Kevo's "Pac-10 Round-ball Round-up"

To keep us all up-to-date on the ongoing action involving our various Pac-10 conference rivals, The Bootleg's Men's Basketball writer Kevin "Kevo" Danna continues his weekly hoops coverage and provides us with the "Kevo Power Rankings", a proprietary, unique and debate-worthy estimation of the current conference power structure.

With another week in the books of the 2009-2010 college basketball season, it is becoming more and more evident that the Pac is in nothing short of a down year.  While it wasn't the atrocity that was week Two, there were still plenty of sore spots that will be touched on in the course of this article.  Both the Big Sky and Big West had strong showings against our beloved conference.  The league really is up for grabs and our boys on The Farm have a serious shot to be more than just competitive this season.  Here's a team-by-team look at what happened over the past week:

ARIZONA (3-2): The Wildcats went way out west to the Maui Invitational, going 1-2 and finishing in sixth place out of eight teams.  Though they lost the majority of their games in the Aloha State, Arizona was competitive in all three games and gave their fans plenty of reason to be optimistic about this season.  After falling behind Wisconsin 11-0 in the first game, the Wildcats roared back and took the lead in the second half, only to lose it in the waning moments after a questionable foul call went against them.  Arizona also had a competitive loss to the Vanderbilt Commodores.  While the final score was 84-72, it was a back and forth game all the way down to the final five minutes, which is when the SEC representative in the Maui Invitational took over for good.  The Wildcats' lone win came in the second game against the Colorado Buffaloes in OT, but they blew an eight point lead with 40 seconds to go in regulation due to poor free throw shooting down the stretch.  Nic Wise was "the truth" for Arizona, sparking the rally against Wisconsin and being the only one to hit clutch free throws against Colorado in regulation and overtime en route to a career-high 30 point-game.  In addition to Wise, Derrick Williams looked very impressive over the three games, scoring 25 against the Badgers and is a nice and athletic big body down low for the Cats.  Jamelle Horne showed his range and a flair for the dramatic, hitting huge three-pointers to keep the Cats in the game against Wisconsin and some big shots to seal the deal against Colorado in overtime (though he did miss some big free throws). 

Up Next for the Wildcats: vs. UNLV (12.02- the Runnin' Rebels just beat Louisville for a second consecutive year), @ Oklahoma (12.06- Pac-10/Big 12 Challenge)

ARIZONA STATE (6-1): Herb Sendek's squad went the opposite direction of their in-state rivals, taking a trip out to the East Coast for the NIT Season Tip-Off.  With a 1-1 showing and a third-place finish, the Sun Devils were very impressive.  In their 64-53 loss to Duke, the Sun Devils were able to stick with the eighth-ranked Blue Devils for the vast majority of the game (they were tied with under 14 minutes remaining in the second half) thanks to some heady play by senior Derek Glasser, who finished with 13 points, seven rebounds, three assists, and three steals.  As one of the more experienced floor generals in the Pac-10, Glasser will play a key role in the success of the Sun Devils this season.  Arizona State rebounded nicely from their 11-point defeat with a 71-52 triumph over the Coach Johnson-led LSU Tigers.  While LSU may not have the guns they did a season ago, any team coached by Trent Johnson is going to win games and be a factor in its conference; thus, this was a big win for the Sun Devils and their first over a BCS school in 2009-2010.

Up Next for the Sun Devils: vs. Arkansas Pine-Bluff (11.30- ASU won 74-57), vs. Baylor (12.03)

CAL (4-2): It was a nice rebound week for the Golden Bears, who got easy wins over Jacksonville (79-47) and Princeton (81-60).  The rehab was aided by the play of Patrick Christopher, Jerome Randle, and Jamal Boykin, guys who scored at least 22 points in one of the two games.  This week also saw the appearance of Max Zhang, the 7-3 center from China.  He actually started against the Ivy League Tigers and played pretty well, scoring seven points and collecting five boards.  The defensive effort was very solid for the Bears, who held Jacksonville to just 28.3% shooting and Princeton to only one offensive rebound.  If Monty can get his team to go 2-0 this week, it will really mean something.

