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.

Off to a rough start in 2009, the Pac-10 conference had a chance to regain some credibility with a solid showing in the Big 12/Pac-10 Hardwood Series that began last Sunday.  Unfortunately, the Pac did nothing besides live down to their expectations and the Big 12 has already clinched the Hardwood series with a couple of games still to be played (including the December 16 tilt between the Card and Oklahoma State).  Winning only two of the 10 games played in the Hardwood Series, the Pac-10 had yet another woeful week.  Here's a look at each team's results:

ARIZONA (3-4): The Cats took a rough loss at McKale to the UNLV Runnin' Rebels on Wednesday, dropping a 74-72 decision in double-overtime.  Derrick Williams continued his strong play by going for 28 points and five rebounds and Nic Wise's little brother Dondre dropped in 19, but the Wildcats as a team shot just 36.5% from the field in the loss to one of MWC's finest.  It's never good to lose a non-conference game to a mid-major squad, but UNLV is unbeaten and the #21 team in the land.  It's about as good of a loss a team can have to a mid-major program (and I hesitate calling UNLV a "mid-major" due to their success earlier in this decade reaching the Sweet 16 in 2007 and winning a national championship in 1990- I'll stop using that term unless it really does apply).  Sean Miller and The Gang then headed to Norman to face the Willie Warren-led Oklahoma Sooners, who had been struggling mightily earlier in the season.  However, Jason Capel's side shot over 48% from the field, only turned the ball over seven times and never let the Cats get a sniff of victory as Arizona lost 79-62.  The last game of the Big 12/Pac-10 Hardwood Series to go final this week, OU/UA was the perfect summary of what had taken place over the course of the week.

Up next for the Wildcats: vs. Louisiana Tech (12.09), @ San Diego State (12.12).  They might not have threatening names, but these two squads are very potent and I wouldn't be surprised if Arizona dropped both.  While I do think a win over La Tech is likely, the Bulldogs are 7-1 with their only loss being at The Pit in New Mexico (and one Pac-10 squad knows how it is to play there in 2009-2010 already).

ARIZONA STATE (6-2): After a promising start to the season which included wins over a pesky TCU squad and last season's SEC Regular Season champs in LSU, the Sun Devils were unable to pull one over on the Baylor Bears in Tempe, dropping a 64-61 decision in their Big 12/Pac-10 contest.  Though they held the Bears to 64 points, Baylor shot almost 60% from the floor and 8-16 from beyond the arc.  Furthermore, the Sun Devils grabbed only 14 rebounds all game (compared to 27 for their Big 12 opponent).  After building a nine-point halftime lead and extending it to 10 in the early stages of the second half, Baylor went on a 14-0 run and never relinquished the lead thereafter.  The Sun Devils did get a win earlier in the week with a 74-57 triumph over Arkansas Pine-Bluff out of the SWAC (funny story about the SWAC - I cracked some joke about the overall lack of competition in that conference on someone's Facebook page after Alabama State lost their NCAA opening round match to Morehead State in last season's Big Dance and an assistant coach from the Prairie View A&M's women's basketball team gave me some grief.  Don't worry though, we smoothed it out over numerous messages and had some good discussion about low-major basketball).

Up next for the Sun Devils: @ BYU (12.08 - remember their controversial victory over the Cougars last year?), vs. Delaware State (12.12)

CAL (5-3): If a casual fan were to look at what Mike Montgomery's squad did this week, he or she would most likely consider it a failure.  An eight-point loss to New Mexico? A win over Iowa State?  When you think about solid basketball programs, surely the Lobos and Cyclones are not at the top of the list.  However, that eight-point loss was in New Mexico, one of the toughest places to play in the country.  Also, the game was very close all throughout and didn't get to eight points until the final 20 seconds when the Lobos pulled away with some free throws at the end.  Zhang again got the nod to start at center and looked pretty solid - he's a decent passer that puts an emphasis on boxing out instead of just using his height to get rebounds.  Jamal Boykin was also impressive - his mid-range game might be one of the best in the conference.  The Bears then returned home to make quick work of the Iowa State Cyclones.  While this team has surely fallen on hard times in the last few years, this is a Big 12 program that is on the rise thanks to Craig Brackins, a dynamic scoring forward who put in 40-something against the Rock Chalk Jayhawks last season in Lawrence.  He had 21 against the Bears, but his Cyclones were still 19 points short of the Bears, losing to Cal by a final score of 82-63.  This was one of just two bright spots for the Pac-10 against the Big 12.

