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Pac-10 Notebook

March 7, 2003 Conference Notes No Comments



Pac-10 Notebook

by Joaquin Mesa

Conference Tournament Preview

Arizona is amazing, California is cool and collect, Stanford is that same old sultry jazz singer and everyone else is, well, okay. After Arizona proved that no matter how many upstart Bay Area teams come to town, being number one means you have to travel through Tucson to get the Pac-10 championship, the rest of the league proved that there really is nothing left to do but argue about Arizona’s placement in the tournament. Salim Stoudamire, one of Arizona’s heroes from last season’s Pac-10 Conference Tournament, got hot just in the knick of time as his timely shooting propelled Arizona to a victory over the later half of the Bay Area beast.

Stanford, which had been playing perfect basketball the second half of the season, was led by Josh Childress’s twenty points and ten rebounds. Having only lost two games in their last twelve, and four in their last twenty-one, Stanford was the team to beat. Was this the Pac-10 championship game preview? Does the Pac-10 have a chance in this year’s tournament? I’d like to sit down in what I like to call…

A Tale of Two Conferences

Nobody will argue with the fact that the Pac-10 has been split into two conferences, the good and the bad. One could call UCLA the ugly, but they pulled a one point victory over California out from nowhere.

The Good

Arizona is the best team in the country, but the country doesn’t have a dominant team this year. There is no Jay Williams leading a Duke team, or Vince Carter leading a North Carolina team. Jason Gardner is okay, but he is no Mike Bibby. Luke Walton is good enough, but he is no Mike Dunleavy. Salim Stoudamire is the closest thing to a star on the Arizona team, but he is no Miles Simon or Richard Jefferson. Can this team make it through the Pac-10 tournament, and still have enough to take on the likes of Xavier and Connecticut? This is a very deep team, but it is also a very young team. Stoudamire is only a sophomore, as is Channing Frye and Isiah Fox. Hassan Adams and Andre Iguodala are freshmen, and also important contributors to the team.

Having freshmen contributors is not a bad thing. Toby Bailey, Chris Johnson and J.R. Henderson helped UCLA win back in the early nineties. Toby Bailey was the MVP in the championship game. Can Hassan Adams be that same type of player? He has the same athletic ability as Bailey, and his all-around game is much more mature then Bailey’s was. Adams is my official pick as pivotal freshmen in the conference tournament this year.

Stanford has Childress and Barnes. The team is playing well late in games, and this is making the difference. They aren’t folding under the pressure. However, they are not impressive in their victories either, with one point victories over UCLA and Arizona State. They simply have a better coach then most. Coach Mike Montgomery has his team playing well, preserving eight point margins and holding off late surges by good teams. This team will outlast many into the NCAA tournament, but don’t look for them to win the conference tournament.

California is the team that thinks it can win the conference tournament, but will likely find out it can’t after pushing its starting line-up to the limit. Coach Ben Braun plays his starters way too much, and even though these young kids can last a long time – I remember my college days (too bad my girlfriend doesn’t) – they can’t last mentally and physically going into the NCAA tournament, especially with teams getting better and better as the tournament progresses. Tamir is good, Shipp is good, Midgley is instant energy, but this team showed its age when it lost to UCLA recently. Remember, UCLA is the worst team in the country.

The Bad

There is a three way battle for the last three spots in the conference tournament. UCLA, USC and Washington are battling for the chance to get beat by Arizona and Stanford/California.

USC can’t seem to hold onto a second half lead. UCLA can’t seem to find a lead. Washington can’t seem to be the team that everybody thought they could have been. It’s too bad; each of these teams had high hopes at the beginning of the season.

Washington was the team that could have been, with a new coach, a returning star and a decent freshmen class making waves in the Pacific Northwest. Who knows, perhaps it was going to be duck hunting season. I constantly refer back to my pick for Conference Player of the Year as proof of my ignorance, but Doug Wrenn still has that ability to take over a game. It’s just that a new coaching staff limited his touches and importance in the offense. It’s like a new athletic director putting his mark on a program. Good luck Dan Guerrero, you’ll need it.

The Predictions

Arizona is going to run away with the Pac-10 title. They are the deepest team in the tournament, and they have the senior leadership to repeat as champions.

Stanford is going to be the team that lasts in the NCAA tournament. They have an experienced coach, who has taken teams to finals of the tournament. True, he doesn’t have the Collins twins to tower over everybody, but he has a couple of players that have the same effect on games. Childress is amazing. I think that he will be one of the best players in the game next season. For now, he will have to figure out a way to get his teammates involved in the offense enough to make it resemble something good. Otherwise, Stanford will have to play the kind of defense that has won it more then one game this year.

Player of the Year: Joe Shipp, California

Coach of the Year:
Lute Olsen, Arizona

Freshman of the Year:
Ike Diogu, Arizona State

All Pac-10 Team:
Luke Ridnour – PG – Oregon
Joe Shipp – SG – California
Phillip Ricci – SF – Oregon State
Ike Diogu – PF – Arizona State
Amit Tamir – C – California

If you are upset about the lack of Arizona players, you should remember that their ranking is their reward. They are so balanced that I couldn’t take a Wildcat over some other deserving player. Go figure.

     

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