Up Next for the Golden Bears: @ New Mexico (12.02- "The Pit" is one of the toughest places to play in the country and decibel levels there have been known to break triple digits), vs. Iowa State (12.05- Pac-10/Big 12 Hardwood Series; the Cyclones are a force to be reckoned with for the first time since the departure of Marcus Fizer)

OREGON (4-2): The Ducks became well acquainted with the Big Sky conference and the state of Montana this past week and had very mixed results.  It started off with a humbling 68-55 loss to the Montana Grizzlies.  With Michael Dunigan out for this one, the Ducks really struggled to get production from their frontcourt and were outrebounded 31-18.  Shooting 18-54 from the floor didn't help their cause either, as the Grizzlies built a 30-20 halftime lead and never looked back.  However, Ernie Kent's crew rebounded nicely when their prized post Dunigan returned for the Montana State game, thoroughly handling the Bobcats 89-66.  The sophomore center came off the bench to drop 15 points and grab four rebounds in his first game back from injury.  Dunigan is going to have to stay healthy for the Ducks to be competitive this season.

Up Next for the Ducks: @ Missouri (12.05- Pac-10/Big 12 Challenge)

OREGON STATE (2-3): It seems as though all the Beavers needed was a little visit from Barack Obama.  Travelling to the nation's capital, our nation's President was in attendance for their contest against the previously-unbeaten George Washington Colonials (albeit against not the best of competition) and saw his brother law Craig Robinson lead Oregon State to a 64-57 win over their Atlantic 10 opponent.  The Tarver brothers were the only Beavers to reach double figures as they combined for 28 points.  This season has gotten off to a very rocky start, but hopefully they have righted the ship.  Their upcoming game against the Buffaloes will be a great game, but I won't say it will be a good gauge for this team's success.  Considering their play as of late and last season when they lost to Howard and swept Cal, I almost think it is more likely that they will beat Colorado than Cal-State Bakersfield (a team they beat by six points last year, and we all saw firsthand how bad of a team the Roadrunners were last season).

Up Next for the Ducks: vs. Colorado (12.04- Pac-10/Big 12 Challenge), vs. Cal-State Bakersfield (12.06)

UCLA (2-4): This is a week Coach Howland would like to soon forget.  I predicted last week that the Pilots would drop a close one to UCLA on Thanksgiving - I was horribly wrong.  Coach Rev led Portland to a 74-47 walloping of the Bruins, and it really wasn't that close.  Portland had UCLA doubled for a good portion of the second half thanks to some unconscious shooting from beyond the arc by Nik Raivio and TJ Campbell.  The effort was much better against #10 Butler, but the Bruins still came up two points short, losing the Friday game of the 76 Classic by a score of 69-67.  Nikola Dragovic woke up a little bit in that game to lead the Bruins in scoring with 14 points on 4-7 FG and 2-4 shooting from long range.  However, the loss to Long Beach State on Sunday was inexcusable.  The 79-68 decision in favor of the 49ers left the Bruins two games under .500 for the first time since 2002-2003.  The problem with the Bruins is the lack of a low-post threat.  James Keefe and Nikola Dragovic are nice, but they do the majority of their damage from the perimeter.  Reeves Nelson is their offensive threat down low, and he is going to need to continue to be big for the Bruins.  If he wasn't a freshman, Reeves would be starting, and I think he will be inserted into the starting lineup as the season progresses.

Up Next for the Bruins: vs. #1 Kansas (12.05- Pac-10/Big 12 Challenge- the Bruins are in serious danger of falling to 2-6 with Jarvis Vanardo and Mississippi State also coming to Pauley Pavilion next week)

USC (2-2): Another week, another 1-1 to show for their efforts.  After defeating guarantee-game opponent Coppin State 74-43 on Friday, the Trojans had their hands full with the Nebraska Cornhuskers and eventually came out on the short end of a 51-48 decision in the first game of the Pac-10/Big 12 Hardwood Series.  I watched a few minutes of the second half, and this game was not pleasing to the eyes for a fan of offense.  The Trojans were solid defensively, but couldn't wake up on the offensive end and made numerous careless mistakes which resulted in 17 turnovers for the game.  One thing that has been a positive for Coach Kevin O'Neill is the play he is getting out of his forwards.  Nikola Vucevic and UNC transfer Alex Stephenson are both averaging double-doubles in this young season and should be just as effective come Pac-10 play.  The only question that remains is "how much Lil' Romeo are we going to see this season?"  He played two minutes against Nebraska and three minutes against Coppin State, scoring two points against the Eagles.

