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.
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."
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."
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 firstname.lastname@example.org