Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Pac-10 Roundtable: Tempe is Basketball Country

I know, I know. There are still two football games to go this season and ASU needs to win both to earn a trip to the postseason and, in my opinion more importantly, three more vital weeks of practice for all of these youngsters.

But let's be realistic for just a second here. We all waited with bated breath for last Friday's thriller with Mississippi Valley State.

Despite the fact that the only thrilling thing about the 80-64 win at WFA was waiting to see whether or not ASU would actually hit theier free throws, it was nice to see a Sun Devils team come out and live up to a billing, regardless of whether it was one game against a team from a town called Itta Bena (Fun Fact: Itta Benna is a Choctaw word for "camp together").

Anyway, because of my happiness about basketball season starting, I successfully petitioned the Men of the Pac-10 Table to start some hoops discussion.

Avast, mateys! It might not be Talk Like a Pirate Day, but I'm going to anyway. Roundtable!

1. The Pac-10 has 7 bowl contracts to fill and currently only 5 spots filled. Stanford, UCLA, and Arizona State all sit in the middle of the Pac with 6 losses. Out of those three teams, which, if any, will make it to post-season play?

I have to stick with the prediction that I made several weeks back and say that none of them will get to six wins. I don't think that Stanford has the firepower to get past a California team that will be hungry to get this win so they get to 8 after they beat Washington. I think UCLA will drop their matchup in Tempe on the day after Thanksgiving and then lose to USC to finish 4-8. Arizona State, as I just said, should be UCLA on their home turf next week but I have serious doubts about them being able to go down to Tucson and win this year.

2. Is there anybody NOT rooting for OSU to win out and go to the Rose Bowl? Anybody? I think even Pete Carroll has to have a spot in his heart for this story. And if OSU does win the Pac10, pushing USC to 2nd, do you think USC will make a BCS game or find itself in the Holiday Bowl?

Yes, there are, those people take up offices at the American Broadcasting Company.

Unless Penn State lays an egg against Michigan State on Saturday, they'll be the champions of the Big Ten and earn themselves a spot in the Rose Bowl. Obviously, if Oregon State wins out, they'll be the team the Nittany Lions face. I seem to remember a certain 45-14 embarrassment that Penn State laid on the Beavers...on ABC, nonetheless. The last thing the network wants for it's only major bowl telecast of the year is a rematch of a game that wasn't even a game.

Everyone else is, that's for sure. The Rose Bowl committee certainly would love the extra revenue from having two out-of-town contingents for the first time in years.

For USC, as the BCS complexion takes shape, the fact that it still includes Utah and Boise State makes it very difficult to believe that the Trojans will go BCS bowling this season. These games salivate over having Ohio State in their stadiums because of how well they travel and the potential to have a star like Terrelle Pryor on their field. The loser of the Florida/Alabama SEC Championship game will almost certainly find themselves with an at-large bid as well. USC's best hope is for BYU to beat Utah or for the Smurf Turf Gang to drop a game down the stretch.

3. Let's take a stroll down basketball lane. What are your Pac-10 rankings for 2008-09?

1) UCLA Bruins: Still too much firepower, led by Darren Collison and super-frosh Jrue Holliday.
2) Arizona State Sun Devils: Not enough room here.
3) USC Trojans: DeMar DeRozan is going to be a beast in this league. A one-and-done beast.
4) Washington State Cougars: Lost talent on offense, but can still D up with the best of them.
5) Washington Huskies: Lorenzo Romar finally has some talent to work with again. Jon Brockman is an All-American
6) California Golden Bears: Mike Montgomery will give the program a shot a badly-needed jolt.
7) Arizona Wildcats: Probably will be better than Cal, but the Olson debacle leaves the program in a tizzy.
8) Stanford Cardinal: No Lopez twins means little success for first-year coach Johnny Dawkins.
9) Oregon Ducks: They already lost to Oakland this season...enough said.
10) Oregon State Beavers: At least their players can say, "I know a guy who knows Obama!"

4. Now that we've seen your B-Ball Top 10 (with assuredly UCLA at the top and OSU at the bottom), who is your surprise team this year? And why is it Cal?

First off, CGB, it's not Cal. Sorry. Max Zhang and Jordan Wilkes just don't inspire me to say, "Wow! Cal is going to be great!"

Can I say there won't be one? I really feel like all of the top teams will be very good, the bad teams will be very bad and the middling teams will be very...middling. Washington and Washington State are nice but they don't seem to have the youthful talent or spark to pull upsets this season.

In place of naming a surprise team, I'll give you a team that will make the most upward progress since last season and that will be the Huskies. I really, really...REALLY...like what Jon Brockman brings in terms of size and leadership, Justin Dentmon and Venoy Overton are both competent options at PG and freshman wingman Scott Suggs has the chance to make an immediate impact.

5. With the legendary Lute Olson out at Arizona, what are their chances of making the tournament this year?

Slim to none. Sure, Chase Budinger is still inexplicably hanging around, but the players around him are nowhere near the caliber of talents to lift this team into another postseason. Frankly, I didn't think this was a tournament team before Lute retired/quit/lost his key to McKale Center.

Russ Pennell has already established himself as a strict disciplinarian and it's rubbing players the wrong way; Nic Wise and another unidentified teammate are apparently still burned about being held from the starting lineup in an exhibition game because they were one minute (yes, literally one minute) late for shootaround that morning.

The thing that will keep UofA out of the tourney this year is their inability to lock down in clutch situations. A trait that was taken for granted for the past two decades, the Wildcats have stunningly lost their ability to close out games. One might trace it all back to the 2005 Elite Eight collapse against Illinois, but it's a consistent problem that Arizona has faced over the past three years.


T.J. said...

good call on washington as the sleeper

TrickDaddy said...

Speaking of Talk Like a Pirate Day...This may be just a filthy rumor. Ok, this is just a filthy rumor, but there is some speculation out there that ASU admin is very displeased with DE's showing this season, and they are putting some feelers out for Mike Leach. Anyone heard anything about this?