Kevo's "Pac-10 Round-ball Round-up" [Week of November 16-22]
The recent week that was will be remembered as the first black eye for the Pacific-10 Conference in its weekly non-conference slate, and there may well be more ahead based upon what we witnessed. With a combined 10 losses for all conference members already, only the Arizona and Washington schools are perfect on the two-week-old 2009-10 season. Here's a look at what happened for the other nine teams in the conference and a look ahead into the immediate future for each school:
ARIZONA: For the Pac-10 enthusiasts, this article will start and end with positive notes because the four remaining undefeated schools are at opposite ends of the alphabetical spectrum. The Wildcats only played one game this past week, and were successful against the Owls from Rice University, a squad that has a big Pac-10 presence on its bench with former Cal coach Ben Braun as the head coach and former Beaver assistant and interim head coach Kevin Mouton as an assistant. Sean Miller's Wildcat bunch won this game pretty easily by a count of 66-49. Zona got out to an early 24-6 lead before allowing the Owls cut the lead to six with 12 minutes to go in the game, but it was easy sailing from there on out. Nic Wise led a group of four Wildcats who reached double figures with 15 points and also had 7 assists and 5 steals (5 TOs as well though). It was the first loss of the season for Rice, which dropped to 3-1. Don't read too much into their record though, as they won their first three contests against Sacramento State (we'll get to them when this article becomes sponsored by the letter "O"), South Alabama (a shell of the '07-'08 team that received an NCAA at-large bid), and Houston Baptist (former D-I-turned NAIA-turned D-I school that is in its second year at the top level this time around. Stanford actually practiced at their facilities when we were down in Houston for the Sweet 16 two years ago).
Up next for the Wildcats: Maui Invitational - vs. Wisconsin on 11/23, vs. Colorado/Gonzaga (they beat the Zags last year in Phoenix) on 11/24, final game on 11/25 (either Chaminade/Maryland/Vanderbilt/Cincinnati).
ARIZONA STATE: Luckily, these guys were on ESPN and ESPNU last week, so I got a chance to check a bit of each of their games out. Eric Boateng has really stepped his game up. I know the competition was weak against Texas State, TCU, and USF (of the WCC variety, not the Bulls!) but he was skying for rebounds and utilizing some nifty moves in the post to get some nice buckets. 8 points and 8 rebounds (4-4 FG) in the first half against TCU, and finished with 21 and 12 (both career-highs). They have a couple of nice freshmen too - Trent Lockett caught my eye for his athleticism even though he missed a wide open lay-up at the end of the first half against the Horned Frogs. The Sun Devils won that game against TCU by a score of 52-49 and had to come back from an 8-point deficit in the final four minutes. TCU is a good team, but shouldn't be pushing Arizona State to the limit if the Sun Devils are to be a high-quality BCS conference team. I still like this team though and think they are a top-half squad in a much-maligned Pac-10. An 84-62 win against Texas State (Texas State kept it within shouting distance for about 30 minutes before completely folding) and a 104-65 conquer of the Dons were their other two results. Side note: I'm watching the ASU-TCU game on tape right now, and the camera just focused on a little four-year-old girl in a Sun Devil cheerleader outfit throwing up a "shocker" (PM me if you need to know what that means). LOL.
CAL: The Pac-10 attempted to put its best foot forward at MSG last week for the "Coaches vs. Cancer Classic", and it didn't pan out well. At all. Not even remotely close. If it wasn't for a Boykin and Randle-inspired second-half charge against the Buckeyes to make the second-half interesting, 95-73 loss to the 'Cuse, 76-70 loss to Ohio State. However, one must remember that neither Theo Robertson nor Harper Kamp played in those two games, and considering that Cal plays about eight or so guys in their rotation, that's ¼ of their lineup. And to be fair, Jerome Randle went beast-mode on both the Orange and Buckeyes with a combined 51 points and 12 three-pointers. The little dude is the second-coming of Nate Robinson, minus the hops and plus the outside jumper (I'm a big fan of the Chi-city native, if you couldn't tell already). Freshman Omondi Amoke looked more than solid with 11 points and 15 rebounds off the bench against Ohio State; he brings a lot of energy and hustle - a Boykin with more talent, if you will. Still, a 22-point loss never looks good, even if it was against the eventual winners of the tournament after beating UNC. What is most disconcerting for me about the Coaches vs. Cancer results is that Cal only has two more meaningful non-conference games - at The Pit to face New Mexico and at Kansas. If the Pac-10 wants to regain some credibility, then the supposed best team in the conference has to get a win against another "Power 6" conference team, and Cal has only one of those left. A win at New Mexico will look nice, but it won't carry as much weight as it should because of the Lobos' conference affiliation.
