Tournament Time

This week's column from standout 6th Man and Stanford Daily writer Patrick Fitzgerald offers up his thoughts coming out of this past weekend's run in the Pacific-10 Conference Tournament. Read Patrick's personal letter to Darren Collison, a look at chants and cheers from other team supporters at Staples, ruminations from the media room, and his prognostication on Stanford's NCAA Tournament hopes.

Editor's Note: The following blog/commentary offers the writer's views of the on-court performances and decisions of our men's basketball team. In no way should constructively-intended criticism be deemed as a lack of respect or admiration for our team's obvious desire and commitment.

For starters, why not an open letter to Darren Collison?

Dear Darren,

I'm sorry. There, I said it. I am sorry. I know. I should have included you in my All Pac-10 team. I thought that mentioning that you were my preseason pick for Pac-10 player of year, and that I had only expected the best from you, would be enough. Apparently, it was not. You decided to take it out on Stanford. I understand. Just in case Stanford and UCLA meet in the Final Four, can we call it even? Thanks.

There. Now that I've got that off my chest, I feel better…

Post-Pac-10 Thoughts

Can't say I'm too angry about how things sorted out. If you would have told me last week that Stanford would have finished a close second in the Pac-10s to UCLA, I would not have been overly upset. Yes, some breaks here and there could have meant a different result, and a possible tournament title for the Cardinal. It would have been nice to see Stanford get a good shot at the end – instead they went to Lawrence Hill for a two when they were down by three with three seconds left. In any case, Stanford won the games it needed to, and lost a close match against one of the best teams in the nation. Can't say I'm too unhappy about that.

What I am unhappy about is…

USC 59, Arizona State 55

Arizona State was the latest victim of the Pac-10 referees' SoCal bias with a terrible call in the last minute. Jeff Pendergraph had a put-back dunk to tie the game that was ruled as an over the back foul, leading to two USC free throws on the other end. I only have my eyes to judge the nature of this call, because for some reason they don't show any instant replays in the Staples Center during the Pac-10 tournament. The league must really know its refs are awful. Conference of Champions! Woot!

In any case, we will never know if ASU could have pulled it off in overtime. Given the partisan crowd (USC was just down the street), I have my doubts. But now, considering that ASU was one of the last teams not to make the NCAA tournament, you just have to wonder…

Speaking of the crowd, the USC-UCLA match up Friday night was particularly interesting. I asked one of my friends, a USC water polo player, how he thought the fan support would be distributed. No question, he said. All UCLA.

He was right. Whether it's the more storied history of Bruin basketball, or the fact that USC had just gone on spring break, but the Bruin faithful seemed to outnumber the Trojan fans three-to-one. It was even worse, of course, for the Stanford-UCLA final – essentially a home game for the Bruins. Again, I don't want to sound like I'm complaining too much, and I love Staples, but is there some more neutral venue out there? Fresno's Save Mart center, perhaps? Then again, I would much rather spend a weekend in Los Angeles, however smoggy, than Fresno, home court advantage be damned.

Overheard in the 6th man

"Love is fat! Love can't shoot!" This actually came courtesy of the Band Saturday afternoon. And Love actually missed the free throws, to boot.

Overheard in the press room

Now, I won't claim to be an expert in all things college basketball (which is why this post will largely be devoid of NCAA tournament picks and projections), but I've followed Stanford enough in recent years to know BS when I hear it. And what I overheard from a conversation between a couple of UCLA student journalists made me cringe: "Wow, that Mitch Johnson guy had four turnovers. He's terrible!" [Yes, Collison killed Stanford, but Mitch also had seven points, seven rebounds and five assists]. "And that Goods guy, seven out of his eight shot attempts were three pointers – what's up with that?" [Please note: Anthony hit four of those seven three-point attempts, which may have happened to be all his makes from the field. But getting Goods going from outside will be crucial for the Cardinal in the Tournament. Oh yeah, and one of those attempts was the heave with the clock running out, so really he was basically 4-for-6. Also note, two of Kevin Love's four made field goals were 3-pointers. Thank you. Move along.]

Of course, you can't get too worked up about what everyone else thinks. And fans, sometimes even beat writers, of other teams are bound to be homers. But these guys took it to a whole new level. I saw one of their ballots for the all-Pac-10 Tournament Team from a distance, and the guy had the gall to put Brook Lopez and four members of UCLA on his ballot! Yes, UCLA won and everything, but four?

