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Pac 10 Notebook

January 3, 2003 Conference Notes No Comments

Pac-10 Notebook

by Joaquin Mesa

State of the Union

The last week of non-conference games for the Pac-10 played out how Madam Sasha predicted when reading the tea leaves for me the other day. Oregon and Arizona killed UC Riverside and Davidson, respectively. Washington and Washington State eeked by CS Northridge and Fresno State. California and UCLA lost to better teams in Kansas and Michigan. Oregon State and Arizona State finished surprising starts with wins over Coppin State, Bucknell and Nebraska. USC didn’t play. After hearing Madam Sasha reveal these truths to me, I rushed to call my Italian friend Victor to wish him well in his banking business and chat with him a little about basketball. I then realized that no matter who wins or loses, despite all the supposed upsets and quick starts, despite my investment in my friend Victor’s business, this is still the same Pac-10 that put together one of the most exciting conferences last year. Win or lose, I should expect great play and exciting finishes.

Though I’ve done no research, I can safely say that last year there were five buzzer beaters that I remember, three of which USC was privy to. This of course does not take into account the numerous games that were decided by less then four points, or the pack of four teams tied behind Oregon and USC at the top of the conference. The Pac-10 sent six teams to the tournament last year (UCLA, Stanford, Arizona, California, USC and Oregon). Sam Clancy carried USC on his back, Luke Ridnour and Luke Jackson emerged as nationally recognized talents, Salim Stoudamire amazed teams with his three point accuracy, Doug Wrenn and Joe Shipp proved everyone that they could score, and Amit Tamir showed the grit that comes with three years in the Israeli Army. Casey Jacobsen and Curtis Borchardt powered Stanford to a decent finish and Matt Barnes helped save Steve Lavin’s job again by making it to the Sweet Sixteen where they ran into ex-Bruin Jaron Rush’s brother Kareem.

This year, I haven’t been high on the Pac-10. Madam Sasha suggested I don’t go to the UCLA versus USC game because I might be gang beaten by angry alumni. I guess I was spoiled last year with as exciting a finish as I could possibly ask for. One might think that I was a Big Ten fan with all the talk of “embarrassing” losses and “uninspiring” play over the last couple of weeks. Please, this isn’t the case; don’t hurt me. In fact, my room is lined with life sized posters of Baron Davis, Jason Kidd and Shareef Abdur-Rahim. I can’t stop talking about the O’Bannon brothers and Miles Simon when it comes to talk of Pac-10 National Champions. I don’t talk enough about the legendary teams in Westwood, or Oregon’s wonderful run in 1939. Stanford had a national championship in the forties, California in the fifties and then the more recent successes of UCLA and Arizona. My friends tell me that I need to preach more about how the Pac-10 is one of the best conferences in the country. I tell them that I would agree, but so far we are one and three in bowl games, and Kansas has gone two and one after playing Oregon, UCLA, and California. If they beat Arizona, I’m moving to Florida.

So, to satisfy those who think I haven’t bled Cardinal, or haven’t screamed disparaging remarks at opponents coaches while draped in green and gold, or forgot to put in my share to get Bob Toledo out of out town, let me go through each team and tell you exactly what good qualities will help them in conference play.


Hassan Adams and Andre Igoudala have provided even more depth to a bench that was widely considered the deepest in the country. Even with Luke Walton out, Arizona beat Texas largely due to strong forward play; it obviously wasn’t Gardner who hit big shots down the stretch, but was the reason Arizona needed them in the first place. If Rick Anderson picks up his games and Channing Frye gets going, look out for the Wildcats, whose big men will run all over this league.


As long as I’m on the subject of running, there is no doubt in my mind that if Oregon were to put its team in a marathon you would hear every single one of their names called in succession immediately after the Nigerian contenders finish. This team beat Kansas by running, and Kansas likes to run. This team will win no matter what I say about them. They are primarily a three point shooting team, and because they get teams so tired, guards don’t run at them as often as they would at other teams. It’s a brilliant strategy by Ernie Kent. He has one, possibly two more years to implement it until Luke Ridnour leaves and Oregon starts begging Southern California for a player of equivalent talent, ball handling ability, and energy.


A.J. Diggs will grow into the system a quarter of the way through the Pac-10 season. He isn’t getting the assist numbers that I was hoping he would. I expected five assists a game, but he is giving three and a half. This is due largely because the ball goes through Amit Tamir, Joe Shipp or Brian Wethers before it goes through him. College basketball coaches never really give the point guards free reign until they have been in the system a while. Brandon Granville was allowed to kill clock last year at USC only after four years, and in Oregon, Luke Ridnour is allowed to take bad shots and wait until ten seconds are left to run a play only after Freddie Jackson had left. Once A.J. gets going, look out.

Oregon State

The big three are scoring and rebounding just like they are supposed to and Oregon State is one of the pleasant surprises of this young Pac-10 season. Philip Ricci, Brian Jackson and Jimmie Haywood are the stabilizing beams of a solid team. With their stability, it is allowing Lamar Hurd to develop into the point guard of the future. He is handing out almost four and a half assists per game, and grabbing four rebounds per game as a freshman, which is very impressive.


Stanford has impressive victories over Xavier, Florida and Gonzaga to help it get into the tournament if it has a less than impressive run in the Pac-10, but Josh Childress, Julius Barnes and Justin Davis won’t let this happen. This crop of players never really had a chance to prove themselves while Borchardt and Jacobsen held court in Palo Alto. Now, a skinny forward and a veteran point guard are running the show. Who would have thunk it?

Arizona State

Without Curtis Mileage or with him, this team can play ball with the best of them. These are the guys who were on the bubble in the Pac-10 last year, and now have something to prove. They had good wins last year, and will no doubt have some good wins this year (I’m not counting a victory over UCLA as good). Ike Diogu is the main reason that this team has been dominant inside. He is not the biggest guy out there, but his wingspan and his tenacity make him a worthy big man. Is he a freshman? Wow.


This is a rebuilding year, and Henry Bibby is happy with the way the team in playing going into Pac-10 play, something that Bibby never admits. He is happy because of the consistent play of JuCo transfer Roydell Smiley and guards Desmond Farmer and Errick Craven. USC’s backcourt is as talented as any, and is deep if you count Robert Hutchinson, Derrick Craven and Brandon Brooks. Nick Curtis and Rory Oneil are coming along nicely, and USC has a chance to raise some eyebrows. It is a very talented team.


They are still my sleeper, despite the slow start. They have a quality coach in Lorenzo Romar, a proven scorer in Doug Wrenn, and a great supporting cast in Will Conroy and Nate Robinson. I’ll let this one sleep a bit.

Washington State

Marcus Moore is blowing up. He is the only Pac-10 player averaging twenty points. If Washington State keeps giving him the ball, the game will be over before it starts. Twenty-one points, six and a half rebounds, and just over four and a half assists. I could also talk about the strong play of Thomas Kelati, but Marcus Moore is playing too good.


I can’t say anything good about these guys. Madam Sasha can’t either. They are good players, with a decent system. Lavin is a good coach, but they aren’t getting it done. I think the Lakers and the Bruins are having the same problem, a lack of something unspeakable. Too bad the Bruins haven’t won any championships the last three years to sooth their troubled minds.

With all this in mind, I’d like to wish everyone a happy new year, and good luck in what will be another exciting season.


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