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Pac-10 For Dummies

October 29, 2003 Columns No Comments

Pac-10 For Dummies

by Joaquin Mesa

2003-2004, a year that holds so much promise for the Pac-10.

This is the year that Ben Howland will rise to bring back the boosters to UCLA so that they can tear down the atrocity that is Pauley Pavilion and they can build a spectacle with luxury boxes and a cryogenic lab underneath for John.

This is the year that Arizona will prove that they don’t need former NBA stars and horrible announcers at their games to win; in fact, they will prove that it was a hindrance to hear a certain somebody yelling from the crowd, “Give it to the big man, give it to the big man.” Before going on I’d like to point out that Luke Walton was only 6 foot 7 inches.

This is the year that Stanford will again prove everybody wrong when another group of overachieving Caucasian brainiacs dominate other more athletic teams, something Stanford and Gonzaga seem to have perfected to a T.

This is the year that Washington proves me wrong again by sitting at the bottom of the conference. They should have hired Tyus Edney.

This is the year that Washington State and Oregon State, well, this is the 2003-2004 college basketball season, pigs aren’t flying quite yet.

This is the year that Oregon renames incoming Freshman Andre Brooks to “Luke” Brooks in hopes that he will fill the shoes of the only man that kept them in contention for the last three years. At mid-season they will complete the transformation by adding “Ridnour” as his last name, and giving him caffeine pills so that he can run the floor like the former Pac-10 Player of the Year.

This is the year that the California Golden Bears finally change their name to the European All-Stars. With Midgley and Tamir born outside the country, and a young man in Geli that loves to speak Spanish, this team looks to become the Dallas Mavericks of the Pac-10, with less fire-power.

Finally, I come to the USC Trojans…those loveable Trojans. The Trojans who had played below expectation all year, only to go to the Pac-10 Conference Finals, scaring those bubble teams on the East Coast. Those Trojans, who under Coach Henry Bibby have developed a semi-impressive program, with two Tourney appearances in the last three years and two Pac-10 Finals appearances in that same span. This is a Trojan program that has had a few remarkable recruiting years and a few players go in the NBA draft recently. They are a program that is one step below the marquee level, one step away from getting the chance to begin a dynasty, one step away from dominating another sport. So what did they do this off-season to improve their chances of becoming this dominant program?

That’s a good question. Perhaps we should ask Louis and Helene Galen, who contributed the final $35,000,000 to build a new basketball arena for the Trojans. Perhaps they could shed some light on the Trojans future. With UCLA playing in a rundown Pauley Pavilion and seven coliseums built before 1975, not to mention two built before 1930, USC is making the move to build upon its program.

Only California has built a new stadium in the last two decades, building the $57.5 million dollar Hass Pavilion. Since 1999, California has finished 18-15 (’99), 20-11 (’00), 23-9 (’01), and 22-9 (’02), finishing with winning records each year, something they couldn’t do four times in the 90’s. They have found a consistency in the Pac-10 and are preparing to challenge UCLA, Stanford and Arizona as perennial contenders (I tread lightly when speaking of UCLA).

Now, Mr. and Mrs. Galen, why would you, as die hard USC fans, want to spend so much money on a basketball arena when no other school has spent more then $62 million (factoring in inflation – the top three are: Cal $61.4 million, Arizona’s McKale Memorial Center $33.5 million, Arizona State’s Wells Fargo Arena $31.1 million). Spending so much money didn’t make Arizona State an all-star team.

Unfortunately, since I am no longer allowed in Bel Air because of an unfortunate Frisbee golf incident, the Galen’s were unavailable for comment. However, their generosity is a sign of the times at USC, which has made an effort to level its athletic playing field by supporting sports other then football. With another set of twins to join the Craven’s, USC is prepared to confuse the heck out of opponents this year, and probably finish amongst the top teams.

I wish I could say the same for UCLA. With ineligible players, a new head coach, and the most demanding alumni in the game, there is little chance that UCLA will be in the Pac-10 championship game. I do believe that they will find a groove sometime during the year, and rattle off 15 or 16 wins this season, but it is most definitely a transition season in Westwood. Howland’s offense will center around Dijon Thompson, who has elevated himself to playmaker on a team that had previously relied on heavy-footed Jason Kapono in the role. Thompson will become a lottery pick if he stays healthy because of his cutting ability and his unselfish play. Howland will be around for a while, and he cannot be judged by this season, so I will lay off him. But I’d like to give him a warning….I’m coming next year!

As for the rest of the Pac-10? Other then Ike Diogu, I’d like to say you are all a bunch of wussies that have shamed a conference that has dominated in non-conference games only a few season ago. Put all the rivalries aside and let’s prove that UNLV has nothing on us. Tulsa can kiss our collective butts. North Carolina State who? Let’s make this the year that everyone forgets about Gonzaga and Morgan State and remembers how great of basketball the Pac-10 can play.

Oh yeah, I guess I should say that Arizona is going to be great again. I always forget about them because they choke at the end of the season…leaving me to quickly turn to Spring Training as my sports outlet. Not this year, I’m putting no effort into my relationship with them. So it is said.


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