I really think we have a shot at it this year. Good young nucleus (Honeycutt, Reeves Nelson, Lee) with some nice additions (Lamb, Zeke). We didn't lose all that much from last year asides from Roll, and the players got some good experience in the CBH system while getting their butts handed to them last year. Perhaps most importantly, the Pac-10 is significantly weaker this year than it was last. My predictions:
Honeycutt really blossoms and becomes our primary scorer on offense. I'd like to say something to the tune of 16 ppg, 7 rpg, 4 apg.
Lee continues to develop his game and becomes more efficient. I'd like to seem him average 15 ppg on around 45% shooting.
Zeke beats out Jerime for the starting PG gig and does a solid job. Word is that Jerime has also stepped up his game, so the two should be splitting the playing time relatively evenly, let's say 60/40.
Josh Smith has an impact right out of the box. Obviously he's not Kevin Love, but he'll be a space eater and guy who can snatch close to double digit rebounds every game. Not a whole lot of depth in the post, I expect to see Brendan Lane build on the promising signs he showed before he got hurt last year.
RN continues on the same path he was on last year, except hopefully this time it will be in a winning effort. Needs to work on the FT% and finishing around the basket more consistently, I think he'll improve in both.
Our team lacks guys who can stretch the floor, even more so than in years past. Lee and Anderson were truly atrocious last year from behind the arc, hopefully they've been working on their J's over the summer. I don't see either of them ever becoming consistent jump shooters, but we'll see. Meanwhile I think Honeycutt's shooting will be a pleasant surprise. Perhaps Carlino gets some run off the bench as our zone buster. I expect to see a lot of teams packing it in against us this year.
We'll win the Pac-10 with 12-14 wins in the conference. Don't think any one team will really distance itself from the pack, everyone seems to be pretty even. We get into the tournament and win one or two games.
Side note: Bummed that the Wear twins have to sit out a year. If they were eligible this year I would say that the Bruins would be the hands-down favorite to win the conference title and make a Sweet 16 run. A down year for the Pac-10 this year, at max 2 or 3 teams make the tournament.
I really believe that we have the most talent in the Pac-10. We have all of our best guys coming back and we added some guys who will have an immediate impact, while only losing two key players. Throw in a wide open (and I mean wide open) Pac-10, and that extra year for our key guys in the Ben Howland system and I think we got a winner.