Up next for the Golden Bears: @ Pacific (12.09 - the Tigers, while not as good as they were in the middle part of this decade, are still a solid squad that saw the postseason in 2008-2009.  They are 6-1 this year and have beaten the likes of San Diego (who has really fell apart as of late), San Diego State and Nevada).

OREGON (4-3): People were saying Ernie Kent needed a big-time showing against Missouri this Saturday in order to cool his seat off a little bit.  Unfortunately, what Coach Kent got was the worst loss in at least this decade as they lost 106-69 to Mike Anderson's Tigers.  To spare you from getting out your calculator, that is a 37-point defeat.  Oregon shot under 31%, and Missouri shot over 57% and 14-29 from beyond the arc.  Oregon gave up 53 points in both halves.  They had just five assists compared to 19 turnovers.  There was nothing pretty about this loss.  Tajuan Porter, hobbled by injury, was only able to play six minutes, but even a healthy Porter would not have saved the Ducks on Saturday.  At least Dunigan is back in the line-up.

Up next for the Ducks: vs. Saint Mary's (12.12 - after this, their final four home non-conference contests are all guarantee games with the exception of Oakland, so they should be able to make their record look a little more gaudy).

OREGON STATE (4-3): The Beavers were the only team in the conference that did not lose a game this week (with the exception of Stanford, but the Card did not have a game this week), knocking off Colorado 74-69 and Cal-State Bakersfield 74-39.  The Buffaloes have developed a knack for blowing late leads/losing close games to superior competition.  In Maui, Colorado squandered a late lead against Gonzaga and lost an overtime decision to Arizona.  On Friday night, the Buffaloes led by five points at the half and had a 69-68 lead with under 90 seconds remaining.  However, Calvin Haynes came through with the go-ahead bucket at the 1:12 mark of the second half and the Beavs wouldn't relinquish the lead from there.  Although it was nice to see Oregon State register the Pac-10's first tally against the Big 12 this season in the Hardwood Series (Arizona's win over Colorado in the Maui Invitational didn't count), I almost take more away from their victory over the Roadrunners.  Cal-State Bakersfield was a very poor team last season that Oregon State only beat by a score of 65-59.  Furthermore, with a tendency of having tough times against low-major competition, Oregon State dominated this one from start to finish and held the Roadrunners to 15 second-half points.  I know the Roadrunners are still a very bad team, but this is a game that would have been a lot closer earlier in the season and was certainly a struggle for Oregon State last season at a part of the season in which they were on fire.  That made it three straight wins for the Beavs and look for them to give the Cornhuskers some serious fits on Saturday.

Up next for the Beavers: @ Nebraska (12.12)

UCLA (2-5): The week got off to a rough start for the Bruins, and they didn't even have a game until Sunday.  On Tuesday, Drew Gordon left the Bruins, citing philosophical differences between himself and Coach Ben Howland.  As much of a defensive presence Gordon was for UCLA, his departure opened up a spot for a guy that is going to be a dominant Pac-10 player in the future in freshman Reeves Nelson.  The Modesto product has all the hustle and toughness of a Lorenzo Mata-Real and Alfred Aboya plus a better touch around the basket.  He gave a Herculean effort on Sunday against the #1 Kansas Jayhawks at Pauley Pavilion, holding Cole Aldrich to just one field goal and scoring nine points and grabbing nine rebounds, six of them on the offensive glass.  He did all this in just 23 minutes, as he had to leave the game with an eye injury (he tried to come back and play through the pain, but was unable to).  I have loved this guy ever since the loss to open the season against Cal-State Fullerton, and my man crush on him only grows with each passing day.  While the Bruins did lose by a count of 73-61 to the Jayhawks, they were able to keep it within shouting distance for pretty much the whole contest and cut the lead down to five points in the early stages of the second half.  Coach Howland opted to start Malcolm Lee at point instead of Jerime Anderson, which I think is a good move for the Bruins.  The line-up of Lee-Roll-Dragovic-Keefe-Nelson could do some damage in the Pac-10.

Up next for the Bruins: vs. Mississippi State (12.12)

USC (2-4): I'm starting to think Texas just starts out slowly in the first half.  They only led by three points after 20 minutes against the woeful Iowa Hawkeyes in the semi-finals of the CBE Classic before winning by 26, and they carried just a six-point lead into the halftime break against the Trojans on Thursday.  However, the Longhorns would again pull away in the second half to win by a final count of 69-50.  Things continued to get worse on the two-game road trip for USC, as they fell behind 19-2 to Georgia Tech en route to a 79-53 pasting at the hands of the Yellow Jackets.  These were definitely two tough opponents to go up against for USC, but I'm sure this is a road trip that Kevin O'Neill would like to soon forget.  On the bright side, Nikola Vucevic continues to be a threat in the post for the Trojans and he was doing it against a couple of Top-25 teams - 18 points and 14 rebounds against Texas, 12 points and six rebounds against Georgia Tech.  Lil' Rome update: two minutes, one steal, 0-1 FG against Georgia Tech; no time against Texas.

