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Originally published Wednesday, January 31, 2007 at 12:00 AM

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Pac-10 Notebook | Oregon's Brooks leaves mark

The envelope, please, for the Demis, a toast to a half-season of Pac-10 basketball — with the stipulation that, in the league's most...

Times college basketball reporter

The envelope, please, for the Demis, a toast to a half-season of Pac-10 basketball — with the stipulation that, in the league's most entertaining year ever, the glass is half-full, not half-empty.

Best game — 1. Oregon-Washington State, last Saturday night. Derrick Low went for 37, Aaron Brooks 31 and the teams put on an overtime show worthy of the first ranked Pac-10 teams to face off in the 34-year history of Friel Court. Ducks, 77-74.

2. UCLA-Oregon, Jan. 6. Brooks' bank ends Bruins' unbeaten season. Ducks, 68-66.

3. Washington-USC, Jan. 4. Spencer Hawes' buzzer-beater three-pointer sends it to double overtime. Trojans, 86-79.

4. Oregon-Arizona, Jan. 14. Brooks ... well, you know by now. Oregon, 79-77.

5. Arizona-Washington, Jan. 4. Wildly entertaining, if defensively challenged. 'Zona, 96-87.

Player of the half-season — 1. Brooks, finally flourishing. 2. Arron Afflalo, UCLA.

Coach of the half-season — 1, Tony Bennett, WSU. He has helped make the Cougars relevant, even after we ink-stained louts picked his team 10th in the conference. 2. Ernie Kent, Oregon. Following his most turbulent year in Eugene with his most satisfying.

All-League — Mustafa Shakur and Marcus Williams, Arizona; Arron Afflalo and Darren Collison, UCLA; Nick Young, USC; Aaron Brooks, Oregon; Lawrence Hill, Stanford; Jon Brockman, Washington; Derrick Low and Kyle Weaver, WSU.

All-Freshman — Chase Budinger, Arizona; Ryan Anderson, California; Tajuan Porter, Oregon; Taj Gibson, USC; Robin Lopez, Stanford. (Washington's Spencer Hawes bumps somebody as soon as he gets healthy.)

Biggest disappointment — Washington. But it should get better for the Huskies, dragged down by their youth, rugged road schedule and Hawes' queasy stomach.

Toughest crowd — 1. A Dawg Pack student at the Arizona-Washington game brandished a large sign purportedly revealing Chase Budinger's cellphone number. Turned out to be Budinger's parents' number. Oops.

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2. After UCLA students supporting their own version of Shipp chanted "Josh is better!" at ASU freshman Jerren Shipp, Josh said, "That's my brother. I kinda felt bad for him."

Best quote — 1. Afflalo, after top-ranked UCLA's defeat at Oregon: "I truly felt this team couldn't be beat."

2. Stanford's Fred Washington, after his team's defeat to the Ducks: "We'll see 'em again. We'll see how they play on the road."

3. Oregon's Brooks, on the fleeting nature of success: "We saw with the [Oregon] football team. You lose a couple and you're down in the dirt again."

4. Oregon's Brooks, failing to display a cartographer's sense of the Northwest, after the Ducks were re-routed some 35 miles by fog from the Pullman airport to nearby Lewiston, Idaho, last weekend: "I don't know where we were flying into, to begin with. We flew in somewhere."

Kinder, gentler

The Pac-10 appears to have made a solid choice in its selection nine months ago of Bill McCabe as coordinator of basketball officials.

His is a prickly job, one of maintaining respect for his position among the officials while ensuring coaches feel they're getting a fair shake.

In past years, there has been considerable discontent among officials and coaches over coordinators. One coordinator was former official Booker Turner, once termed by a Pac-10 coach as having "horrible" communication skills. Then there was the notoriously confrontational ex-Cal coach Lou Campanelli, whom McCabe replaced.

McCabe has a varied background, having been a football and basketball official, a 33-year IBM employee, and with a degree in meteorology from San Jose State, commander of a weather squadron for the Air Force.

"I think he's doing a great job," said Arizona coach Lute Olson. "He's a good communicator. He's letting the officials work the games and he's very organized."

The league has sometimes been tough on officials — independent contractors who usually work other leagues — often slicing their workload drastically or altogether if they didn't put the Pac-10 at the top of their priority list.

"We've gotten a lot of good officials back into the conference that worked only a few games before," Olson said. "I'm sure that's due to his willingness to adjust in terms of schedules."

Desert hangover?

For years, Arizona has been a paragon of the Pac-10's image, often out there by itself as a symbol of the league's strength. Now the reverse might be happening. The Wildcats' 92-64 meltdown at home against North Carolina might create a national sense that the Pac-10 is not as strong as earlier perceived.

It's more than perception. In a single week, the Pac-10 dropped from first to third among conferences in the RPI computer rankings, no doubt a fallout from the Arizona defeat.

Bud Withers: 206-464-8281 or bwithers@seattletimes.com

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