For the record, here were my picks: Kevin Love, UCLA. Darren Collison, UCLA (also my pick for tournament MVP, which apparently is not also a member of the all-Tournament team in the current arrangement? Strange.) Brook Lopez, Stanford (who would have been my MVP pick had Stanford pulled off the upset). Kyle Weaver, Washington State. O.J. Mayo, USC.

Let me add, for the record, that I was shocked to be the recipient of an official Pac-10 tournament team ballot. As I returned from a halftime stint chatting it up with Daniel over on KZSU, I was stunned to find the salmon-colored sheet of paper awaiting me at my spot behind the south basket. My reaction: You really care what I think? My vote actually has an official sway in the matter?

Don't get me wrong. I like picking these teams, and had a lot of fun putting together my column the other week picking my All-Pac 10 team. But that was always for fun, to liven up the conversation and to spark a debate around these parts. But, lo and behold, as a part of the Pac-10 Tournament media brigade, my voice actually mattered. Scary, isn't it? (but really now, my picks were essentially the same as the ones selected, so I can't beat myself too much, right?)

Overheard in the Staples Center

Well, now that the "overheard in" section has taken on a life of its own, here are a couple observations about how other teams' fans like to get their cheering sections riled up. There may be some lessons for the 6th Man here.

First off, I'm a big fan of Arizona's routine for tipoff and the start of the second half. The band plays this cool little march, and everyone stands until the Wildcats score. While that means these days they may get tired standing up for so long, the tradition is still pretty cool and gets everyone, not just the students, involved. As for what Stanford could learn, I'm not really sure. Could our old people handle it? Do we really want to blatantly copy Arizona? Doubtful.

"U. C. LLLLLLL A! UCLA fight fight fight!"

You either love this or hate this. Yes, it becomes annoying after a while, but not nearly as bad as the constant drone of the USC fight song during football games (luckily these are mostly absent during basketball games). Stanford clearly lacks something like this, a well known, easy to do cheer that can get everyone loud and going all at once. The "Go! Stanford!" call and response is too generic, and can easily be hijacked by fans of other teams. There's real room for improvement here, but I'm not sure what exactly we can do. The "L-E-L-A-N-D S-T-A-N-F-O-R-D … etc" spell out that the Band does before "All Right Now" is great, but too long and unwieldy to become a rousing cheer employed throughout games. Maybe something with a slow clap? I'm always a fan of a slow clap.

The "5-6-7-8-whoooo!" during "All Right Now" is the only thing I can really approximate to what we do, but we only play "All Right Now" occasionally (which is a good thing; I don't think the fight songs should be overused) and its not something that really gets the crowd rallying mid-game. I'm really at a loss here. I'm going to cop out for now and claim that finals have drained my creative juices, but someone needs to come up with something.

WSU's shark thing

Not really sure what this is about, considering there's little that sharks and cougars have in common, other perhaps than encounters between young pool sharks and urban cougars in San Francisco bars. If you don't know what I'm talking about (the cheer, that is), Cal does this with "Iron Man" for sacks in football. (You know I would never advocate copying Cal, but…) We actually tried to get this started at Maples, when they blare the "Jaws" theme before the team takes the floor for pregame warm-ups. For some reason it never caught on, even though I thought it would be cool for the 6th man to be involved with something unique there, not just clapping or whatever. Guess you can't win them all.

Pat's Picks

Speaking of winning it all, I'm not going to spend a lot of space on my Tournament projections. But I will stand by my preseason projection of Stanford making it to the Sweet Sixteen this year. Cornell struggled against Harvard, who Stanford blew out minus Brook earlier this season, and Marquette is talented but should have no answer for the Lopez twins. Texas, however, could be trouble. D.J. Augustin could put on a similar display as Collison did last weekend, and the Houston crowd wouldn't be especially favorable for the Card. If I learned anything from this week's Collison experience, it's that I should stick with my preseason picks.

Patrick Fitzgerald covers men's basketball as well as the occasional news story for The Stanford Daily. Have some dirt on an opposing player or a good idea for a 6th Man chant? Email him at

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