Pressing Times for Pac-10 Basketball

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Pressing Times for Pac-10 Basketball

Nov. 15, 2010COLLEGE PAGE BASKETBALL PAGE

The talent drain began two years ago and the Pac-10 is still in recovery mode.

After sending six teams to the NCAA tournament for three straight years, the league was nearly invisible last March with only two schools represented - its fewest since 1988.

And regaining its status as one of the nation's elite conferences this season seems doubtful.

The cause of the Pac-10's lingering woes? The NBA draft. In 2008 and '09, the league produced 13 first-round picks and eight lottery selections - more than any other conference. Fourteen of those players had eligibility remaining.

Among the underclassmen who bailed early were Kevin Love and Russell Westbrook of UCLA, Brook and Robin Lopez of Stanford, O.J. Mayo and DeMar DeRozan of USC, James Harden and Jeff Pendergraph of Arizona State, and Arizona's Jerryd Bayless.

Those departures combined with a lack of blue chip recruits plunged the Pac-10 into mediocrity.

The league had a team in the final AP Top 25 rankings every year since 1986 until last season. It flopped during nonconference play, going 2-12 against ranked opponents with several ugly losses. None of the teams finished the season ranked among the top 20 in the RPI, either.

"Last year our league was much better than how we were perceived, but because of the lack of wins in the nonconference and maybe a lack of scheduling (tough games) in the nonconference, we took a beating as a group of teams that didn't get it done," second-year USC coach Kevin O'Neill said.

The Pac-10 will try to notch some notable wins this season, with such Top 25 teams as No. 1 Duke, Kansas State, Kansas, Gonzaga, Missouri, Baylor, Butler, Tennessee and BYU among its nonconference opponents.

O'Neill believes beating ranked teams early will improve the Pac-10's national standing.

"Your reputation will be shaped by what you do there because once you get into conference you just play each other," he said.

Only Washington is ranked in AP's Top 25 preseason poll at No. 18, although UCLA and Arizona were among others receiving votes.

The Huskies made it to the final 16 of the NCAA tournament. They return four starters and are picked to win the league title this season. After that, it's a scramble, with the Arizona schools and UCLA in contention.

The bulk of Pac-10 rosters are filled by West Coast players, and O'Neill pointed out the high school talent level dipped the last two years. Fewer players from the East Coast venture west, "so it's important for us to get the best players in our area," he said.

O'Neill should know. Most of the Trojans' recruiting class bailed out before the start of last season after the school imposed its own sanctions on the basketball program in the wake of NCAA violations involving Mayo.

Once a school lands good players, Cal coach Mike Montgomery said, "You've got to keep them. All the one-and-done kids hurt respective programs when they left early."

The talent drop-off was so steep that only two Pac-10 players were drafted in June. And no underclassmen declared for the draft, which means more veterans are around to play this season, even if their ability doesn't match that of their predecessors.

"It's like a program that loses five seniors," Washington coach Lorenzo Romar said. "You've got freshmen coming in and they've got to grow. Once they grow, start to develop, you're back in business again."

Second-year Arizona coach Sean Miller is optimistic about what's to come.

"If you follow the class that will be here a year from now, some of the best players in the nation who happen to be in the West are coming into our conference," he said.

Recruiting will be bolstered by the conference's expansion in July, when Colorado and Utah join. A new television deal will be negotiated, and the league is looking into starting its own television network.

"We have a history and tradition of great basketball, so we've got to emphasize that and get back to that," Montgomery said. "The bottom line is we've got to win."

Four players score in double figures, Stanford takes down Oregon State

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AP

Four players score in double figures, Stanford takes down Oregon State

BOX SCORE

STANFORD -- Even though Stanford has been buried in the lower half of the Pac-12 standings all season, Reid Travis isn't so sure his team is an underdog against No. 6 Oregon.

That might be a stretch considering the Ducks are making a run at the conference title but that didn't seem to matter to Travis.

"The way we're playing now is great for this time of year," Travis said following Stanford's 79-66 win over Oregon State on Wednesday. "I feel like we're really taking off. Even though our record doesn't reflect it I really do feel that we're one of the top teams so take that as you want to."

Travis had 17 points and eight rebounds to lead four players in double figures. Marcus Allen also scored 17, Dorian Pickens added 15 and Robert Cartwright had 10 as the Cardinal beat the Beavers for the 21st time in the last 23 games between the two teams at Maples Pavilion.

Stanford (14-13, 6-9 Pac-12) led by as many as 25 but had to hold on after Oregon State (5-24, 1-15) pulled within 74-63 with 3:28 left on JaQuori McLaughlin's 3-pointer.

