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October 22, 2009
Washington won its first outright conference title since 1953 last season, and the Huskies could be poised for their second in a row. Picked to finish fifth in the Pac-10 last season, the Huskies won't have to worry about being underrated in 2009-10. When senior Brandon Roy left after the 2006 trip to the Sweet 16, the Huskies slumped for the next two seasons. They don't expect a similar swoon this season despite the loss of double-double machine Jon Brockman and unheralded guard Justin Dentmon. Those two will be missed, but Washington will reload behind Quincy Pondexter, who will be one of the best forwards in the league. A young and explosive backcourt, headed by sophomore Isaiah Thomas and freshman Abdul Gaddy, will be key to the Huskies' success.
Isaiah Thomas may not need to handle the ball so much with Abdul Gaddy in the fold.
Pondexter signed in the same class as one-and-done center Spencer Hawes in 2006. Pondexter took some time to develop, but he should be one of the top players in the Pac-10 this season. He has bulked up from 195 pounds as a freshman to 215 now, and he should have an expanded role after averaging 12.1 points and 5.9 rebounds last season. The Huskies don't know who will replace Brockman's energy and muscle, but they have some candidates. Darnell Gant's defense kept him in the starting lineup as a redshirt freshman. Matthew Bryan-Amaning's play tailed off at the end of the season. He'll be pressured by freshman Clarence Trent.
Thomas was a major reason the Huskies won 26 games last season. He led Washington's up-tempo offense by averaging 15.5 points. Gaddy could have a similar impact. If Gaddy, the No. 13 prospect in the Class of 2009, can hold down the starting point guard spot, Thomas can move to his more natural shooting guard position. Washington can turn to its bench if it needs defensive help or a 3-point shot. Venoy Overton is a defensive stopper and Elston Turner can hit the 3-pointer; he's one of the few Huskies who can.
The Huskies went 56 years between outright conference championships; the wait for the next Pac-10 title shouldn't take as long. Washington has enough experience returning and a solid signing class to fill the holes left by Brockman and Dentmon.
Preseason rankings were compiled by basketball writers David Fox, Mike Huguenin, Jason King and Steve Megargee.