Pac-10 hoops to get respect next season
In Atlanta the other day, CBS sat Washington State's Tony Bennett on a chair for national TV, selected him its national coach of the year...
Seattle Times colleges reporter
In Atlanta the other day, CBS sat Washington State's Tony Bennett on a chair for national TV, selected him its national coach of the year and splashed on the screen his name and school logo — a nice purple "W".
That stood either for rival Washington or, to publicity-starved Washington State partisans, What The (insert your expletive of choice here)!
Ah, isn't it great, living out here where the buffalo roam by Pioneer Square, where you can homestead 160 acres in Bellevue and we're all ramping up for statehood?
CBS is in the middle of an 11-year deal with the NCAA that pays $6 billion, apparently leaving it unable to cover the wages of an intern who can match a logo to a BCS school west of the Rockies.
But fear not, WSU faithful. The Pac-10 is about to take out all perceived slights against those Eastern media effete. The league is coming at them, and it's not happy.
The Cougars will be back, bringing reinforcements — UCLA, USC, Stanford, Oregon, Washington, you name it.
Next season will be the year of the Pac-10 in college basketball (particularly if UCLA doesn't have to play Florida). No other league will have the chops at the top or the depth down below.
ACC? So yesterday. It was widely judged to be the nation's best this year, but then it went out and had a 7-7 NCAA tournament, and only one of its seven entries advanced to the second weekend.
Only the SEC (10-4), bulwarked by Florida's repeat run, bettered the Pac-10's 10-6 NCAA record. The SEC, and possibly the Big East, could argue bragging rights with the Pac-10 in 2007-08, but with Florida and Kentucky in flux, that's not a good start.
The Pac-10 could return 16 of its top 20 scorers next year. It probably won't, but if players like Washington's Spencer Hawes and USC's Nick Young opt to hang around, the league race will be, as they say at the horse track, contentious.
Six teams were ranked the first week of February, in a season in which the freshman class was never better.
Another way of assessing next season: Awhile back, Oregon State coach Jay John said Kansas transfer C.J. Giles, now at OSU, could find himself the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft in a year. Strong stuff, but if John is even in the ballpark, he's talking about a guy on the team that's almost certain to be picked last in the league.
The national respect for the Pac-10 could be, well, unprecedented. Some history: Dating to the days of UCLA's reign of terror, the Pac-10 was widely seen as one power and a lot of paupers. When the Bruins went away, so did the league's repute, often with good reason; there were years when it whiffed completely, went one-and-done in the NCAA tournament.
Then there were times when it imposed itself into the national discussion. You might be surprised to realize that three times in the past decade, the Pac-10 has had four teams in the Sweet 16. Those weren't breakthroughs accompanied by any season-long hosannas to the league.
But next year: Confetti and cotton candy. Even the annual spring mating season — players and the lure of the early NBA entry — doesn't figure to be as injurious to the Pac-10 as elsewhere, unless Arron Afflalo leads an exodus from UCLA.
That possibility might be mitigated by the arrival of 6-foot-10 Oregonian Kevin Love, a bruising, banging postman. Some guys dream of romance on South Sea islands. Ben Howland, the UCLA coach, dreams of Love butting out interlopers on rebounds and casting long outlet passes. He's supposed to be the best Westwood has seen at that since Bill Walton.
Across town, USC will joust UCLA for attention with freshman guard wunderkind O.J. Mayo. No doubt, the onset of Love and Mayo will ensure that UCLA and USC hog their share of network TV appearances.
Nationally, there's more sweat over possible early departures. Georgetown would be a severe threat for a championship, but 7-2 center Roy Hibbert may go out and Big East player of the year Jeff Green could follow him.
North Carolina awaits word on its inside forces, Brandan Wright and Tyler Hansbrough. Kansas looks like a dreadnought, but Brandon Rush or Julian Wright could change that.
Oh yes, there are the presumed 1-2 picks in the draft, Ohio State's Greg Oden and Texas' Kevin Durant, unless they get intrigued by what happened at Florida and decide they want some of that.
If they don't, the field is that much clearer for the Pac-10, hard as that might be to grasp in the East.
Bud Withers: 206-464-8281 or firstname.lastname@example.org
About Bud Withers
Bud Withers gives his take on college sports, with the latest from the Huskies, Cougs, and the rest of the Pac-10.
email@example.com | 206-464-8281
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