We continue our look at some potential surprise teams in college basketball in 2010-11. Today, it’s the Pac-10, which is hoping to rebound after a dreadful season, and the Big Ten, which figures to be the strongest league in the nation.
The Cougars finished last in the Pac-10 in Ken Bone’s first season as the boss in Pullman, but this team is poised to make a big move in 2010-11. Depth is a concern, but the Cougars boast three all-conference-caliber players in swingman Klay Thompson, point guard Reggie Moore and forward DeAngelo Casto. Thompson emerged as one of the nation’s top scorers as a sophomore, averaging 19.6 points per game. He was asked, at times, to carry too much of the Cougs’ scoring load, which contributed to his poor shooting percentage (.411). Moore struggled with consistency and wore down late in the season as a freshman, but he is a capable scorer and distributor who should be one of the league’s top point guards this season. Casto, a burly 6-8, 241-pound power forward, is a presence offensively (10.7 ppg), on the boards (7.1 rpg) and on defense (2.2 bpg). Bone believes his production across the board will improve in ’10-11.
Washington is the overwhelming pick to win the Pac-10, but there should be a fierce battle for the next few spots in the league race. Arizona has a bunch of young talent and UCLA should be much improved, but don’t be shocked if Washington State is a factor all season long.
The Wildcats suffered a blow over the summer when Kevin Coble opted to forgo his final season of eligibility, but Bill Carmody’s club still has enough talent to reach the NCAA Tournament for the first time in school history. With Coble out last season, John Shurna emerged as one of the top players in the Big Ten. A 6-9 forward with a varied skill set, Shurna scored 20 points or more eight times during the Big Ten season, highlighted by two 31-point games and two other 29-point games. The Wildcats feature one of the league’s most underrated players, senior point guard Michael Thompson, and an emerging star in sophomore swingman Drew Crawford, the 2010 co-Big Ten Freshman of the Year. Thompson is a four-year starter who has developed into a reliable 3-point threat (.411), while Crawford gives Northwestern some much-needed athleticism on the perimeter.
The Big Ten is loaded this season and appears to be the best conference in the nation. We believe seven teams from the league will reach the Field of 68 and have predicted Northwestern as team No. 7.