The Pac-10, after being incredibly down for the past two years, was poised to make a big comeback this year. The young talent that had gone through the growing pains was going to make the conference back into a national power. Now, many of those players heading the effort are gone, taking their games to the next level.
Arizona’s Derrick Williams, Colorado’s Alec Burks, Stanford’s Jeremy Green, UCLA’s Tyler Honeycutt and Malcolm Lee, USC’s Nikola Vucevic, Washington’s Isaiah Thomas, and Washington State’s Klay Thompson and DeAngelo Casto all declared for the draft. Of those, about 6 (Williams, Burks, Honeycutt, Vucevic, Thompson, Lee) have at least a sliver of hope of getting drafted in the first round; Vucevic and Lee are both fringe first round picks that are unlikely.. In summarization, that’s a ton of talent leaving the conference, and that doesn’t include Utah losing one of their best players to a transfer to Iowa State. That can make it look like it’s all doom and gloom.
Assuming everyone returned, it could be assumed Arizona, Cal, UCLA, USC, Washington, Washington State, and potentially Colorado and Oregon had legitimate tourney aspirations. That’s 75% of the teams; now you’re more likely looking at Arizona, Cal, UCLA, Washington, and maybe Oregon with a strong chance at making the tournament. That’s a huge downgrade for a conference that’s already taken a beating from the national media. If everything breaks right, 5 teams could make the tournament; that’s a far cry from the old expectations. However, it’s already miles ahead of the conference in the past two years.
Overall, the Pac-12 takes a big hit from the early entry draft period. From 8 potential tourney teams to 5 is a big hit to take, especially when the conference is looking for a breakthrough year. However, there’s still a lot of talent in the conference, especially at the top in Arizona, Washington, and Cal. It does make the road easier for the Bears; but 2009-2010 showed that an easy conference is not necessarily a good thing for NCAA success. Go Bears!