Up next for the Trojans: vs. Sacramento State (12.08 - don't sleep on those Hornets!  They are 4-5 this year, already equaling their win total from a season ago and knocking off Oregon State at Gill Coliseum in November), vs. Idaho State (12.11 - Doug Oliver's former team!)

WASHINGTON (6-1): The Huskies were the only unbeaten team remaining in the conference on Thursday, and they would lose that title with a 99-92 overtime defeat at the hands of Pat Knight and the Texas Tech Red Raiders.  In a game that almost ended in regulation (a Mike Singletary made three-pointer as the buzzer sounded was ruled to be after the clock hit triple-zeros upon further review), Washington gave up 19 points in the five-minute overtime period and could not stop John Roberson, who attacked the hoop with great effectiveness and scored 25 points (13-13 at the charity stripe).  Quincy Pondexter, impressive as he always has been this season, led the Huskies with 31 points and also had five rebounds and three steals (Venoy Overton had six picks to lead the team in that department).  I'm not sure how I feel about this loss.  On one hand, Texas Tech is undefeated and now 8-0 on the season.  On the other hand, the Red Raiders' best previous win was against an Oregon State team that had some serious troubles at the very beginning of the season.  Furthermore, Texas Tech has only played one road game thus far and has yet to leave the state of Texas (they traveled to Stephen F. Austin, a team they beat by just two points).  No disrespect to Coach Pat Knight, who is doing a great job down in Lubbock, but I'm just not too sure how good the Red Raiders are.  They're obviously good since they beat the Huskies, but that's a game Washington needs to win if they are supposed to be the Pac-10's strongest ambassador to the rest of the NCAA.  On the bright side, Washington returned home to knock off the Matadors of Cal-State Northridge 88-76 on Sunday.

Up next for the Huskies: vs. Georgetown (12.12 - part of the Jimmy V Classic).

WASHINGTON STATE (6-2): For 30+ minutes, it looked as if Coach Ken Bone was going to get a trademark win, as the Cougars built a 13-point lead over the Gonzaga Bulldogs in Spokane with 12:40 remaining and held a six-point advantage with under six minutes to go.  However, the Cougars' offense stalled and the Zags went on an 18-4 that gave them a 74-66 lead before they would eventually win it 74-69.  While certainly not on the level of Stanford's near-upset of Kentucky, it was still a positive sign to see the Cougs hang in there with one of the most consistently solid programs in college basketball over the last decade, and they did it without a gigantic performance from potential Pac-10 Player of the Year candidate Klay Thompson, who was held to just 15 points in the defeat.  It was a different story when Washington State headed east to Manhattan, Kansas, as Wazzu lost by 17 points (86-69) to the Kansas State Wildcats.  The Cougars fell behind 21-6 and never got it within single digits the rest of the way.

Up next for the Cougars: vs. Idaho (12.09 - the Vandals are coming off a post-season bid in 2008-2009 and are 5-2 this year, most recently pasting the Eric Reveno Pilots 68-48), vs. Air Force (12.12)

Power Rankings for Week of 11.30-12.06:
1. Cal (16 pts)
2. Oregon State (14 pts)
3. Washington (11 pts - I'm knocking 1 point off just because.  The 3rd best team this week didn't win, that should be some kind of penalty, right?)
4. Arizona State (10 pts)
5. Washington State (7 pts - creative license)
6. Arizona (5 pts - I'm sending a message: if you want your full place-points and you are a top-six team for the week, you have to win a game!)
7. UCLA (4 pts)
8. USC (1 pt - I would have given them 0 if it wasn't for a respectable first half against Texas)
9. Oregon (0 pts)

Overall Power Rankings for 2009-2010 Season:
1. Cal (50 pts)
2. Washington (49 pts)
3. Arizona State (48 pts)
4. Washington State (39 pts)
5. Arizona (35 pts)
6. Oregon State (25 pts)
7. Oregon (20 pts)
8. UCLA (9 pts)
9. USC (8 pts)

How will the Pac rebound from a collectively poor effort in the bulk of the Big 12/Pac-10 Hardwood Series?  With contests against the likes of Georgetown, Mississippi State, and an assortment of Mountain West schools, the conference will have a chance to regain some respect.  Check back on for continued summaries and analysis of the happenings in the Pacific 10 Conference.

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