Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Calipari to Kentucky, a good choice

John Calipari taking the Kentucky job is a good move for both sides. There was only so much Calipari was going to be able to accomplish at Memphis as long as the Tigers were in Conference USA. We have learned that if Memphis does not get any competition in conference play, which it hasn't the past few years, it is not going to be able to compete with the major programs of college basketball.

The loss to Missouri in the Sweet 16 proved that. Kentucky needed a charasmtic coach and perhaps the Big Blue faithful are lamenting their treatment of Tubby Smith. Bill Gillespie was a terrible fit at Kentucky and did little with the emmense talent the Wildcats possessed. Obviously Calipari is a sparking recruiter who already knows how to recruit the mid-South as well as nationally. The Tigers' style of play was attractive to prep standouts who want to play in the NBA and the competition against the Southeastern Conference and in non conference will allow Calipari to take the Wildcats to Rick Pitino days.

A good choice for Kentucky.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Washburn's Saturday NCAA Picks

(3) Missouri vs. (1) Connecticut in Glendale, Ariz. (UConn by 5 1/2) The Huskies have looked great in their first three games but they will need to slow things down against the speedy Tigers, who beat Memphis at their own game in the Sweet 16. UConn has enough experience and solid guard play to withstand the Missouri onslaught. The key players to watch at Huskies guard A.J. Price and Craig Austrie and how they handle the full-court pressure. Missouri played a sparkling game against Memphis and it's likely it won't be able to repeat it. UConn 75, Missouri 65.

(3) Villanova vs. (1) Pittsburgh in Boston, Mass. (Pitt by 2) It's an old Big East battle for a trip to the Final Four and Pitts lost to Villanova in January. But this will be different because the Panthers are a team that appears destined for the Final Four. Levance Fields willed the victory over Xavier on Thursday and he and DeJuan Blair will do it again. The Villanova defense stifled Duke but the Blue Devils had no beef inside and that made them vulnerable. That won't happen against Pitt. Pittsburgh 63, Villanova 59.

Washburn's Friday Picks: 2-2.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Washburn's Friday Tourney Picks

(12) Arizona vs. (1) Louisville in Indianapolis. (UL by 9) Does the Wildcats' luck run out in Indy? Or can Arizona's three NBA caliber players continue their unlikely NCAA run? The trio of Nic Wise, Chase Budinger and Jordan Hill have finally played well together for a prolonged time, but the Cardinals are on a mission and Terrence Williams is the best player in America that nobody knows about. Arizona won't be rattled by the Louisville pressure because it has endured a treacherous schedule but the Cardinals will prevail in the end. Louisville 78, Arizona 69.

(3) Syracuse vs. (2) Oklahoma in Memphis (Okla by 1) Many folks are picking the Orange to move to the Elite Eight but I think there's something special about this Oklahoma team that will carry it to the Final Four. The Orange have no answer for Blake Griffin besides fouls from Rich Jackson and Arinze Onuaku. They are going to have to rough him up and Jonny Flynn will have to win the matchup with Austin Johnson but the Sooners are a team of destiny. Oklahoma 67, Syracuse 60.

(3) Kansas vs. (2) Michigan State in Indianapolis. (MSU by 1 1/2) The Jayhawks weren't supposed to be here. They lost nearly everybody from their National Championship team but thanks to the coaching of Bill Self and the amazing seasons of Sherron Collins and Cole Aldrich. Kansas lost to Michigan State on Jan. 10, but this is a different team. And the Spartans weren't exactly impressive in the past few weeks, losing to Ohio State in the Big 10 Tournament and then needing some favorable calls down the stretch to beat USC in the second round. This is not a great Michigan State team and it will find that out tonight. Kansas 65, Michigan State 58.

(4) Gonzaga vs. (1) North Carolina in Memphis. (UNC by 8 1/2) The most interesting of the four games because no one knows how Gonzaga will reach against one of the nation's elite teams. The Zags didn't fare so well against Memphis last month, getting blown out at home on national television. But if Jeremy Pargo, Josh Heytfelt and Matt Bouldin want to go down as one of the great teams in Gonzaga history, they need to find a way to win this game. The Tarheels struggled with LSU in the second round and are vulnerable. This will be the stunner of the tournament. Gonzaga 69, North Carolina 68.

Washburn's Thursday record: 3-1.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Washburn's Thursday's Tourney Picks

(5) Purdue vs. (1) Connecticut in Glendale, Ariz. (UConn by 6 1/2) The Boilermakers won a rugged game against Washington and now need the Huskies, who have glided in their first two games. Now there is a cloud hovering over UConn because of allegations of recruiting violations of a player named Nate Miles who was eventually kicked out of school. The Huskies should be able to advance easily in this game because they have the superior talent. Guard play is important with A.J. Price and Craig Austrie and Purdue got a lot of our JaJuan Johnson in the second-round win over Washington that probably won't occur with Hasheem Thabeet in the house. UConn 78, Purdue 63.

