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Pac-10 Notebook

December 16, 2002 Conference Notes No Comments

Pac-10 Notebook

by Joaquin Mesa

Congratulations Pac-10, you had a great week beating up on some skilled and talented nobodies. Only two Washington losses spoiled your perfect week. You can thank Lorenzo Romar and Paul Graham for their schools inability to recruit for multiple sports. Teams were given the opportunity this week to run up the score on third tier division one teams. After UCLA pounded Portland, California avenged USC’s loss to UCSB and Oregon State crushed Sacramento State, I found myself excited about…well, nothing. True, I was anticipating a quality game between Stanford and powerhouse St. Mary’s, but I expected St. Mary’s to be a little bit high on their recent successes against Portland State and San Jose State, two opponents that anyone would be proud of beating. I could hardly wait for Synder, Green and Pinkney to stroll into Arizona State with their daunting Nevada teammates. Then, when I thought I couldn’t possibly lust for more, Washington State pleasantly surprised me with a victory over a tough Montana team.

Of course, I am being facetious. I was of course completely astounded when Washington State beat Montana.

Honestly, I spent most of the week waiting for Arizona to play Texas. This game was one of the few Pac-10 games on my early radar. Texas is a young, scruffy team that reminds me of USC last year, with a trio in T.J. Ford (David Bluthenthal), Brandon Mouton (Brandon Granville) and James Thomas (Sam Clancy) that can lead a team that lacks size deep into the tournament. USC gave Arizona fits last year, and Texas almost unseated the Wildcats earlier then they might have hoped. Without Walton, Arizona relied on Gardner’s clutch shooting to keep them atop the nations polls. It was Gardner’s poor shooting that kept Texas at the Wildcats’ heals, but he proved that senior leadership is what makes national champions. Arizona has started a number of different rotations since garnering the number one ranking in the pre-season. Against Texas, they kept freshman Andre Iguodala in the rotation, while benching big man Channing Frye and starting Isaiah Fox in the middle. I suggested before the game that they counter Texas’ speed with size, but obviously, Lute Olsen knows basketball a little bit better than I do. A couple of Jason Gardner free throws rimming out, and I might have been able to say something, but…alas, I fear I will remain in the throw of sports writing. Adams again was a key contributor, as was Salim Stoudamire who loves those three balls. These two young guns are key to Arizona’s success. Already, Hassan is making a name for himself as a high flyer, and a good shooter. His energy off the bench is what makes Arizona a very scary team. Next test . . . Oregon in January.

How does one attempt to beat Oregon?

Oregon got a little practice in second half come-backs against Pepperdine, something they hope they will not have to use against Arizona. It seems that no team in the country can keep up with the Oregon Ducks. The Luke show seems to run everybody off the floor. They can consistently put up one hundred points against quality teams. The only team that can run with the Ducks is Kansas, a team that beat them a year ago in the tournament, and they couldn’t keep up a week ago. The key to playing the Ducks is running down the clock. This is what Pac-10 teams learned last year, and what other coaches should be telling their players. Teams should use every single second of the thirty-five second clock, and control the defensive boards. How does one do this without crashing the boards and leaving players like Ridnour and James Davis and Luke Jackson free for open shots…well, Jackson will be crashing and Ridnour will be driving, so the key is to have anybody who is not guarding Davis to swarm to the boards or to the ball-handler, whoever is closer. Let Ian Crosswhite, Robert Johnson and Andre Joseph beat you from twenty feet away, because if you give them the boards, they will not miss on second chance shots. If anybody else wants to drive, give them a little room and keep a hand in their face. These all seem like basic things, but those most successful against Ernie Kent’s running system are coaches and systems that stress the simple things. Last year, Mike Montgomery of Stanford was successful against Oregon, as was Ben Braun of California and Henry Bibby of USC. All three of these coaches lacked spectacular runners. They made do with strong rebounding or consistent shooting. They played Oregon close by slowing down the tempo. Don’t forget though, that in each of these losses, Oregon still scored seventy-eight points or more with a slowed tempo. Sick, absolutely sick.

Stanford and the emergence of Childress and Barnes

Childress and Julius Barnes have taken over a team that once looked to Casey Jacobsen and Curtis Borchardt for clutch play. They weren’t expected to look to good, and I only ranked them sixth in the conference. Instead, Julius and Curtis are looking like a formidable one-two punch. Josh Childress is the young sophomore that was given a little bit more room to breathe then Cedric Bozeman down at UCLA last season, and he would have impressive games here and there. Now, he is consistently giving Stanford a scorer to replace Jacobsen. If only Lavin had done what Montgomery had done, he might have a quality second year point guard. Instead, he has Bozeman. Julius Barnes is the stable point guard that is picking up his game in order to fill the big gap left by the big man Borchardt. Stanford, notorious for big men, now relies on a little one. Funny how the tables turn. How might they fare in the Pac-10? It might help Stanford keep up with Oregon, but going small usually doesn’t work in this conference. The big men in Arizona, Oregon, UCLA and California can run pretty well as they often are on the lighter side. I hope that Stanford has a mattress to cushion the fall from its early season high.

Nothing else exciting

There really was nothing else outstanding this week. UCLA’s routing of Portland really was nothing to talk about, and all the wins were a little expected . . .just a little. There are good games between Oregon and Cincinnati, Oregon and Minnesota, UCLA and Michigan, UCLA and Kansas, California and Kansas as well as Arizona State and Purdue. But, I can’t wait for January when the Pac-10 trash talking really begins. I’m getting really sick of those message board freaks laughing at USC’s quick demise in the tournament.


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