Up next for the Golden Bears: Jacksonville at home on 11/24, Princeton at home on 11/29
OREGON: Over the past few years, the Ducks have become the masters of losing to up-and-coming mid-major schools and big conference schools that are NIT-bound at best. They continued this streak last night with an 88-81 loss at the hands of Coach Rev's Portland Pilots in Portland. I'm not saying this is a bad loss by any means considering that the Ducks were a 20-loss team last year and the Pilots are picked to finish second in a very strong WCC, but the Ducks needed this one. Their last remaining non-conference games against RPI-boosting opponents are Missouri on the road as part of the Big 12/Pac-10 Hardwood Challenge and Saint Mary's (who they lost to a couple of years ago). Otherwise, they face the likes of Mississippi Valley State, Arkansas Pine-Bluff, and Oakland (a team they've lost to two straight years). They weren't at full strength though, as Michael Dunigan sat the game out with a leg injury. Hopefully it's a day-to-day thing, as the Ducks can have a serious advantage down low in conference if the talented sophomore post player is healthy. Another sophomore Malcolm Armstead was sharp, as he scored 21 against the Pilots off the bench. Portland is the real deal and will give the Bruins a lot of trouble on Thanksgiving (I still say UCLA wins this game because I can't imagine Coach Howland dropping another this soon after a harrowing loss on Monday night - we'll talk more about that later).
Up next for the Ducks: Montana at home on 11/23, Montana State at home on 11/28.
OREGON STATE: The Beavers continue to befuddle everyone in college basketball, dropping their home opener 65-63 to the Sacramento State Hornets (Oregon State trailed 44-22 at the half). Their 2009-2010 season is starting off a lot like last season did with questionable losses to low-major schools. First it was Texas A&M Corpus-Christi, now Sacramento State. In case you didn't know, Sacramento State is a historically-bad program - really, really bad. In 18 seasons at the D-I level, they have had one season at .500 (15-15), 0 seasons above .500, and 11 seasons with 20 or more losses. The Hornets were a combined 6-51 over the last two seasons and hadn't beaten a D-I conference-affiliated opponent this year until they faced the Beavers at Gill Coliseum. Also, they hadn't beaten a power conference ever before in their latest stint at the D-I level. Their last win against a Pac-10 team was against the Washington State Cougars in 1953! The win against the Beavers on Saturday put them at 2-30 all-time against Pac-10 opponents. And this was a team that lost the school's all-time leading scorer at the D-I level in Loren Leath. Yeah, this was a bad loss. There is no way around it. The Beavers let the Hornets go on a 27-4 run to end the first half. Ouchmeisters. Oregon State needs to right the ship quickly, or the only way they get into the tournament is if they finish first in the Pac-10.
Up next for the Beavers: on the road at George Washington on 11/28
UCLA: This has been a week from hell for the Bruins. First, a horrific loss to the Fullerton Titans, then a comeback victory against CAL STATE BAKERSFIELD, then Nikola Dragovic gets arrested for some incident at a concert a month ago or so. I'm not going to speculate on the Dragovic situation, as I don't want to add fuel to the fire and he deserves to have his privacy as respected as possible in something like this. However, I WILL speculate on what happened on the court. Look, I know that this time has barely had a chance to practice as a complete unit, they lost four starters from a years ago, and that Coach Howland is going to need some time to mold this team as a result. But I watched that game on Monday night against Fullerton, and it was perhaps the sloppiest game I have seen in a while. No disrespect to the Titans, but they didn't look all that hot as a team. They missed anywhere from 8-10 layups in that game and turned the ball over 17 times in the first 40 minutes and STILL won at Pauley Pavilion. On the bright side for the Bruins, Malcolm Lee is the truth and I LOVE freshman Reeves Nelson- he is an "energy guy" who gets a lot of offensive rebounds and finishes very well at the hoop (his touch from the free throw line isn't bad either). Michael Roll is also a very solid player, and will provide much-needed veteran leadership to a young group in 2009-2010. On the dark side, no one else had a good game. Jerime Anderson so far has not lived up to his billing and went 1-11 against Fullerton on Monday night. He is still a good athlete and gives a good defensive effort (just like any Howland-coached kid), but he really needs to step it up. And I love Drew Gordon as a person and as a top-notch defender, but he needs to develop an offensive game (being a San Jose kid myself, I played against Gordon at a couple of parks in pick-up action, and he dunked on me TWICE). He doesn't have much touch around the basket, and if he is not in a position to dunk the ball, chances are he is not going to make his shot. Anderson (4-7 FG), Gordon (8-10 FG, 19 pts) and company seemingly proved all of my above statements wrong against Bakersfield in a 75-64 win, but the Roadrunners are not a team you brag about beating by 11, especially when you were trailing to them by 11 more than halfway through the first half (they would eventually build an 18-point lead before losing a chunk of it). I'm completely confident that Coach Howland will have his kids in good form come Pac-10 season, but until then, it's going to be a tough road to hoe, and the upcoming 76 Classic is going to be a great test for them.