(4) Xavier vs. (1) Pittsburgh in Boston, Mass. (Pittsburgh by 6 1/2) The Panthers struggled in their first two games and there is no reason why they won't against the skilled Musketeers, who are surprisingly back in the Sweet 16 after losing key players from last year's Elite Eight club. Pitt has yet to play a standout game in the tournament and Xavier's defense and athleticism will make this another close one. DeJuan Blair and Sam Young have carried Pitt but watch out for Xavier's B.J. Raymond. Pittburgh 75, Xavier 72.

(3) Missouri vs. (2) Memphis in Glendale, Ariz. (Memphis by 4 1/2) Get those eyes ready to scan the television back and forth because this will be a track meet between two teams with the same philosophy. Missouri and Memphis both like to run and press and harass its opponents into turnovers and transition baskets. So who will win out? Missouri hasn't been this far since Kareem Rush took the Tigers to the Sweet 16 in 2002. Inexperience should play a role here, especially since Missouri needed a Marquette gaffe from keep from blowing a big lead in the second round. This will be entertaining for 37 minutes, but Memphis will prevail behind Tyreke Evans. Memphis 91, Missouri 83.

(3) Villanova vs. (2) Duke in Boston, Mass. (Duke by 2) Duke really needs this game to redefine its program. The Blue Devils have been quite disappointing in the NCAA Tournament the past several years and need to go far to gain back some respect. The Blue Devils are a different teams that those separated ones with soft guards and no big man. Gerald Henderson brings toughness and Kyle Singler is a talented guard, but they will need to match or exceed Villanova's guards of Scottie Reynolds and Corey Fisher. Dante Cunningham is a monster in the paint and that will be the difference. Villanova 70, Duke 66.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

NCAA Tournament tip times

Tip (PT) Site Game Play-by-Play/Analyst
4:07 PM Glendale I Connecticut vs. Purdue Dick Enberg/Jay Bilas
4:27 PM Boston I Pittsburgh vs. Xavier Verne Lundquist/Bill Raftery
after conc. I Glendale II Memphis vs. Missouri Enberg/Bilas
after conc. I Boston II Duke vs. Villanova Lundquist/Raftery

Tip (PT) Site Game Play-by-Play/Analyst
4:07 PM Indianapolis I Louisville vs. Arizona Gus Johnson/Len Elmore
4:27 PM Memphis I Oklahoma vs. Syracuse Jim Nantz/Clark Kellogg
after conc Indianapolis II Kansas vs. Michigan State Johnson/Elmore
after conc. Memphis II North Carolina vs. Gonzaga Nantz/Kellogg

Saturday, March 21, 2009

A sour ending for Huskies, 76-74

The Washington Huskies learned the hard way about playing a poor half in the NCAA Tournament. They spent the entire second half rallying but couldn't make the one play to tie the game, as Isaiah Thomas missed a runner with less than 20 seconds left Jon Brockman couldn't gather the rebound for a putback and Purdue hit its free throws for a 76-74 win.

Purdue is a tough defensive team with players that know their roles, but the real Huskies came to life in the second half. But it was a little too late. Thomas was brilliant along with Brockman but Justin Dentmon had a disappointing final game with five points on 2-for-8 shooting in 27 minutes. And wouldn't Huskies like to have back some of those touch fouls from Venoy Overton in the midcourt that led to free throws.

It seemed that Overton fell too much into the Venoying tag and tried for suicide steals instead of playing solid defense. Also, the Huskies had no answer for athletic JaJuan Johnson, who matched Brockman's girth with length and quickness. Brockman had troubles with some of the Pac-10's more athletic centers such as Jordan Hill and Saturday was the same.

It was a bitter ending to a tremendous season for Washington, and the question is whether will Husky fans be satisfied when their disappointment subsides.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Friday's Tournament Preview and Picks

(14) Stephen F. Austin vs. (3) Syracuse in Miami (Syr by 12 1/2) Don't sleep on the Lumberjacks, they defend the 3-pointer better than anyone in the nation and could be a tough out for the Orange. Syracuse's record in first-round games isn't exactly sparking, so look for a close game than expected. SFA center Matt Kingsley could be in for a big game. Syracuse 78, SFA 68.

(14) North Dakota State vs. (3) Kansas in Minneapolis (KU by 10 1/2) The Jayhawks have been on upset alert since this matchup was announced and the Bison should put up a fight for at least a half. But this Kansas team is different from those that faltered in first rounds under Roy Williams. Kansas will pull away in the second half while NDSU along with Ben Woodside put up a respectable showing in its first ever Division I Tournament. Kansas 71, NDSU 62.

