Once again, I start with the predicted changes. Cal loses a ton of talent this off-season. They not only lose the four players on the team that played the most minutes last year (Jerome Randle, Patrick Christopher, Jamal Boykin, and Theo Robertson), but all four were incredibly efficient scorers. This is going to hurt. On the other hand, things are starting to come together for Sean Miller at Arizona. Arizona played only two upperclassmen in the rotation last year, and the playing time given to younger players should pay dividends this year.
Next I present the expected change in offense and defense. USC loses a number of players, but the return of Nikola Vucecic, the team’s only efficient scorer, and the addition of Bryce Jones should lead to a slight uptick in the offense. Shot-blocking DeAngelo Casto is back for Washington St., and he should contribute to a slight defensive resurgence for the Cougars.
The next table shows the prediction for the conference. While a few teams are ticking upward, the bottom of this league is still very mediocre. One problem is that recruiting did not really turn around this year. The Pac-10 does not have any RSCI top 10 recruits this year, and even trails the Big 10 in top 100 freshmen this year.
The Pac-10 is the type of league where I love having an empirical model, because I do not have a good feel for how this league will perform this year. And the model does point to some sleeper teams like USC. The natural instinct is to say that USC loses four key players from a hideous team last year, and should finish near the bottom of the league. But that’s probably an overstatement. The Trojans return their two most important defensive players in Alex Stephenson and Nikola Vucecic, and Kevin O’Neil has the team believing they can win by playing elite defense. While USC may still have the worst offense in the Pac-10, if the defense stays dominant, the team should be able to finish in the middle of the pack.