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Pac-10 Notebook

January 22, 2003 Conference Notes No Comments

Pac-10 Notebook

by Joaquin Mesa

Will Not Coach for Food

Pac-10 play went on unabashed and teams were eager to provide the types of games it did last year. It was lucky for those of us that enjoy watching the Pac-10 that UCLA did not play in every game, otherwise we would have to wear the paper bags that so many Bruin faithful are sporting these days. I particularly like the polka dot one with little names on the backs of the dots, Young, Cummings, Johnson, etc. I would enjoy putting little x’s next to them, and standing behind the Bruin bench explaining how to work a 2-3 zone, how to switch off of screens or how in general to hit open shots, because they just can’t seem to get any of these things right. I’m afraid that the team might mistake me for a coach though, and actually listen. It’s been so long since someone actually taught them something. Well, since UCLA security won’t let me get near the bench, nor will they let me keep my plastic water bottle during games (how was I supposed to know you aren’t supposed to throw them at the home team?), how about I just paint the dots pink and yellow and call it a day.

It’s too bad what is happening in Westwood, but it has been a long time coming. While watching the UCLA versus Arizona game, I overheard an announcer say that Hassan Adams said in an interview something to the effect that he wouldn’t play for someone who didn’t coach his players, referring to when Lavin approached him to play for UCLA. Hassan, you didn’t hear about Bibby and USC? It’s a shame to see Los Angeles prospects leaving home because of Lavin to go play for another city that doesn’t have the tradition that Los Angeles does when it comes to basketball. It was sad to see the Collins twins go to Stanford a couple of years back, but at least we got Baron. It was sad to see Paul Pierce go to Kansas, but Toby Bailey and Chris Johnson stayed close to our hearts. Lavin got a good class last year, but it seems that those who have grown up in Lavin’s era as coach of UCLA have a bad taste in their mouth when they think about UCLA. How is the school supposed to get better recruits if the coach doesn’t have the respect of the city, and perhaps the team? It’s too bad that I have nothing to back up that last statement except for dirty looks and persistent Los Angeles rumors. It will be very refreshing to see someone new though. I must admit that I have never enjoyed the second coming of Riley. I always felt him to be a bit too friendly, much like John Robinson at USC. If you don’t yell at your team, and help them realize just how hard it’s going to be in the real world, then they end up like Jaron Rush, Jerome Moiso, or Rob Johnson (at least Johnson is going to the Super Bowl though).

Anyway, I’ve been talking about UCLA for a couple of weeks now, so let’s move on.

The Civil War

Oregon State has their best team in years, and it looked like they would put up a good fight against their cross-town rivals. Alas, it was not meant to be. After a strong first half, where their defense stifled Oregon’s big two, Oregon State came out in the second half and got outrun. Who would have thought? Against Oregon, no! There was one good thing that came out of this game, and that was Lamar Hurd’s rejection in the second half. Wow. The guy is a guard, and he sent a Luke Ridnour lay-up into the seats. He also chipped in 13 points and 5 assists. I’m starting to like this Oregon State team, now if they can only start winning, maybe I’ll root for them.

The Golden Bears

California beat up on Stanford last week, and then they dispatched of the Washington schools to remain with Arizona atop the Pac-10 conference. When these two teams meet, it will be a game that pits two of the best young teams in the country. Each is led by two seniors; Arizona by Walton and Gardner, California by Joe Shipp and Brian Wethers. Everyone has heard of Walton and Gardner, but Shipp and Wethers? Shipp is the consistent 20 points per game scorer that has garnered double teams all four years he has been at California. Wethers is the point that came in during big situations last year down the stretch and provided clutch play. Now, each of these teams outside of the two seniors is young, very young. For California, Richard Midgley, who gets good minutes, is a freshman, Amit Tamir is a sophomore as is Erik Bond. A.J. Diggs is a junior, but not very experienced, and Conor Famulener, a junior, is not an impact player, but rather a player who fills the gaps. Arizona fills up its line-up with freshman Hassan Adams, Andre Iguodala and Chris Rodgers. Its sophomores, Channing Frye, Salime Stoudamire, Isaiah Fox, and Dennis Latimore, all get around twenty minutes.

The difference between the two is how the coach rotates his young players into the game. Lute Olsen has come to understand how important the underclassmen are, and rotates all his players in, with only one player starting every game this year, Jason Gardner. Ben Braun tends to rely too heavily on his starting five, much like Bibby and his starting five last year. This type of reliance doesn’t bode well when it comes tourney time, look at how Bibby’s front court crumbled last year in the late stages of USC’s first round demise. California has started strong, but I warn you…come the end of the season, look for some dents in the armor. With a late trip to Los Angeles, Arizona and Arizona State at home the following weekend and Stanford to end the season, California could finish the regular season with five straight losses. Honestly, California is the darling of the Pac-10, but I fear for their future. Good luck Ben.

The Younger, the Better

True, Arizona is young, and California has eight freshmen (though not many of them get time) but only one team starts three sophomores (four on some days) and plays only one senior off the bench (at least when Hutchinson was down). USC is about the youngest starting five in the conference, not to mention their bench players. Rory Oneil, Errick Craven, Derrick Craven, Brandon Brooks (now MIA the rest of the season), Nick Curtis, and Greg Guenther Jr. are all sophomores. Only Kostas Charissis and Hutchinson are seniors, but neither one dominates their position. Only UCLA compliments USC’s youth. The entirety of the NCAA has noticed that four year starters are hard to come by. With so many players leaving early, freshmen and sophomores are indispensable. This is why I had Oregon State so high, with Ricci, Hurd and Haywood leading the way. I guess I shouldn’t invest so much in age, as it has become the world of the young in college basketball. What happened to the days when the freshmen weren’t even allowed to play?

Good Games

USC and UCLA go up to the Bay Area this week, and these match-ups brought us a couple of the buzzer beaters last year. It’s always exciting to approach the Bay Area versus Southern California battle. Sacramento versus the Lakers, Giants versus the Angels, Warriors versus Clippers…okay, so the last one doesn’t inspire the same emotions. It might not be much of a match- up, but outside of Oregon versus Arizona, what is? Also, look for Arizona versus Arizona State. Arizona State is eager to prove themselves. I hope they do, and make the race for the championship a lot more interesting.


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