on only a few were willing to make a verbal commitment to a program that would have a new coach by the time they would arrive on campus.

It is no different for the Ducks as they have yet to pick up a recruit for the 2010 class, something that is very concerning for Kent if he wants to keep his job and for the future of the basketball program as any potential successor will be left scrambling and filling spots with players not necessarily Pac-10 quality basketball players.

If Kent can lead the team to a fifth or sixth place finish, maybe he can keep his job and earn one more year to get back to the top of the standings. He has proven he can recruit in the past, and if recruits can believe he will be coaching them when they arrive in Eugene then the Ducks have a future.

But right now Duck fans and the athletic department are probably fantasizing about the idea of opening up the new basketball arena with a new head coach to bring some excitement back to Eugene.

8. Stanford

The Cardinal are near the bottom of this list for many reasons, but no reason is bigger than head coach Johnny Dawkins.

Stanford has proven in the past that it can be an outstanding team on the national level. Some of the most obvious being the near undefeated season in 2003 that was so “rudely” interrupted by the Huskies and the 2008 team in Trent Johnson’s final season as head coach.

Dawkins is not the longterm future as head coach because he will always be next in line for the Duke job once Mike Krzyzewski retires. It will be incredibly difficult for Stanford to achieve any long term success with the possibility of Dawkins leaving is possible at any time.

While Stanford was able to recently gain two commitments in local standouts John Gage and Aaron Bright, they will likely never be the leading players of a tournament or conference title winning team. Stock will lie in Dwight Powell and Anthony Brown to take the team to the top.

In a day when the relationship between coach and player is by far the most important aspect of a player’s recruitment (i.e. Memphis and John Calipari), it will be much more difficult for Dawkins to continually bring in high caliber guys when the players could doubt if he will even be around before they graduate. Especially if the Cardinal fail to put together a couple of successful seasons in a row, which is doubtful with the current outlook of the team.

7. Arizona State

I have a lot of faith in Herb Sendek and love him as a coach, but it appears that a perfect storm is brewing to the point where it will be more difficult than before to lead the Sun Devils back to among the top in the conference. Losing James Harden is a fatal blow to most teams who do not have someone immediately behind to take over as the star of the team. Add the loss of Jeff Pendegraph, one of the most under-appreciated players in the Pac-10 in his career (he got love, but he was a bona fide star for the Sun Devils), and it should be a long season for Sendek and the Sun Devils.

But what is most concerning for Arizona State is the rise of the Arizona program once again. Sean Miller was the perfect choice for the Wildcats, and it appears he has them ready to completely own the state once again. It is no surprise that Arizona State was able to improve and become the Pac-10 title contenders they were while Arizona was going through its most difficult period in a long time.

Sendek will have to bring in some stellar recruits over the next two years if he wants to see the Sun Devils be a perennial challenger for the title.

6. Oregon State

There are two reasons why Oregon State is not higher on the list despite the incredible debut of Craig Robinson as head coach last season. The first is the idea that Robinson may not be the head coach for Oregon State if he continues to have such great success. Any big time school that has a position will be salivating at the idea of adding him as coach and willing to offer him the national spotlight and big money. The second is that it is hard to recruit players to Corvallis in a state that is more willing to rock the green and yellow as opposed to the black and orange.

Robinson did everything right last season to get the Beavers back to respectability, but the next step is more difficult than the first, and that is making the Beavers into a potential conference champion. To do that he needs to recruit, and while he had success in his first class by bringing in a guy like Roberto Nelson, until he gets to the top of the conference it will be tough to convince top tier players to turn down schools in bigger markets with more recent success in the NCAA tournament.

But if anyone can get it done, its Robinson. I just find it hard to picture him staying the coach at Oregon State if he continues to succeed, and right now he is all that is going for them for any hope for the future.

If Robinson stays long term, the Beavers are higher on the list. If the Beavers take the next step and make it to the tournament and Robinson takes a job elsewhere, put them right next to Stanford on this list.

5. Washington State

Washington State has a pretty darn good chance at being a pretty consistent NCAA tournament team. It may be because I think that Ken Bone could become one of the top coaches in the country; I just see him as a guy that will be at Washington State a long time and it is known that he can coach very well based on what he was able to accomplish with Portland State and his stay in Montlake as an assistant.

Losing someone like Taylor Rochstie is always hard to replace, as well as solid contribution guys like Caleb “Sucker Punch” Forrest and Daven Harmeling. But there are some nice young pieces that have higg upside for Bone to work with.

Bone will be coaching a pretty good team this year with some solid recruits coming in. Klay Thompson is the obvious guy that gives Washington State some serious potential, as well as DeAngelo Casto, someone who dominated high school basketball when playing for Ferris. But don’t sleep on Reggie Moore, he has the ability to become one of the better guards in the conference if he can reach his potential. A backcourt of Moore and Thompson could become one of the best in the conference in the next few years.

