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Pac 10 Notebook

February 5, 2003 Conference Notes No Comments

Pac-10 Notebook

by Joaquin Mesa

The Law of the Jungle

It’s been two weeks since I last chimed in on the Pac-10, and boy am I tired. It’s a jungle out there. Living here in Los Angeles, one gets kind of lazy about their basketball teams. After all, the Lakers have won three straight, the Sparks have won two straight, USC has made two straight NCAA Tournaments, and UCLA continues to make it into the sweet sixteen. How can anyone complain in this city? If one team is losing, another picks up the slack and beats someone else. It’s a real circle of life here in Los Angeles. One thing has been bugging me as of late…where have all the hyenas gone? The teams that arrive after the kills of another team are gone. The Lakers and Clippers can’t seem to find a steady rhythm. UCLA isn’t beating up on the teams the Trojans beat, and vice versa. What is a city to do? Without the hyenas, carcasses are left to rot in the sun and a vital bacterium that is formed by the hyena feces isn’t there, and further growth is prevented. Oh no!

If UCLA continues at the pace they are on, there will be a big problem recruiting down the road. After all, Los Angeles recruits are now split between UCLA and USC. Ultimately, UCLA has the edge, of course, due largely to the tradition and strength of alumni, but when might we see this transitional period at Pauley end? Steve Lavin has been interim coach for way too long and the kids are getting tired of not learning anything. If they wanted to sit around and jump, they could have gone to the University of San Diego, which is something that recruits might start doing. There is a perfectly good school in Pepperdine over in Malibu with a much better view then UCLA.

What is disappointing most is how inconsistent USC has been. While UCLA has continually lost, and to no one’s surprise recently, USC has beaten teams like Oregon and Arizona State, but lost to the likes of Stanford and Oregon State. Now, I’ll be the first to congratulate Mike Montgomery and his Cards on a season that nobody expected, but I really had USC pegged to be in the spot they are in this year. Josh Childress and Julius Barnes are extremely competitive, and Barnes looks more and more like Jared Jefferies every day. If he could play to Jefferies level, then I expect Stanford to be a “real” force next year. I still am expecting this team, much like the over-achieving buffalo, to fall from the pack once they are close to the water.

Is That Flower Edible?

Has someone been eating the poisonous lilies by the waterhole? Who would have thought that Oregon would be neck and neck with Oregon State in the Pac-10? Now, after losing to USC, a game where Oregon was out-rebounded by almost 20, Oregon is forced to reassess their situation. This is a team that by all means should be the fifth team in the NCAA tournament for the Pac-10, but they can’t afford to lose many more games if they want to go. With a good portion of their remaining games on the road, one can’t help sympathizing with Oregon’s plight. Oregon is that one gazelle that likes to play with the gators by taking that one extra step closer to the edge.

The most inspiring thing about Oregon is the growth of Ian Crosswhite. Sure, he is having trouble rebounding, but the guy is scoring ten points a game coming off the bench, and only playing 17.7 minutes a game. I’d take that from a freshman any day. This team really misses Freddie Jones, no doubt about it. I guess they will have to find a new elephant to roam around with them.

The Alpha Male

The number one team in the country loses again! What is nice about this is that it allows for another lion to wander into the oasis and take a crack at the top team in the Pac-10. Stanford is stalking, as is California. Joe Shipp and Amit Tamir are anxious to prove unproven coach Ben Braun is one of the best in the conference. However, only Stanford could get past the Wildcats. It seemed almost a fluke, had someone fed the Wildcats the same burger that Kobe ate up in Sacramento? Nineteen turnovers compared to 4 steals just doesn’t get it done, and it seemed that Arizona was sleeping through half the day like the lazy lion that they are. Do they really expect Pac-10 teams to just wander by and not pay attention to their lackadaisical effort at warding them off? You’ve got to grow baby!

Stanford is really impressing this year, but they have proven that they can get knocked down by a Warthog or two, take for instance earlier in the season when they got eaten alive by Richmond and North Carolina, one aging lion and one pig from a neighboring reserve. When Washington took care of Stanford at home, it wasn’t as big a blip because Washington is the most under-achieving team in Pac-10 history, well next to this year’s Bruins, and last year’s Bruins, and the year before, etc…

The biggest game this week is Stanford at Oregon. Oregon gets a shot at some redemption, on a home court that is very hard on other teams. I can see it now, half the crowd with glasses on, chanting “E=MC2.” The other half is praying that Luke Ridnour can hit the three pointers. The keys to this game are rebounding, rebounding, rebounding. Oregon got out-rebounded in their first meeting, and doesn’t want a repeat of what happened in Palo Alto. Perhaps the team should give freshman Ian Crosswhite more playing time, because after all, he is 7 feet tall. He might be able to lend a hand in that department. Just tell him that for every rebound, he gets one shot, it usually works with scoring big men.

Final Growl

I really do want to commend Mike Montgomery for proving that Stanford does the most with the least. They really know how to get it done with players that would normally get cut from European league teams. Great job!


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