(9) Tennessee vs. (8) Oklahoma State in Dayton (Tenn by 2) The most even matchup of the day, the Volunteers have a wealth of talent but were wildly inconsistent this season. Tyler Smith is a gifted player but OSU has too much depth and consistency in this one. The Cowboys' James Anderson could be a top NBA draft prospect and this could be his final game at Oklahoma State. OSU 65, Tennessee 63.

(11) Utah State vs. (6) Marquette In Boise, Idaho (Marq by 4 1/2) What to make of Utah State? This is a team that has dominated in the Big West/WAC for years but the Aggies have yet to prove their mid-major worth on the NCAA stage. Playing the short-handed Eagles in Boise could be their chance. Utah State 67, Marquette 66.

(11) Temple vs. (6) Arizona State in Miami (ASU by 4 1/2) The Owls are led by gifted scorer Dionte Christmas but the Sun Devils are playing well and primed for a tournament run. This is a key game for James Harden, who could use a couple of sparkling games to raise his draft stock. ASU will move on. Arizona State 71, Temple 65.

(16) East Tennessee State vs. (1) Pittsburgh in Dayton (Pitt by 20) The Buccaneers have no one to handle DeJuan Blair in the paint and will have to rely on guile and hot shooting to compete. A player to watch is Kevin Tiggs for ETSU, which is not going to be the first 16 seed to knock off a No. 1. Pitt 82, ETSU 61.

(14) Cornell vs. (3) Missouri in Boise, Idaho (Mizz by 13) The Tigers could for far in this tournament and Ivy League teams not named Princeton usually give opposition little resistance in the tournament. F Ryan Wittman should be a fun player to watch against Missouri's pressing defense, but this team lost by 15 to Indiana, which won one Big 10 game. Missouri 86, Cornell 59.

(11) Dayton vs. (6) West Virginia in Minneapolis (WVU by 8 1/2) The Mountaineers are primed for another mini tournament run while the Flyers are one of those teams that scare opponents but never really break through with the big win. Things won't change this time. West Virginia 71, Dayton 66.

(16) Morehead State vs. (1) Louisville in Dayton (Lou by 17 1/2) OK, these teams met in the early season and the Cardinals won by 38 points. Morehead State will play off adrenalin for a few minutes but Louisville, led by Terrence Williams, will not take these Eagles lightly as a No. 16 seed. This one could get ugly quickly. Louisville 88, Morehead State 58.

(12) Arizona vs. (5) Utah in Miami (Ariz by 1) The question for you college basketball fans is whether to be fooled by Arizona's talent or take Utah's consistency. Tough call. This is not the first time the Wildcats had the talent to make a run. Remember Marcus Williams a few years ago? That team lost in the first round to Purdue. However, this is the last chance for a bunch of Cats, and they will prevail. Arizona 63, Utah 58.

(10) USC vs. (7) Boston College in Minneapolis (USC by 2) The Trojans are hot and riding a Pac-10 Tournament title. Cal didn't fare very well in the first Pac-10-ACC matchup of the tournament but this Trojans teams has been to three straight tournaments and are tested. Tyrese Rice will be key for the Eagles. USC 71, Boston College 68.

(13) Portland State vs. (4) Xavier in Boise, Idaho (Xav by 11) The Vikings are a talented club that won't be scared of Xavier because they have played some heavy competition but the Musketeers are rugged and should survive the scoring onslaught of Jeremiah Dominguez. Xavier 74, Portland State 67.

(9) Siena vs. (8) Ohio State in Dayton (OSU by 3) Why does Ohio State, as an eighth seed, get to play a virtual home game in the first round? Doesn't make much sense, but this could be the best Siena team in years and it probably won't make a difference. The Saints have four players who average 10 points or better, including G Kenny Hasbrouck. Siena 59, Ohio State 56.

(13) Cleveland State vs. (4) Wake Forest in Miami (Wake by 7 1/2) Don't sleep on the Vikings, something the ghost of Mouse McFadden from the '86 tournament run exists. This will be a difficult game for the Demon Deacons, but if they are my Final Four pick, they can't lose in the first round, can't they? Wake Forest 61, Cleveland State 59.

(15) Robert Morris vs. (2) Michigan State in Minneapolis (MSU by 17) The Spartans are the best the Big 10 has to offer and they should blitz the Colonials out of Pittsburgh. But watch out for Robert Morris guard Jeremy Chappell. Michigan State could be out in the second round, however, if it doesn't stay focused. MSU 78, RMU 63.

(12) Wisconsin vs. (5) Florida State in Boise, Idaho (FSU by 2 1/2) The Badgers are a vogue pick to go to the Sweet 16 because of their difficult style and stanch defense, but the Seminoles could be a special team primed for a run behind Toney Douglas. No way Leonard Hamilton goes out in the first round with this squad. Florida State 67, Wisconsin 58.

Washburn's Thursday record: 12-4.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Thursday's NCAA Tournament preview and picks

(9) