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Saturday, February 6, 2010

The Pac 10

I'm sure you've heard rumblings (on this site too) about how mediocre Pac 10 basketball has been this season.  It's quite possible only one team may qualify for the tournament.  This unprecedented for a BCS conference - even the SEC which is not known for basketball routinely gets three bids.  The most common reasoning I've heard for the conference's poor season has been the number of players drafted by the NBA over the last couple of years.  Let's take a look.
School Record RPI Players Lost
Arizona St. 16-7 (6-4) 76 James Harden, Jeff Pendergraph
California 14-8 (6-4) 27 Ryan Anderson, DeVon Hardin*
Arizona 12-10 (6-4) 57 Jerryd Bayless, Jordan Hill, Chase Budinger
UCLA 11-11 (6-4) 123 Russell Westbrook, Kevin Love, Luc Mbah a Moute*,
Jrue Holliday, Darrin Collison*
Washington 15-7 (5-5) 60 Jon Brockman
USC 13-9 (5-5) 83 OJ Mayo, DeMar DeRozan, Taj Gibson
Oregon 12-9 (4-5) 137 Malik Hairston*, Maarty Leunen*
Stanford 10-12 (4-6) 148 Brook Lopez, Robin Lopez
Wash. St. 14-8 (4-6) 110 Kyle Weaver*
Oregon St. 9-12 (3-6) 205

* denotes this player would be unable to help this season due to exhausted eligibility

Wow, that's a lot of players. UCLA in particular could have four more players on their team right now.  I still think this is a bit misleading.  I think the majority of players who know they will be first round picks as an underclassmen bolt, but how many do as freshman? Last year two players declared for the draft as after their first year in college making it likely that if it wasn't for the silly NBA rule these guys wouldn't have attended college at all.  I think schools realize the possibility of this happening when they offer a high profile kid a scholarship.  Only John Calipari has come to grips with it.

My take on this is, yeah, the Pac 10 has lost a ton of talent to the NBA which has caused typical contenders (UCLA, Arizona, ASU) to come back to the pack.  The result is a bunched conference with no elite team.  But saying the Pac 10 is a terrible basketball conference is lazy and doesn't address the real issue.  After all they've had 21 players drafted in the last two seasons.  The question analysts should be asking is where is that talent now?  I don't see any underclassmen as sure thing first rounders.  Last time I checked, when a player leaves school you get that scholarship back to offer to a new recruit.  This is likely just the result of a cyclical pattern but it bears watching next season.
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