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November 2, 2011

The Pres' Palouse Park Bench - It's Men's Hoop Season!


There isn't much to say about the football team's loss at Oregon. I think I can speak for all of us when I say, "We saw that coming from farther away than Kim Kardashian and Kris Humphries' divorce."

Instead, we turn our focus to the hardwood. And I'll be honest: since I began to go to Washington State, my love for college basketball has blossomed past pretty much every thing other than baseball. I absolutely love the electric feel off a gym on game day. It seems to build towards tip off like no other sport can. It also probably has something to do with the fact that the first Cougar game I ever attended was their upset over Gonzaga and I got to watch a team go to the NCAA Tournament two straight seasons.

So this week we'll give you our annual Palouse Park Bench 2011-2012 Pacific-12 Men's Basketball Extravaganza. We tried finding a sponsor but no one was interested in paying me in cases of delicious winter microbrews. So here is the projected order of finish for the first year of Pac-12 basketball.



1. California Golden Bears

Biggest Strength: Returners

Plenty of people are back from California's relative good season last year. Most importantly is perhaps the most underrated guard in the entire conference in Jorge Gutierrez. Add in Richard Solomon, Allen Crabbe, Emerson Murray and Harper Kamp and Cal shouldn't have any issues putting up points this year.

Biggest Weakness: Soft out of conference schedule

Cal's bench is relatively decent so they may get a lot of playing time early on because the Golden Bears' schedule before the Pac-12 gets underway is as soft as Kirstie Alley's doughy physique. And the fact that the Pac-12 is actually decent for the first time in years doesn't help them either.

Toughest Out Of Conference Game: Georgia

Seriously, that's the toughest one.


2. UCLA Bruins

Biggest Strength: The Front Court

Reeves Nelson and Josh Smith are both back. The biggest advantage for Nelson is his inside and outside game while Smith is absolutely dominate when he's in the low post.

Biggest Weakness: Smith

Yes, it's possible to be a strength and weakness as far as Smith goes. He's listed at over 300 pounds and rumor has it he may not be any skinner from last year or maybe even bigger.

Toughest Out Of Conference Game: Texas

Only two games for UCLA in November and this is how they start December.


3. Arizona Wildcats

Biggest Strength: The Guards

Arizona might have one of the best platoons on the perimeter in the conference between Wise and Fogg. Those two can make or break just about every game for the Wildcats and they'll need to, especially after Derrick Williams departure.

Biggest Weakness: Frontcourt

Hard to believe but without Williams, the Wildcats are very weak up front. Solomon Hill is an experienced forward but his skills just aren't there when compared to Williams'. Of course, no one really is.

Toughest Out Of Conference Game: at #10 Florida

In Gainesville and a preseason Top 10 team. Toughest one by far but St. Johns and Gonzaga are also on the OOC schedule.


4. Washington Huskies

Biggest Strength: The Guards

Arizona might have the best but Washington definitely has the best guards in the conference. Abdul Gaddy will be growing up this year and Terrance Ross and C.J. Wilcox are both excellent. The wildcard is how well Tony Wroten plays in concert with the other guards.

Biggest Weakness: Frontcourt

Same strengths and weaknesses as Washington but I give the nod to Arizona because Washington is very thin up front. N'Diaye has shown he's prone to picking up a lot of foul quickly and behind him there is literally no height of any significance.

Toughest Out of Conference Game: vs. #6 Duke

It's in New York City too.


5. USC Trojans

Biggest Strength: Jio Fontan

He's the only starter back and he is a darn good guard. The Trojans will have to lean heavily on him or rely on some relatively unseasoned guards to score points.

Biggest Weakness: Where's the Scoring?

Almost all the Trojans top scorers graduated from the previous season so we'll have to see where the scoring comes from this season.

Toughest Out Of Conference Schedule: #13 Kansas

It is Kansas after all


6. Oregon Ducks

Biggest Strength: The Matt

For whatever reason, it seems good teams have a tough time playing the Ducks in Eugene. It might be the barely visible midcourt line or some type of voodoo but whatever it is, it's tough on opponents.

