Pac-12 hoops: Who and what to look for in '11-'12

October 27, 2011, 7:56 pm
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For the college sports fan, there is nothing better than the confluence of football and basketball seasons. While we in the Bay watch Stanford chase perfection and Cal struggle with mediocrity on the gridiron, its fair to wonder whether the reverse will be true on the hardcourt.The Bears are among the favorites in the inaugural go-round of the Pac-12. Allen Crabbe destined for stardom in his sophomore season; Harper Kamp has emerged as one of the conferences top post players; Jorge Gutierrez is an experienced leader not to mention a mega-pest on the defensive end; Brandon Smith has blossomed into a solid point guard. Both Crabbe and Gutierrez are on the Wooden Award Watch List.As it turns out, Cals biggest asset is also its biggest question mark: will Mike Montgomerys health allow him to coach at the start of the season? Montgomery underwent a surgical procedure last Wednesday, and the school has not released any further information.UPDATE: Montgomery had cancer surgery
Regardless, expect Cal to challenge UCLA and Arizona for tops in the Pac.Across the Bay, Stanford is moving in the right direction. Last years epic recruiting class is now a year older, with a lot of experience under its collective belt. Anthony Brown spent his summer playing for the US Under-19 team at the World Championships. Dwight Powell is a freak athlete, though admittedly still somewhat raw. Keep an eye on Josh Huestis, a get after it wing player who might well lead the team in rebounds if he gets enough minutes.The Cardinal also have a huge luxury in four experienced seniors they had none last season. Josh Owens is the face of the franchise. He needs to stay aggressive and be a guy who can put this team on his shoulders if need be. Oh, and freshman Chasson Randle will have an immediate impact.RELATED: Stanford Basketball Preview ShowStanford will be back in the NCAA Tournament next season. Question is, are the Fab 5 sophomores ready to lead them there now?Burning questions from around the conference:Arizona: Will freshmen Josiah Turner and Nick Johnson live up to expectations?UCLA:How many black eyes will Josh Smith and Reeves Nelson cause? Bonus question: Will that number eclipse the number of Nelsons (visible) tattoos? Washington: Can Abdul Gaddy and Tony Wroten Jr. co-exist in the backcourt? Oregon: To what extent will the new toned down court at Matthew Knight Arena cut migraine recurrence in Eugene? Oregon State: Did Calvin Haynes, Omari Johnson, and Lathem Wallace finally use up their 8 years of eligibility? If so, outside of Jared Cunningham, whos left?USC: Brazilian tour felt more like Brazilian wax when Jio Fontan tore his ACL. How will depleted Trojans replace his production?Colorado: Will 2011 NCAA tournament snub be the closest the Buffs get to Dancing for foreseeable future? Washington State: Are Marcus Capers, Reggie Moore, and Abe Lodwick enough to compete without Warriors first-round pick Klay Thompson and low-block-menace DeAngelo Kasto?Arizona State: Why are the Solar Satans playing a road exhibition game? Grand Canyon University demanded a home-and-home?Utah: Will Utahs hoop team win more games than its football team? Welcome to the Pac-12, friends.

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