Not Quite Rodney Dangerfield, but Close
The University of Oregon and the University of Southern California are getting little attention from the pollsters so far. The Ducks are 8-3 with a recent sweep of the Arizona schools. The win over the Wildcats was not your usual home crowd squeaker, but an overwhelming butt-kicking 105-75. What is it about Oregon that creates NCAA disrespect, whether football or basketball? Anyway, we’ll see how the Ducks do in Arizona this weekend, facing their recent prey. Maybe if Nebraska wins, Ernie Kent’s team will get the nod as the . . . er wait, I’m back on to football. Sorry.
Now USC. The Trojans are off to a 10-2 start, and are not noticed in any of the country’s top 25 polls. For many teams, this might be understandable. However, we’re talking about last year’s elite eight member, a team who still has their tremendous coach, and similar talent. What, 8-3 Missouri (currently ranked 18th) is better than USC? Paaaaallllleeease!
PAC 10 Power
The conference is showing surprising strength compared to other major conferences in the country. I indexed the conference against 5 other majors: ACC, Big 12, Big East, Big Ten and the SEC. The two measures were overall record and record against AP Top 25 teams. Based on overall record, the PAC 10 was 5th out of 6th with a winning percentage of 70 percent, just ahead of the Big Ten’s 63 percent, and well behind the leader, the SEC at 79 percent. While disappointing in overall record, the PAC 10 took the crown in the record against top teams metric. The conference edged the ACC with a record of 8-7 (53.3%) against AP Top 25 teams. The ACC’s record was 10-9 (52.6%). The others in order were: Big 12 (50%), SEC (35%), Big Ten (27%) and the Big East (24%).
No you haven’t been hitting on some good chronic; The Golden Bears ARE off to a 9-1 start this season as they enter conference play with two games this weekend against their arch rival Stanford. Even though the team is an attractive mix of old and young, they have been handed a confidence-building schedule with 9 out of 10 at home, 3 out of 10 from the Ivy league, and 2 out of 10 against ‘Saint’ schools (Mary’s and Clara). The quick and big Golden Bear squad should match up well against 12th-ranked Stanford. If you’re a hoops fan in the Bay area this weekend, you’re getting some better stuff than that found in Humboldt county if you know what I mean.
Lavin All the Way to the Bank
Regarding the UCLA Alumni, you can best put them in two camps: those that want John Wooden back as head coach and those that hate his current replacement. If you think being an established coach at UCLA is tough, try an unestablished one trying to cut your teeth in the most heralded national program next to Duke and Kentucky. That has been the experience of one Steve Lavin, former bench coach for Gene Keady and Jim Harrick. Each year since 1997 when he took over from the expense-report-falsifying Harrick, Lavin has faced the disgruntled Alumni and talk radio hacks head on . . . well sort of. He doesn’t really talk to them directly, but more by ignoring them, and focusing on the coaching and motivating of his prized talent.
While each season usually sees Lavin pull his team together late for the NCAA’s, this one may be pleasantly different. Lavin’s highly touted team did get off to a bad start in the first 4 games with losses to Ball State and Pepperdine. But he and the coaching staff have made the necessary adjustments on defense and in response to losing their starting point guard Cedric Bozeman. They have run off 7 straight wins, including 2 games to nationally ranked Alabama and Georgetown. Perhaps Lavin’s coaching has improved such that his typical in-season turnaround has already happened, and will not result again in a blood pressure-raising last minute run through the conference. Bruin fans only hope that the team will continue to improve and peak toward the tournament. Upcoming tests: USC January 10th; Kansas January 12th; at Arizona January 19th.