College Basketball Preview
M College BB
Weekly lineup
 Sunday, October 31
Pac-10 Conference
By Jay Bilas
Special to

 The Pac-10 was strong last season, a fact that was blurred by the league's bizarre showing in the postseason. Considered the No. 3 conference in the nation, the Pac-10 placed four teams into the NCAA field (Stanford, Arizona, UCLA and Washington). However, only Mike Montgomery's Cardinal came away with an NCAA win before the mighty Cardinal suffered embarrassment at the hands of Gonzaga in the second round.

Three Pac-10 teams settled for the NIT (USC, Oregon and California), with the Golden Bears winning the NIT crown. The conference's postseason performance in 1999 was a shocker simply because it had shown so well in the previous five seasons. With so many veterans and talented underclassmen leaving the Pac 10 this past year, the conference has several question marks heading into Y2K.

Talented inside players like Mark Madsen of Stanford, Michael Wright and Loren Woods of Arizona, Dan Gadzuric and Jerome Moiso of UCLA, Brian Scalabrine of USC and Sean Lampley of California fill many Pac-10 rosters. But the story out on the Left Coast will be point guards. Several teams have voids at the point while the others have young, barely established floor leaders.

Only Oregon State's Deaundra Tanner has more than one season guiding a team under his belt. Oregon's Darius Wright, Arizona State's Alton Mason, Washington's Senque Carey and USC's Brandon Granville all ran their teams for most of, if not all of last season. All of these players showed promise at the point and had flashes of brilliance. Tanner is the best scorer of the bunch and the most consistent, Carey may be the quickest, and Wright can challenge to be the best distributor and handler.

The newcomers to the point are Washington State freshman Nick Graham (who is coach Paul Graham's son), UCLA's Earl Watson (who played in Baron Davis' stead some last season), freshmen Donte Smith or Shantay Legans at Cal, Arizona freshman Jason Gardner and often-injured Michael McDonald at Stanford. Watson should probably be among the most experienced, but has not been a full-time point guard. He and Gardner have the biggest shoes to fill. McDonald must stay healthy to be a full-timer -- he is the key to Stanford's title hopes.

The Pac 10 is a league with a large middle. Several teams are contenders, and there are precious few easy wins for the top teams. How the point guards perform will determine how good the Pac 10 will be. Look for Arizona, Stanford, UCLA and Oregon to fight it out for the top spot, with Oregon State, Southern Cal and Washington better than people think.

All-Conference team
Deaundra Tanner, junior, G, Oregon State, 15.8 ppg, 4.7 rpg
Eddie House, senior, G, Arizona State, 18.9 ppg, 4.9 rpg
Alex Scales, senior, G, Oregon, 14.3 ppg, 5.9 rpg
Mark Madsen, senior, F, Stanford, 13.1 ppg, 9.0 rpg
Michael Wright, sophomore, F, Arizona, 13.9 ppg, 8.8 rpg

Player of the year: Mark Madsen
Madsen spent the summer working on his game. He played on the World University Games team, and wound up sitting behind Kenyon Martin because he needed work on his overall skills. Madsen is an absolute beast in the paint, and he is responsible for much of Stanford's offense when shooters curl around him down in the low post. He sets huge screens and frees people up, but it is Madsen who finds himself open in those situations when he turns and seals his defender. If Madsen improves his free-throw shooting, he will be a lock for player of the year.

All-Newcomer team
Jason Gardner, freshman, G, Arizona
Donte Jones, freshman, G, California
Jason Kapono, freshman, F, UCLA
Casey Jacobsen, freshman, F, Stanford
Loren Woods, junior, C, Arizona

Newcomer of the year: Jason Kapono
The newcomer of the year is the toughest call of all in the Pac 10. Casey Jacobsen of Stanford and Jason Gardner of Arizona will both be stars, but Kapono is perhaps the better all-around player at this stage. Kapono has a great understanding of the game and is very skilled. Often times you will hear coaches say Kapono "knows how to play," which is the ultimate compliment. Kapono has an extraordinary feel for what is going on out on the court and he can really shoot it. He will start at UCLA.

Best backcourt: Oregon
Alex Scales, Darius Wright, Frederick Jones and David Jackson form the most athletic and experienced corps of guards in the league. Jackson is a transfer from Utah who has Final Four experience, and Scales and Wright are proven commodities. The wild card is Jones, who is headed for a breakout season. This group could be outstanding.

Best frontcourt: Arizona
Michael Wright, Loren Woods, Richard Jefferson, Justin Wessell, Richard Anderson and Luke Walton form a formidable and deep lineup. Jefferson brings athleticism and versatility, while Wright and Woods should be the best rebounding and shot-blocking tandem in the league.

Team on the rise: Oregon
Ernie Kent got all the way to a final four last season, only it was of the NIT variety. Oregon lost five straight games in the Pac-10 last year by four points or less (including one on the controversial halfcourt shot by USC's Adam Spanich), which left the Ducks out of the NCAA Tournament.

Kent has a fine group, and perhaps the most experienced team in the league. The Ducks have a very talented backcourt and a solid inside player in A.D. Smith. Oregon has really never been a Pac-10 contender ... until now.

Team on the fall: California
"Team on the fall" simply means that this team will not be where it was last year when expectations were high. It will be a very temporary slide, but California will not be as good as it was last season. Gone are Thomas Kilgore, Michael Gill, Francisco Elson and Geno Carlisle, who accounted for three quarters of the team's scoring. In comes a talented group of newcomers to replace them.

Sean Lampley will have to expand his game beyond rebounding and interior scoring. Ben Braun is an outstanding coach who will have this team playing better than its individual parts, but the Golden Bears may be a year away from contending. An NIT berth might be the realistic goal.

Unsung player: Brian Scalabrine, USC
The big redhead is an outstanding all-around player who can run the court, shoot with range, handle the ball some and pass. Scalabrine has good skills and could easily find himself on the All-Pac-10 team. Scalabrine has inside-outside ability, and will get tested right away with games against North Carolina and Duke in late November.

Toughest road game: Oregon State
The crowd in Gill Coliseum is rabid and really helped the Beavers when they beat Arizona, Stanford and UCLA, all of which were in the top 10 at the time. Crowd control will be an issue in Corvallis this season.

Postseason teams
NCAA: Arizona, UCLA, Stanford, Oregon
NIT: Oregon State, USC, Washington

Arizona State
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Washington State

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