IN THE 82 days since a Pac-10 team played a basketball game, three schools have changed coaches and seven underclassmen have entered the NBA draft. No question, the league will have a different look in 2009-10.
Enough is in place, though, to make an early projection of next season's race (last season's record — overall, Pac-10 — and conference standing in parentheses):
1. WASHINGTON (26-9, 14-4/1st): A peaceful offseason so far in Seattle, where Quincy Pondexter, who made huge late-season strides last year, earned a spot on the U.S. team playing in the World University Games. Incoming freshman guard Abdul Gaddy will team with returnees Isaiah Thomas and Venoy Overton to give UW a terrific perimeter.
2. CAL (22-11, 11-7/tied 3rd): In guards Jerome Randle and Patrick Christopher, the Bears have two players returning from the 10-man all-conference team, but they still need a lift in the post from JC transfer Markhuri Sanders-Frison. Cal's chances of challenging for the top spot depend in part on the recovery of three players who had offseason surgery — Theo Robertson (hip), Harper Kamp (knee) and Jorge Gutierrez (knee). Kamp is the most uncertain.
3. UCLA (26-9, 13-5/2nd): The Bruins lost three seniors who combined to score nearly 39 points per game plus freshman Jrue Holiday to the NBA draft. Holiday's departure leaves UCLA without a clear answer at point guard. San Jose's Drew Gordon, expected to compete for a starting forward spot, should be OK after a minor knee injury earlier this month. The Bruins have talent but will be very young.
4. OREGON STATE (18-18, 7-11/8th): Can coach Craig Robinson's Beavers make another big leap? They return much of the team that won the College Basketball Invitational and add a well-regarded five-man recruiting class that includes San Leandro guard Jared Cunningham.
5. ARIZONA STATE (25-10, 11/7/tied 3rd): James Harden and Jeff Pendergraph, now pursuing pro careers, combined to provide the Sun Devils nearly 35 points and 14 rebounds per game last season. In their absence, complementary players such as Derek Glasser must step into lead roles. Coach Herb Sendek has his defensive system in place and is building a foundation. The Sun Devils won't fall off the edge.
6. ARIZONA (21-14, 9-9/tied 5th): A big rebuilding job for ex-Xavier coach Sean Miller, who arrived on campus as Jordan Hill and Chase Budinger were signing up for the NBA draft. The return of point guard Nic Wise is a huge lift, and Miller began restocking the shelves quickly by signing three players this spring, led by forward Solomon Hill of Fairfax High-Los Angeles.
7. OREGON (8-23, 2-16/10th): A make-or-break season for coach Ernie Kent. Most of the team returns, led by guard and scoring leader Tajuan Porter. The keys will be whether center Michael Dunigan can begin to blossom after a disappointing freshman season and JC point guard Malcolm Armstead can solidify that spot after Kamyron Brown transferred.
8. WASHINGTON STATE (17-16, 8-10/7th): The Cougars are in good hands with new coach Ken Bone. He welcomes back guard Klay Thompson, a star in waiting, along with a solid recruiting class. In the short term, WSU will miss graduated seniors Taylor Rochestie and Aron Baynes.
9. USC (22-13, 9-9/tied 5th): Still hard to know what to think about the Trojans, who lost underclassmen DeMar DeRozan, Taj Gibson and Daniel Hackett to the NBA draft, underwent a coaching change after Tim Floyd resigned amid NCAA allegations and have watched virtually their entire recruiting class flee. Leading scorer Dwight Lewis is back for new coach Kevin O'Neill, but NCAA investigators are lurking, which can't be good.
10. STANFORD (20-14, 6-12/9th): Coach Johnny Dawkins lost three senior starters, then suspended center Will Paul for all of next season because of academic issues. Landry Fields and Jeremy Green will shoulder a huge load.
Contact Jeff Faraudo at email@example.com.