Up Next for the Trojans: @ Texas (12.03- Pac-10/Big 12 Hardwood Series- I'm sure this game looked enticing when OJ Mayo was a Freshman and Demar DeRozan was a signee, but now?  Not so much), @ Georgia Tech (12.05- this could be a very long week for USC).

WASHINGTON (5-0): The Huskies might still be perfect on the season, but it didn't come without a lot of anxiety.  Trailing by nine with 13 minutes to go in the second half against Montana (oh those pesky Grizzlies!), Washington rallied back and won 63-59 thanks to the play of Venoy Overton, who blocked a three-point attempt that would have tied the game with six seconds remaining and hit a free throw shortly thereafter that sealed the deal.  The bad news: Washington had to come from behind at home against a Big Sky opponent, a conference that usually gets somewhere around a 14-seed for their automatic qualifier in the NCAA Tournament.  The good news: Montana has consistently been one of the top programs in that conference, are 4-2 on the season, and were coming off a 13-point win at Mac Court.  Also, UW showed they were able to win without any of their big guns having big games.  Isaiah Thomas started the game 1-9 from the field and Quincy Pondexter was held to seven points on 2-10 shooting.

Up Next for the Huskies: @ Texas Tech (12.03- Pac-10/Big 12 Hardwood Series- don't be frightened by the Red Raiders' 7-0 start- their best win was against Oregon State and they haven't played anyone worthwhile since), vs. Cal-State Northridge (12.06)

WASHINGTON STATE (6-0): Two words: Klay Thompson.  Dude put in 43 against San Diego in a 93-56 Cougar victory over the Toreros in the Championship Game of the Great Alaska Shootout.  These were the same Toreros that opened up the season with a 77-64 victory over the Cardinal and beat the Oklahoma Sooners by 12 points just two days prior to the Washington State game.  Many people think Thompson can be the Pac-10 Player of the Year, and he's showing why.  Klay has scored at least 20 points in all six games this season and is also averaging almost five rebounds, four assists and two steals per contest.  However, the Cougs are not a one-trick pony.  With DeAngelo Casto (aka "Ivory Clark Jr."), Reggie Moore and Nikola Koprivica, there are quite a few options for Washington State offensively.  They still might finish near the bottom of the conference, but you can expect the Cougars to give anyone a game as long as they remain healthy.  They also had wins over Alaska-Anchorage (87-68; this tournament's Chaminade) and Nicholls State (78-69).  Coach Ken Bone is doing a heck of a job in his first season after leading Portland State to their first two NCAA Appearances in back-to-back 23-10 seasons.

Up Next for the Cougars: @ Gonzaga (12.02), @ Kansas State (12.05- Pac-10/Big 12 Hardwood Series)

Kevo's Power Rankings for Week 3 (November 23-29):
1. Washington State (16 pts)
2. Cal (14 pts)
3. Arizona State (12 pts)
4. Arizona (10 pts)
5. Oregon State (8 pts)
6. Washington (6 pts)
7. USC (4 pts)
8. Oregon (2 pts)
9. UCLA (0 pts)

Kevo's Overall Pac-10 Power Rankings:
1. Washington (38 pts)
2. Arizona State (38 pts)
3. Cal (34 pts)
4. Washington State (32 pts)
5. Arizona (30 pts)
6. Oregon (20 pts)
7. Oregon State (11 pts)
8. USC (7 pts)
9. UCLA (5 pts)

The Pac-10/Big 12 Hardwood Series really gets underway this week.  Will the Pac embarrass itself and lose its first Hardwood Series against the Big 12, or will its teams wake up and get some results?  Check back on next week for a recap of the week that was and a breakdown of each Pac-10/Big 12 game.

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