October 5, 2006

Pac-10 notebook

The most intriguing development relevant to Pac-10 basketball this offseason was the play of Oregon on its five-game tour of the Bahamas, particularly the individual performance of maligned point guard Aaron Brooks.

The Ducks won all five of their exhibition games on the tour, averaging 108 points along the way.

Brooks, a senior from Seattle, averaged 21 points, six rebounds and five assists per game, including a triple-double (15 points, 13 boards, 11 assists) in the final game of the trip.

Star wing Malik Hairston (6-6, 200 lb. junior) was just as impressive as he averaged 25 points, 6.4 rebounds and six assists.

The pleasant surprise of the trip was the play of forward Maarty Leunen (6-9, 215 lb. junior), who had five straight double-doubles en route to averages of 16.2 points and 13.6 rebounds per game.

Unfortunately, injuries forced guards Bryce Taylor (three) and Churchill Odia (four) to miss multiple games each.

Odia, a transfer point guard from Xavier, only played briefly in the final game, scoring two points on a pair of free throws, while Taylor scored 49 points in his two games.

Oregon should get off to a fast start in 2007 thanks to a weak schedule that only features a game at Georgetown as the lone non-conference game of note.

The Ducks open and close conference play with games against rival Oregon State and could be the sleeper in the 2007 conference race.

Bruins lose recruit but lock up coach

Defending Pac-10 champion and national runner-up UCLA lost out on 6-foot-9 Serbian forward Marko Spica because of test scores and the athletic inside-outside player has since enrolled at Central Michigan, where he projects as the top freshman in the MAC this season.

Losing out on Spica may have been disappointing for the Bruins but head coach Ben Howland's new seven-year contract that runs through 2012-13 is more than enough to keep fans in Westwood happy for years to come. And, like it or not, the reality is that if it's good for UCLA, it's good for the Pac-10.

Pac-10 teams' schedule strength mediocre in 2007

Outside of Arizona, UCLA and, arguably, Stanford, most Pac-10 teams can expect low marks for strength of schedule this season, particularly based on non-conference opponents.

Washington is expected to challenge the Bruins and Wildcats for the conference title this year but, once again, the Huskies have a weak schedule, especially to start the year, as was the case in 2006. Washington plays just one significant non-conference game (at Gonzaga) but does play host to LSU.

Oregon's schedule is even worse to begin the year, although games at Rice and Georgetown are definite challenges. Still, the Ducks will play 10 of their first 12 games at home and could burst out to an 11-1 record going into conference play at Oregon State Dec. 30.

Though lesser teams litter its schedule, ASU's first three games of 2007 provide plenty of challenge as a barometer as Herb Sendek's first Sun Devils team will open at Minnesota, at Xavier and then host Iowa before a run of eight weaker opponents before Pac-10 play.

Washington State, Cal and USC each play decent schedules with various big games such as at Kansas (USC), at San Diego State (Cal), Gonzaga (WSU) and Cal's inclusion in the Great Alaska Shootout.

Another Serb enters the Pac-10

Spica, from Belgrade, may not be at UCLA anymore but Oregon State recently added one of his fellow countrymen to return the number of Serbians playing in the Pac-10 to three.

The Beavers agreed to a financial aid deal with point guard Vojin Svilar, who will challenge for the starting point guard spot along with redshirt freshman Josh Tarver now that Beavers head coach Jay John has said he plans to shift Wesley Washington to his natural shooting guard position.

Svilar, who is from Smederevo, joins Arizona forward Ivan Radenovic (Belgrade) and Cal guard Nikola Knezevic (Belgrade) as Serbians playing in the Pac-10.

Hansen's early honors favorites

Champion: UCLA

Sleeper: Oregon

Player of the Year: Radenovic, Arizona

Freshman of the Year: Spencer Hawes, Washington

Coach of the Year: Sendek, ASU

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