USC: If Oregon State's loss to Sacramento State was the worst of the week for the Pac, then USC's defeat at the hands of Loyola Marymount was a very close second. Depth is a serious concern for the Trojans, as they only used six players against the Lions on Saturday night, and only five of them scored (led by Nikola Vucevic's 19-point, 11-rebound effort). And unlike the OSU-Sac State game, this wasn't one where the opponent went on one crazy run that ended up providing just enough cushion. Actually, the Trojans had an eight-point halftime lead over LMU and increased it to 12 three minutes into the final period. Remember that LMU is coming off two seasons in which they lost more than 25 games (3-28 in 2008-09, 5-26 in 2007-08). Maybe not nearly as bad historically as Sacramento State, but about just as bad in the recent past. Seven players saw action in a 77-67 win over UC Riverside earlier in the week, and Dwight Lewis dropped 22 points to lead all scorers. Outside of Lewis and Coach O'Neill, there's not a whole lot that jumps out at you. This was a team that would not have made the NCAA tournament last year had they not won the Pac-10 tournament, and they lost three starters from that team in Demar DeRozan, Taj Gibson and Daniel Hackett. There will be plenty of growing pains for Coach O'Neill and company.
Up next for the Trojans: Coppin State at home on 11/27, Nebraska at home on 11/29
WASHINGTON: Just one game for the Huskies this week - an 80-70 win over San Jose State. That might not sound like much, but the Spartans are a much-improved team that has a good chance of finishing above .500 and finding themselves in some sort of postseason tournament come March. "Ex-Husky-turned-Sparty" Adrian Oliver went for 32 against his former side, but it wasn't enough to match the 30 points of Quincy Pondexter and 16 of Isaiah Thomas. I'm telling you, get your popcorn ready for Stanford-UW later in the season and a Fields-Pondexter match-up- it will be a serious barn-burner. The Huskies are 4-0, and the win over the Spartans was their best of the young season (a 56-point win over Portland State doesn't count), but the fact that San Jose State has been their highest-quality opponent also tells you that UW hasn't had any kind of a true test yet- Texas Tech in Lubbock on 12.03 will be a better barometer.
Up next for the Huskies: Montana at home on 11/29
WASHINGTON STATE: The Cougs faced two opponents this week- the Eastern Washington Eagles and the IPFW Mastodons. They started off with a 67-61 win over EWU, which might sound bad at first because the Eagles went 12-18 last year and play in the Big Sky. However, EWU only lost to Portland by 6 as well, so by the transitive property, the Cougs are just as good as Portland (okay, so maybe the transitive property doesn't exactly work in just about any case, but still, it's not as bad of a close win as it might appear). As far as the IPFW game, here's the good, the bad, and the ugly. The good: Klay Thompson scored 37 points. The bad: no one else reached double figures. The ugly: no ugly really, but your second-leading scorer (Reggie Moore in this case) cannot have nine points in a game in which you drop 89. Come Pac-10 season, that will not fly, even if the conference is considerably down. The Cougars are 3-0 now, but really haven't faced anyone this year. The Great Alaskan Shootout that is coming up can potentially tell us a little bit more about Coach Bone and the Cougars.
Up next for the Cougars: Great Alaskan Shootout- Alaska-Anchorage on 11/25, Nicholls State on 11/27, Houston/Oklahoma/USD on 11/28
Kevo's Week 2 Bootleg Power Rankings:
1. Washington (16 pts)
2. Arizona State (14 pts)
3. Arizona (12 pts)
4. Washington State (10 pts)
5. Oregon (8 pts)
6. Cal (6 pts)
7. UCLA (4 pts)
8. USC (2 pts)
9. Oregon State (0 pts)
Kevo's Overall Bootleg Power Rankings:
1. Washington (32 pts)
2. Arizona State (26 pts)
3. Arizona (20 pts)
4. Cal (20 pts)
5. Oregon (18 pts)
6. Washington State (16 pts)
7. UCLA (5 pts)
8. USC (3 pts)
9. Oregon State (3 pts)
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About the Author: Kevin Danna, Stanford '09, started out as a student manager-in-training for the Men's Basketball Team on October 14, 2005, and has lived and breathed Stanford Basketball ever since. From doing laundry to filming practice to working summer camps, he has been involved with many facets of the Men's Basketball program. Upon retirement from his manager position on March 25, 2009 at the conclusion of the 2008-09 season, Kevin took an undeservedly prolonged break from any kind of work and eventually got his degree from The Farm in Spanish. Shaking off the cobwebs of five months of laziness, Kevin has started working as a play-by-play and color broadcaster for gostanford.com, calling home contests (in English) for several Stanford sports. He also hosts a sports talk show on 90.1 FM KZSU from 9-10pm every Tuesday entitled "The Sports Zoo", as well as a music show called "408's Finest" immediately following sports talk from 10pm-Midnight. An alumnus of San Jose's Bellarmine Prep, Kevin proudly admits that he currently lives at home in San Jose with his parents and cat.
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