Now that the season is officially over, we can take an early look at what the Pac-10 may look like for next year. Of course, there is still the late recruiting period to get to as well as coaching changes and early entries to the NBA, so we may have to readdress these rankings in a few weeks, but here's how I see the conference looking for next year at this moment in time.
Return everyone except Quincy Pondexter. A big loss, but with improvement from the returning players the squad could (and should) be better in 2011. That's before you factor the new faces of C.J. Wilcox and Desmond Simmons into the mix, as well as the 2 open scholarships Lorenzo Romar has to work with. If they bring in an impact big man, this could be a top-10 team.
2) Arizona State
Lose Eric Boateng and Derek Glasser, but just a year ago they lost the much better duo of James Harden and Jeff Pendergraph and didn't regress nearly as much as people thought. With Ty Abbott, Jamelle McMillan and Rihards Kuksiks coming back to play Herb Sendek's matchup zone this team should improve.
Could contend for the conference championship, or could finish in the middle of the pack. It all comes down to how the team replaces Nic Wise (their only loss). Momo Jones is going to be the leading candidate, but he's going to have to become a much better distributor for this team to excel. If he does they could be dangerous with Derrick Williams leading the way.
More roster turnover for the Bruins as Michael Roll, Nikola Dragovic and James Keefe all graduate and Drew Gordon transferred midseason, while J'Mison Morgan and Mike Moser plan to transfer as well. But the Bruins should rebound for next season, and they could do it with the best frontcourt in the conference of Josh Smith, Reeves Nelson and Tyler Honeycutt. They need Malcolm Lee to take a step forward, but signing a JUCO point guard would really help this squad out... oh, they did that: Lazeric Jones.
5) Washington State
The third team on the list that returns everybody but one player: Nikola Koprivika, whose 3-point shooting will be missed, but should be replaced fairly easily by returning players. Also had a number of players transfer out, though the only really big loss there was Xavier Thames, though they're bringing in JUCO Faisal Aiden, who should take over Thames' minutes. The question is if this team is going to play any defense next year, as they were the worst defensive team in the conference last year. Have to believe that there's going to be improvement under Ken Bone in year 2, and if not there then certainly in terms of players' legs not dying down the stretch.
Losing Dwight Lewis, Marcus Johnson and Mike Gerrity will be tough to replace, and Leonard Washington deciding to transfer was a bit surprising, but with Alex Stepheson and Nikola Vucevic coming back inside, this team will again be stout defensively. They just need to find a few players who can put the ball in the basket. A playmaking guard would do wonders for this team, but it doesn't look like there's one to be found.
Losing Landry Fields is going to hurt a lot, but Johnny Dawkins has a gem of a recruiting class coming in, and has done a pretty good job of coaching the mess that he was left with. You can win games with Jeremy Green as your best player, but I think this program is still a year away from getting back to respectability.
The rebuilding effort in Berkeley has begun. Jerome Randle, Patrick Christopher, Theo Robertson and Jamal Boykin are all gone, and to add insult to injury D.J. Seeley is transferring. Harper Kamp will rejoin the team after an injury and redshirt year, and the recruiting class is good. Mike Montgomery is a good enough coach that they won't exactly be giving away games, but the exodus of talent means that this team is going to have to take a year or two to restock the cupboard.
9) Oregon State
I won't be sold on Craig Robinson until I see some real progress. They were supposed to be a top half of the conference team last year, yet had some horrible losses in the early schedule to Texas A&M CC, Sacramento State and Illinois Chicago, and that was with basically everybody back. This season they lose players: Roeland Schaftenaar, Josh Tarver and Seth Tarver. There's some young talent in the program, but it's not on the level of the upper half programs in the conference.
Still need to find a coach. The loss of Tajuan Porter will probably be a positive for the program, but as of right now they have no commitments for next season, and when the new coach arrives there's almost surely going to be some player turnover via transfers and possibly an early entry to the draft (Mike Dunigan). Tons of young players, so if the right coach gets on campus he could give this team some upward mobility, but right now the program is not in great shape.