Allen and Pickens scored back-to-back buckets for Stanford, and after Stephen Thompson's putback for Oregon State, Pickens made a 3-pointer.

"We're pointing in the right direction on both ends of the floor," Allen said. "Guys are getting good looks . and on defense we're more active. Hopefully that continues."

Drew Eubanks had 21 points and 14 rebounds for Oregon State. Gligorije Rakocevic added a season-high 16 points for the Beavers, who couldn't follow up after beating Utah last week for their first conference win of the season.

Stanford built a quick double-digit lead despite a strong start by Rakocevic. The 6-foot-11-foot center, averaging 3.8 points going into the game, matched his season high in the first half while scoring 12 points on 6 of 8 shooting.

The Cardinal countered with a more balanced attack after adjusting to the Beavers' zone defense. Travis, Allen, Cartwright and Pickens combined for 32 points in the first half to help Stanford take a 43-33 lead.

The Cardinal also controlled the boards while outscoring the Beavers 46-22 in the paint.

"For us to be at our best we're going to score from the free throw line, like we did in the Cal game, or score around the basket," Stanford coach Jerod Haase said. "Smash-mouth is a football term but if it was a basketball term I think that would be a good word for us."

Travis got Stanford going again after halftime and helped push the Cardinal lead to 69-44.

Eubanks nearly brought Oregon State back. He scored 17 points in the second half, including 13 of the Beavers' first 20.

BIG PICTURE

Oregon State: The Beavers hopes of winning back-to-back games for the first time since beating Prairie View A&M and Texas-San Antonio to open the season didn't last long. They didn't play poorly - Oregon State shot close to 47 percent most of the night - but couldn't match Stanford's run coming out of halftime and never recovered.

Stanford: The win pushed the Cardinal into a tie for seventh place in the Pac-12, still nowhere near enough to get a first-round bye in the conference tournament. The outcome was never in doubt, but Haase was concerned about Stanford's mental approach.

DOUBLE TECHS

Eubanks and Travis were both hit with technical fouls after a heated exchange in the second half. Although no punches were thrown, Eubanks suffered a bloody nose during the incident and had to be treated near the Beavers' bench.

"We're trying to go at each other as hard as possible so of course there's different plays where a lot of contact happens," Travis said. "I like that. That's how competitors act and we just moved on from it. Unfortunately they called a technical on both of us. I'd like to see us play on in that sense."

UP NEXT

Oregon State: Plays at California on Friday night.

Stanford: Hosts No. 6 Oregon on Saturday in the final regular season home at Maples Pavilion this year. The Ducks beat the Cardinal 69-52 on Jan. 21.

Cal blows huge halftime lead, dropped by Oregon on Brooks' game-winner

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AP

Cal blows huge halftime lead, dropped by Oregon on Brooks' game-winner

BOX SCORE

BERKELEY -- Dylan Brooks hit a 3-pointer with 0.2 seconds to play to cap a comeback from 16 points down and No. 6 Oregon beat California 68-65 on Wednesday night to keep its hopes alive for a Pac-12 title.

The Ducks (25-4, 14-2) trailed by 16 points early in the second half and were down 10 with just over 4 minutes left before rallying for the win that moved them a half-game behind Arizona for first place in the conference. Oregon holds the tiebreaker.

Brooks led the Ducks with 22 points and Chris Boucher added 18.

Jabari Bird scored 20 points to lead the way for the Golden Bears (18-9, 9-6), whose hopes for an NCAA Tournament berth were dealt a big blow with this loss.

Consecutive 3-pointers by Boucher, Dylan Ennis and Payton Pritchard cut Cal's 10-point lead to one with just under 3 minutes left. Boucher then gave the Ducks their first lead of the game with a layup that made it 62-61 with 1:48 to go.

Grant Mullins and Brooks traded jumpers before Bird missed a contested 3-pointer with 28 seconds to go. Tyler Dorsey hit one free throw before Ivan Rabb tied the game with a putback of his own miss with 9.7 seconds to play.

That set the stage for Brooks, who hit the 3 that set off a wild celebration for the Ducks.

BIG PICTURE

Oregon: The Ducks finished the season undefeated at home where they have a nation's best 42-game winning streak. They need to prove they can win away from home if they want to have success in the postseason. This comeback win was a start but the task will only get tougher in the Pac-12 and NCAA Tournaments.

California: The Bears had been seeking a signature win to boost their hopes for an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament. But they blew the lead and a chance at that win as they fell to 1-6 against ranked teams with the only win coming last month at then-No. 25 USC. Cal could get another shot at a top team next month in the Pac-12 Tournament.

UP NEXT

Oregon: Visits Stanford on Saturday.

California: Hosts Oregon State on Friday.