So yeah, I had high hopes for the Pacific Ten Conference this season, and by and large, they have taken a beating. I have returned to face the music, and in so doing, I will review the carnage after the jump. It’s only right, and it’s only fair.
First, in the space of one night, Arizona (at #17 in the land) couldn’t get Virginia done on their home floor, Oregon State (who I told you sucked) proved it by losing to the University of the Frozen North (aka Alaska-Fairbanks), and to top it all off, the Stanford Cardinal go to upstate NY to play perennial double-digit seed Siena and get handed their asses. Granted, Brook Lopez is still cooking off a few weeks in the penalty box, but this one still stands as the signature turd of the week, at least until…
Tuesday, Oregon gets flat-ass outworked in the block by Saint Mary’s of Moraga, California, and gets beat 99-87. This will likely be the most disappointing performance vs. expectations by any Pac-10 school all year, and even a cursory review of the highlights of this game would have shown you that what I long suspected of this Oregon team has come to fruition: the Ducks are soft in the middle, and Maarty Leunen is out of position and too small at power-forward, even at 6-9.
Oregon has needed a big-time center ever since Kansas trounced them in the Elite Eight, and this loss, to a school Ernie Kent once coached, is going to be tough to live down for a long, long time, especially if future opponents follow suit and attack the Ducks at the front line.
In the meantime, the rest of Southern California is struggling to hold up their end with O.J. Mayo, who even as a freshman is taking that team by the throat and getting it to work. Apparently, Davon Jefferson has headcase tendencies, and the returning cogs are looking to blend in. Until then, USC will lose a few games that it should win, and that may jeopardize a tournament bid if Mayo can’t start to take over.
It was also nice of Arizona State to defeat LSU for 5th in the Maui, but 1) they should, as they’ve got a McDonald’s All-American, and 2) they still couldn’t beat a shell of an Illinois team in that very same tournament. They’re going to be better than the Beavs, and that’s about it.
Finally, Washington handed us all (or at least Chilltown and I) a dose of indigestion in their matchup with Texas A&M, which despite losing Acie Law and head miraclemaker Billy Gillespie, apparently has enough left in the tank to justify a ranking. Jon Brockman is real, and he held up his end, but the Huskies got blown out of the gym in the second half of a game they led at halftime. I’m just going to say this right now – someone else (Pondexter, freshmen, anyone?) needs to step the hell up for the Huskies.
The Pac-10’s lone bright spot, UCLA, lost their All-American PG Darren Collison and still managed to claw their way to the #1 – destroying a very good Maryland team, and a disgraceful, game-destroying embarrassment in Michigan State. Presuming Collison doesn’t die of nuclear staph infection between now and March, he’ll come back, and then there isn’t a team in college basketball who can touch these guys, including North Carolina. Kevin Love is the real deal, and would destroy Hansbrough right this minute. The other matchups are even less favorable, and what’s more, the Bruins are DEEP.
However, statement games are running out for the Conference of Champions as I write this, and just about everyone else in this conference besides UCLA who’s looking for a favorable venue placement in March has got to get to work.
I’ll see you again when we check on Gonzaga’s progress, and to come in from time to time.