We’ll get to the PAC 10 in a moment, but I wanted to talk about better basketball first. Just some notes from the games over the weekend:
-Don’t know why Bob Huggins was sitting Casey Mitchell so much. If he’s suspended then don’t play him at all and if he isn’t, keep your top scorer in the game.
-Tough loss for the Illini, that makes three of their last four and four straight on the road. While Northwestern is improved, remember Illinois beat them by 25 earlier this year.
-Va Tech with a bad loss Saturday @ Boston College. It seems like they would be on the outside looking in at this point.
-Sad times in Ames. Iowa St. is now 1-8 after losing in the final minute again to Kansas St. The Cyclones have had the lead in the final minute in six of their ten losses. Everyone will see Pullen’s lay-up winner, but the big shot was the possession before that for K St. Pullen got a wide open three at the top of the key, off a poorly defended screen, to make it a one-point game.
-Big time win for Baylor, they needed it in the worst way after the loss to Oklahoma. Perry Jones is a man, 27pts for the true frosh.
-Memphis sealing the deal with two late free throws at Gonzaga. The Tigers wish that had happened two years ago. The Zags will have to win the WCC tourney to get a bid.
-Duke and NC St. lived up to what I expected, why was that game on at that time on national TV? Of course the competition during that game was Ole Miss @Arkansas, Arizona St. @Stanford, or Dayton @La Salle. Found UConn @ Seton Hall, but a woman is doing the play by play, couldn’t deal with that, so lots of flipping around.
-Seton Hall sets basketball back 60 years by scoring just three points in the final ten minutes to blow the lead against UConn.
-Florida played well, even though they choked away the lead in the second half, and knocked off the Wildcats at home. Still think at the end of the year Kentucky will be on top.
-Ohio St. and North Carolina didn’t want any dramatics on their super Sunday’s. Minnesota is in some trouble; they are without a true point guard, Ralph Sampson has looked soft on the inside in the last couple of games, and they seem to play tight in pressure situations. The Heels can say, “Drew Who,” as true frosh point guard Kendall Marshall had 16 assists in the first game since Larry Drew quit on his team and UNC blasted FSU.
Ok, we had to get here eventually. Last year this was by far the worst power conference in the nation and they aren’t that much better this year. Looking forward it’s hard to see this league getting more than two or maybe three bids and it’s already pretty clear which three teams that will be. The one other thing I don’t understand with the Pac 10 is that why did they expand with Colorado? Why not BYU? The Cougars have a more consistent football and basketball programs and they could’ve added the Holy War rivalry (BYU-Utah). The Buffs just don’t make sense.
Best Team: Arizona (19-4, 8-2)
The swoon in Oregon by Washington suddenly propels the Wildcats into this position. So no, it’s not that Arizona has been incredible; they just have one incredible player. Derrick Williams is averaging 20 PPG, 8 RPG, and has a .634 FG% and is the only one in the conversation for Pac 10 POY. The Wildcats had a nice weekend in Northern California, sweeping Stanford and Cal (crazy 3 OT game, wasn’t pretty, but was entertaining). ‘Zona now has a two game lead on Washington (the only real threat, sorry UCLA) and will get the Huskies at home February 19th.
Next in line: Washington (15-7, 7-4)
The Huskies have the talent to make a run in the tournament, but they need to tighten things up and win some games to just make the tourney. They played by far the toughest schedule out of conference by Pac 10 teams, the problem is that they didn’t get any quality wins. They return home this week, after dropping three straight on the road, to try to turn things back in the right direction.
Biggest Disappointment: Arizona St. (9-14, 1-10)
Is Herb Sendek’s job still safe? How long will it be safe with the way the Sun Devils are playing recently, losing their ninth straight game in the Pac 10 Saturday @ Stanford. Most people had Arizona St. in the upper half of the Pac 10 so a 1-10 mark and a secure place at the bottom of the standings seals the deal for them. I wouldn’t hold my breath for a turnaround anytime this year, Sendek has been clearing his bench lately looking for any kind of spark.
Next in line: Washington (15-7, 7-4)
They made it twice to the list because four losses in the conference and as we talked about earlier, the lack of a real signature win outside the league. They will be on the bubble if they continue down this path.
Biggest Surprise: Oregon (12-11, 5-6)
The record is not spectacular, but no one would’ve pictured five conference wins all year and the Ducks still have seven to play. Dana Altman should get some consideration for national coach of the year, really. They’ve done all this even though they lost their best player Michael Dunigan before the season started.
Next in line: California (13-10, 6-5)
Again the record isn’t overly impressive, however this team replaced all five starters from the championship team a year ago and weren’t thought to be any kind of threat this year. Three freshmen have been giving this team quality minutes and good production so the future looks bright in Berkeley.
Game this week
8:00 California (13-10, 6-5) @ Washington (15-7, 7-4): Big because Washington needs to turn things around in the worst way and Cal isn’t the easiest team to do that against. Really this is the only somewhat intriguing game for the next week and even calling it that is a bit of a stretch.
Big Monday tonight, a couple potential good ones starting with Pitt heading to arch rival West Virginia. Pitt will be sans Ashton Gibbs their leading scorer and that will only help WVU, who needs this one in the worst way after the weekend they had in Philadelphia. Meanwhile, Kansas will host Missouri and the Tigers will be hard pressed to get their first conference road win. KU will be without standout freshman guard Josh Selby, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they still blow it open against their chief rival.