Everyone got in on the act for the USC Trojans tonight and as a team they put up the highest score in Pac Ten Tournament history.
Good enough is putting up 103pts against a solid Stanford basketball team. The USC Trojans answered my question of how good is good enough, in resounding fashion. So, as much as I thought USC could not sweep Stanford through three meetings, is it possible for them to avoid a sweep by Oregon tomorrow night? Thus far, in the two regular season meetings the Ducks have come out ahead with two last second buzzer beaters. I think this time round, SC gets the bounce and moves ahead to the finals on Saturday.
USC vs. STANFORD
"It's just asinine that we beat up on each other for 18 games, then turn around and exhaust whichever team goes through to the finals in preparation for the real tournament." Lute Olson.
I felt Stanford would beat the USC Trojans tonight, barring one thing - Mike Montgomery. The Stanford head coach made it so clear that he did not want to participate in the tourney that he might very well have willed his kids to pull a mental no-show. The Cardinal did everything they could to not play basketball tonight and USC staked their claim as the best basketball team in Los Angeles with a resounding thumping of their Northern California foe.
Henry Bibby had his men prepared. Somehow, his tough love, refuse to lose attitude has finally trickled down to the players. This opening win in the tournament is exactly what SC needed. Whether they advance past Oregon tomorrow night, they will take a premiere performance with them into the NCAA's. SC played their best game of the season against a team that was once ranked in the top ten in the nation. The Trojans now know what it is to play to their potential and this will not be the last time a national audience witnesses such brilliance from the boys in Cardinal and Gold.
I picked SC to lose to Stanford by 4, unless Bluthenthal and Granville showed up. What I didn't bank on was that not only would they post solid games, but so would SC's bench.
Most importantly was the appearance of Jerry Dupree. Long hailed as the heir apparent to super athlete Jeff Trepagnier, Dupree has been a no show for most the season until tonight. Tonight SC fans caught a glimpse of things to come from the sophomore. Let's see if he can build on that in tomorrow night's matchup against the Ducks.
As hard as it was for the Trojans to sweep Stanford this year, I think it will be even harder for the Ducks to do the same against SC. This is grudge match time and SC wants to finally take what they nearly had twice prior to tomorrow night's matchup against Oregon - a win. SC by 4.
CAL vs. UCLA
The oddsmakers are rarely wrong and tonight they certainly knew more than me - the Bruins, once again fell. The one thing I did say about them was...
"As poorly coached and out of sync Ucla has been, they are a team that rises to the occasion. Cal, on the other hand, is a hustling, blood and guts type of ball club that will be in it until the end. If Cal can work the ball underneath to Jamal, keep the score low and then make a run in the last five minutes with their outside shooting, then watch the scores flip putting the Golden Bears on top and ready for the second round. As we speak, however Ucla by 6."
The game went just as predicted with Cal digging deep and Ucla falling away - like they've done all year. This Bruin squad is the most talented, worst coached team in the Pac Ten, perhaps the nation. In a failed attempt to lure Cal into a game of street ball, Ucla managed to tie the score, but once the Bears settled down to play disciplined ball, they put the game away. Personally, I was hoping Ucla would win, only to keep Lavin in Westwood, but that was not to be the case. Cal might have ended Lav's career and even shut the Bruins out of NCAA play. I doubt it though, deserved or not, the Bruins will get their invitation then vanish in the first round.
Next up for Cal is Arizona. The last times these two teams met, Cal never got off the bus, losing to the Cats by 40 plus points. Do they have the mettle for revenge? No. Arizona by 13.
OREGON vs. WASHINGTON
Two players: Freddie Jones and Luke Ridnour are without a doubt the keys to success for the 2002 Ducks. And if they can keep their heads on straight, they just might help their team reach the final four in the NCAA's. Oregon by 18.
Yes folks, even I picked this one - that was tough. What will be tough for the Ducks is the Cardinal and Gold buzzsaw they will encounter Friday night.
Does SC go the distance and win this tournament? Is that a good thing, or will it exhaust the Trojans for NCAA play? That is my concern. So, if SC fails to post a win against the Ducks tomorrow night, fret not Trojan fans. It could be the best thing to happen to SC since tonight's dominate win against Stanford. Somebody write SC a check for 70 million, they've earned the new arena.
ARIZONA vs. ARIZONA STATE
Always trust the oddsmakers and they've got this game picked to be a close one with the Wildcats winning by four. Call me crazy, but if Walton and Gardner pull out their magic hats, watch out - this could be a runaway train leading all the way to Union Station, Pac Ten tournament champ trophies tucked under UofA arms. UofA by 5 in OT.
Well, Arizona spanked the Sun Devils and could be on their way to a tournament title. Then again, Olson has got to be weighing the pros and cons of playing in two knock down, drag outs through this weekend. The Cats might be looking ahead to the NCAA's and letting the gold slip through their fingers.
I'd love to see SC vs. Arizona in the Pac Ten final. This could be SC's year. Actually, it already is SC's year. We've had a great season thanks to the help of three marvelous seniors, led by POY Sam Clancy. We owe them a debt of gratitude because without their play in last year's tournament, we would never have landed the Cravens, O'Neil, Curtis and Dupree.
So hats off to the three seniors. They've brought the best basketball to our school in twenty years. Us