If Bone can bring in the recruits then the Cougs could become someone that is among the top-5 in the conference annually and occasionally challenge for the top spot. But that is the tought part for any Cougar coach, convincing 18-year-olds that Pullman is a great place to live.

Bone definitely has nice young foundation to build off of in his first season as a Pac-10 head coach.

4. California

The Golden Bears have a lot of good things going for them right now. Mike Montgomery has them positioned to potentially win the Pac-10 this year, they are gaining national recognition in polls right now, and they have one of the best backcourts in the country in Jerome Randle and Patrick Christopher.

Before Montgomery took over it is very unlikely Cal would ever be this high on a list when discussing the future of Pac-10 teams, but Montgomery is one of the best college coaches in the country and turned the Golden Bears around quicker than anyone expected.

If Cal can make a tournament run into at least the Sweet Sixteen, then recruits will have much more motivation to moving to the Bay. Montgomery has begun to assemble a nice 2010 class with the likes of Allen Crabbe and Gary Franklin signing on to be maybe the next great backcourt for Cal.

The only way it appears Cal could lose is if he is unable to convince recruits from attending the next three schools on our list. He was already able to convince Franklin to turn down Arizona and forward Richard Solomon turned down Boston College, but there will be more recruiting battles in the future if Montgomery wants to make Cal into a national title contender. One thing that is for certain is that no matter what, in California, the Golden Bears will always be the little brother to the Bruins of UCLA.

3. Arizona

The Wildcats made out like bank robbers in hiring Sean Miller to be the coach for the foreseeable future. Miller already was leading a very successful Xavier team, but now walks into a situation where he will be leading a program with national prominence, a stellar history, and strong recruiting base. With what he was able to accomplish at Xavier, it could be dangerous what he will do with a school with the stature of Arizona.

While at the end of last year I thought Arizona would be among the cellar dwellers of the Pac-10, even with Miller, the new Arizona coach has made me think twice by bringing in a highly ranked recruiting class and convincing Nic Wise to stay another year. It will be tough for Arizona to win games, especially with a lack of post presence now that Jordan Hill is off with the New York Knicks, but with Wise they will always be able to at least compete in any game they play.

Long term the future is very bright. They are among the favorites for Ray McCallum, one of the top remaining players for 2010. Miller proved he could recruit at Xavier, now imagine what he will be able to do with a school like Arizona. Could be scary.

After a brief hiatus, it appears the Arizona program is back on track to once again be one of the perennial favorites to win the conference.

2. Washington

Lorenzo Romar has brought the Huskies to a level of stature in the college basketball world many thought never would be possible. Once an average program at best, Washington is now on the fringe at becoming a perennial tournament team that can challenge for a Final Four run any year.

The run-and-gun system just flat out works for the Huskies, and that is what the team is back to doing, reminiscent of the Brandon Roy/Nate Robinson days. With a backcourt of Abdul Gaddy and Isaiah Thomas the Huskies will be in position to beat almost any team in the country, both have the ability to take over games at any time.

The biggest thing that the Huskies have going for them is Romar. It appears as if he could be a lifer as coach for the Huskies, no other job interests him because he has his dream job at his alma mater. The Kings came calling, but he politely turned them down. With his offensive style of play and defensive tenacity, that will not be the last time the NBA comes calling, but Romar is where he wants to be.

The other big thing going for Washington is the local talent that has made the Seattle area one of the best places in the country for basketball. Aaron Brooks, Jon Brockman, Will Conroy, Jamal Crawford, Aaron Dotson, Spencer Hawes, Adam Morrison, Venoy Overton, Luke Ridnour, Nate Robinson, Brandon Roy, Rodney Stuckey, Jason Terry, Marvin Williams, Martell Webster, Terrence Williams, Avery Bradley, Peyton Siva, Josh Smith, Tony Wroten, Gaddy, and Thomas are all some of the names that have come out of the area over the past decade. Romar has the ability to tap into the recruiting base whenever which should ensure that the Huskies are able to stay near the top of the conference. Romar has proven to be one of the best recruiters in the country, so convincing even prominent out of state players could become more likely.

Washington has a bright future, I continue to say that someday the team will be playing on Lorenzo Romar court. It could be fun for a long time Dawg fans.

1. UCLA

While the may not win the title every year, I do not see the Bruins ever relinquishing this top spot. At least for a very long time.

UCLA has everything, which is why it is one of the top programs in the country and maybe the best program of all time. Recruits are just drawn to the team because of its history, market, prominence, and ability to challenge for a Final Four every year. This a school that fired Steve Lavin when he made the Sweet Sixteen almost every year as a head coach and was released after one stinker of a season.

Under Ben Holwand the great recruiting and winning have only continued. Like I said in the “NEXT”article, there appears to be an interesting rivalry brewing between the Bruins and the Huskies. But for now UCLA can say they beat out the Huskies in this category.

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