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Husky Men's Basketball

The latest news and analysis on Husky men's hoops.

February 7, 2008 at 2:45 PM

A look at the Pac at mid-season

Tonight marks the beginning of the second half of the Pac-10 season, a sentence I think I’ve already written today.
But here the task is to look back at the season to date, handing out a few awards and tossing out a few bouquets (and maybe some thorns, as well).
Remember, the Pac-10 has scrapped the 10-man team for three five-man teams, so we’ll do the same.
Kevin Love, UCLA — Living up to all the hype.
Ryan Anderson, Cal — Surpassing all the hype, which has never been enough.
Jerryd Bayless, Arizona — Having one of the best seasons for a freshman guard the conference has seen in years.
Jon Brockman, Washington — If only he could hit a few more free throws.
Brook Lopez, Stanford — The off-nights becoming fewer and fewer.
Darren Collison, UCLA — Could argue he should be flipped with Bayless for all he does for the Bruins.
James Harden, Arizona State — When he’s on, makes ASU look a lot better than it really is.
O.J. Mayo, USC — Appears to have fit in just fine as USC looks like it is hitting its groove.
Kyle Weaver, WSU — Only player ranked among leaders in scoring, rebounding, assists and steals.
Maarty Leunen, Oregon — You figured he’d rank among points and rebounding leaders. But is also eighth in assist-to-turnover ratio.
Chase Budinger, Arizona — Heck of a third team if he’s on it.
Malik Hairston, Oregon — Shooting 43 percent on three-pointers and also among scoring and rebounding leaders.
Davon Jefferson, USC — Feels like he gets lost among all the other good frosh in the league this year but a difference-maker for Trojans.
Josh Shipp, UCLA — Keeps defenses honest for Love.
Derrick Low, WSU — But threatening to shoot his way off this list.
Anderson was really impressive last weekend and if he can get Cal into the top six of the conference to stay and into the tournament, he may well deserve it. But I still think Love is the most dominant player in the conference — in Pac-10 games only, he’s averaging 19.8 points and 12.7 rebounds, shooting 65 percent. And believe it or not, he’s also ranked third in three-point shooting at 9-18 in conference games (you need a minimum of one made per game to qualify). Brockman’s candidacy is starting to fade with UW’s struggles, while Brook Lopez could move quickly into the race with a few more weekends like he had last week.
ASU’s Herb Sendek was the easy choice two weeks ago. But as my colleague Bud Withers wrote yesterday, their struggles of late means you’d probably have to give it right now to Trent Johnson of Stanford who has the Cardinal as the only real threat to UCLA at the moment. Johnson seems to have finally turned the corner at Stanford in the transition from the Mike Montgomery era to his.
Love. Last player to sweep POY and FOY awards was Shareef Abdur-Rahim of Cal in 1996.
This is one of the new awards the Pac-10 plans to have this year and it will be interesting to see how the coaches go with this one philosophically — a shot blocker like Brook Lopez, or a stopper like Weaver? For now, I’ll go with Lopez, figuring that a dominant shot blocker does more to alter a game.
This is not one of the official awards, but there would be a lot of good candiates like UCLA’s Russell Westbrook, Stanford’s Mitch Johnson and Cal’s Patrick Christopher. We’ll give it to Westbrook, whose among the leaders in points (12.8, up from 3.4 last season as a freshman) assists, steals and assist-to-turnover ratio.
MOST DISAPPOINTING PLAYEROkay, not an official award, either (none of the rest are). But there has to be a way to ask just what the heck has happened to Stanford forward Lawrence Hill, who was an all-conference pick last year as a sophomore but lately hasn’t even been starting, down to 9.2 points a game from 15.7 last season. Word in Stanford seems to be that the increased emphasis on going inside with the Lopez twins has decreased the opportunities for Hill, whose shooting is down to 42.9 percent from 50 percent last season. Oregon State’s Marcel Jones, who thought about heading to the NBA after last season and is now averaging barely 10 points a game and shooting 34 percent, could also make a case for this one if not for the irrelevance of his team. Some in Berkeley might also nominate DeVon Hardin, who isn’t quite having the senior season everyone hoped.
MOST DISAPPOINTING TEAMCould make a case for the Huskies, who will need to do some quick improving to avoid a ninth-place finish. Still, bad as people thought Oregon State would be, did people really think they’d be this bad? OSU has only two players listed among the Pac-10 leaders in any categories (Omari Johnson ninth in rebounding and Josh Tarver seventh in steals).
Okay, so maybe it’s just me doing the underrating. But realized I’ve gotten this far and have yet to find a way to mention USC’s Taj Gibson, who leads the league in shooting at 71 percent, blocked shots at 2.67 and is seventh in rebounding at 7.8.
We’ll be shocked if UCLA loses more than two games the rest of the way and doesn’t win the conference title. Also starting to think the Pac-10 may only give five NCAA tourney teams instead of the six of a year ago (or the seven some coaches hoped for). Right now, only five teams have winning conference records — UCLA, Stanford, WSU, Arizona and USC — and still hard to see the committee taking a team with a .500 or worse conference record.

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