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Pac-10 Notebook

January 15, 2003 Conference Notes No Comments



Pac-10 Notebook

by Joaquin Mesa

Lavin for President, ’cause he ain’t staying here

As Steve Lavin combs his hair back and Jason Kapono sighs, the alumni whisper to each other. Is this the year? Is this the year they finally get what they have been asking for each of the last God-knows-how-many years it has been since UCLA lost to Tulsa early in the post-Harrick era. The staple topic on the Los Angeles talk show circuit has been angry pseudo-UCLA alumni berating the efforts of the best looking basketball coach in town since Pat Riley. They piss and moan about how none of the UCLA players seem to be able to cross their x’s and learn their o’s. However, every year they shut their mouths and cheer for the underachieving Bruins when it comes to the tournament. Why? Well, stand up guy Steve Lavin inspired his youth to perform when it is most important to perform.

However, it is likely that Lavin is done in Los Angeles, one way or another. His Bruins are 4-7 overall, and 2-1 in Pac-10 play. Sure, they still have a chance to win the Pac-10 title, or tournament, but this might not be able to save Lavin from the wrath of Athletic Director Dan Guerrero. First things first, losing to USC at home, for the first time in more than ten years, didn’t help Lavin’s cause. One thing that Los Angeles understands is that if USC loses to UCLA too many times in football, then the coach is going to be replaced. The same thing applies to UCLA basketball. Cross-town rivalry often supercedes national dominance in this urban metropolis that breeds so much of the country’s athletic talent. Second, Dan Guerrero has the experience of firing and hiring a new coach, having the privilege of tossing Bob Toledo out of the looney wagon that has become UCLA football. What would stop him from making his mark at UCLA, and revamping the two most important sports at the school (I apologize to the two most successful sports in recent UCLA memory, volleyball and soccer)? Nothing would, and the rumor is that Lavin is going to resign before the end of the season. Dan Guerrero has declared that he will not make a decision on Lavin until the season is over, but one can’t blame the alumni for trying to expedite the process by nudging him a little.

What Los Angeles has forgotten is that their darling USC Trojans lost to Pennsylvania this weekend, and it looks as if that once cherished, albeit for only one year, Los Angeles basketball dominance has run its course, despite the Sparks not yet getting a chance to defend their crown.

Oregon and the Bay Area

Well, L.A. can breathe a collective sigh, and watch as the Pacific Northwest shoots itself in its collective feet. During the last two years, Oregon has tended to play its soft non-conference schedule at home, in the supportive arms of its angry hockey father, otherwise known as the Oregon Duck fan.

So it couldn’t come as a surprise that Stanford and California beat up on the Ducks after they were shown-up by Arizona at home. Nevermind that they were on the road for the first time in conference play, nevermind that they lost the two games in the bay area last year, and nevermind that the Ducks run and gun offense has seemingly been found out by Pac-10 teams. Oregon has been shooting itself into the gutter this season. This comes at a particularly inconvenient time, as Oregon plays half of its remaining games on the road in very hostile environments. Will Luke Ridnour find the bottom of the basket? He has a tendency of taking ill advised shots this season. Earlier in the year, I compared Ridnour to Jason Williams, with the court presence of John Stockton. Now, I compare Ridnour simply to Jason Williams. He is single handedly shooting the Ducks out of the Pac-10 race. Last year, the Ducks could look to Freddie Jones for clutch play, both on the defensive and offensive ends. Now, they have Luke Jackson going to the hole, getting fouled and making his free-throws, but that’s it. No doubt in my mind that Oregon will get it together and start running more plays for Ian Crosswhite and Matt Short. Until this happens, I look forward to the Ducks trip to Los Angeles this year. I figure by then, Lavin will have his guys playing to the level of Division II teams, so they’ll have a chance.

USC

The darlings of the Pac-10 this year have to be Stanford and California. However, the season is young, and the Trojans might just have a little to say about that. Sure, they got beat bad by a Pennsylvania team that took a page out of Princeton’s playbook and played “basketball” instead of “playground ball,” but USC has something that no other team has…heart. Yes, believe it or not, USC is known to be a little out of control, and Desmond Farmer is one of the main reasons for this. Anyone who saw him fly through the lane for an offensive rebound against UCLA last week, sprawled horizontal across three UCLA forwards, knows that Farmer will give his body, and maybe his soul, for a win. But this is what sets them apart from other Pac-10 teams. They are smaller, younger and less experienced then most of the teams they face, but they play hard until the end of the game. I look for them to play Arizona and Arizona State close. In fact, I look for USC to be 4-1 going into their own bay area brawl.

Freshmen Fun

Ike Diogu is by far the best freshmen in the Pac-10 this year, and he might even be the best forward too. He leads his team, Arizona State, in scoring and rebounding. This is a team with a power forward, Tommy Smith, who was supposed to be coming into his own; instead, he plays second fiddle to Diogu and Millage. Arizona State is lucky to have this guy, and he should be a stable middle presence for at least two more years, after all, his height is a hindrance to him as a power forward in the NBA. Am I talking about the NBA already for this guy…scary.

Big games

Arizona vs. USC and UCLA. These two games will determine the course of the Los Angeles teams’ respective seasons. Can they at least play well against the former number one team? They’ve played them before, will they show up this time? Who knows….I’ve already predicted USC’s wins, however.

     

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