Biggest Weakness: Depth

The scoring may take a big drop off after Catron, Strowbridge and Armstead buggered off. Garrett Sim can score but he does it in bunches. So the bench will need to pick up some of the leg work.

Toughest Out Of Conference Game: #7 Vanderbilt

First game of the season too.


7. Washington State Cougars

Biggest Strength: Guards

Seems to be a theme in the conference but Washington State has a good compliment of guards in Mychal Ladd, Faisel Aden, DaVonte Lacy and of course Reggie Moore. In virtually every game the Cougars will have the better guards

Biggest Weakness: Is Anyone Tall?

Casto is gone for Turkey so the Cougars depth up front is thinner than it already was. D.J. Shelton should help out up front with Brock Motum but there is very little experience in the low post.

Toughest Out Of Conference Game: Gonzaga

Start out the season in the toughest way.


8. Stanford Cardinal

Biggest Strength: Youth

Ten of the 15 players on the roster are underclassman. This team is going places at some point and certainly stands a chance this year to do so as well.

Biggest Weakness: No Jeremy Green

Which means the points are fewer and further between.

Toughest Out Of Conference Game: North Carolina State

Only eight OOC games for the Cardinal.


9. Arizona State Sun Devils

Biggest Strength: Trent Lockett

The guy is just a tremendous talent and Herb Sendek's team is going to lean on him a lot to score some points.

Biggest Weakness: Who?

Abbot, Kuksiks and McMillan are all gone. Lockett was ASU's top scorer last year but now the three guys behind him are gone. So who is going to help score?

Toughest Out Of Conference Game: Nevada

Pretty soft schedule.



10. Oregon State Beavers

Biggest Strength: Jared Cunningham

The leading scorer for the Beavers is back and like Lockett for Arizona State, the Beavs will lean heavily on him for points.

Biggest Weakness: They Shall Overcome

Every year, we've been promised the Beavers will break through. Is this finally the year they get it done? They're down here for me because I don't think they can.

Toughest Out Of Conference Game: Texas

Other toughest is Idaho.


11. Colorado Buffaloes

Biggest Strength: Plenty of Seniors

Four seniors in the line-up for the Buffs creates some stability

Biggest Weakness: Bye Bye Points

The Buffs top five scores departed after last season. This won't go well.

Toughest Out Of Conference Game: Air Force

Georgia is also there but AFA usually plays a tough defensive game.


12. Utah Utes

Biggest Strength: Josh Watkins

The one guy the Utes are going to have to lean on, like many of the bottom tier teams, to do a majority of their scoring.

Biggest Weakness: Welcome to the Pac-12

The Mountain West, outside of BYU and SDSU last season, isn't really a great basketball conference and there will certainly be a shock to the system.

Toughest Out of Conference Game: Brigham Young

The Holy War, basketball style



PICKS:

Last Week: 4-2
Overall: 51-14

This doesn't go well for Colorado. Of course, nothing really is lately.

USC 41, Colorado 14


Have fun with this Oregon State!

Stanford 51, Oregon State 10


This is, as the experts say, a bad game.

Arizona 35, Utah 24


UCLA may have upset Cal, but this is ASU.

Arizona State 31, UCLA 17


Last game at Husky Stadium before the remodel. I think the Dawgs actually have what it takes.

Washington 47, Oregon 39


I'm losing my confidence in this team week to week. And it gets no easier against a decent team in Cal.

California 28, Washington State 21


Obscure Pick of the Week:
New Mexico has directional schools?

Western New Mexico 17, New Mexico Highlands 10


Dunderhead of the Week: The autumn. Seriously, the freezing temperature this week hit me like a truck.

And, of course, John Buccigross.






+++++++sponsored by Greg Davis Sports Photography+++++++++

The 2011-12 athletic season is here…and you know what that means…It's time for a whole new season of Cougar Athletics! Football, soccer and volleyball, just to name a few, are playing their 2011 seasons. If you need "game action" photographs for your newspaper, magazine, web site, blog, etc., then Greg Davis Sports Photography should be your choice for all things "Cougar" and "Pac-10 Conference"! Coverage for specific athletes or upcoming events is also available. Check out the images from games, practices and events from last season, and be sure to come back often for uploads from all of this season's action.


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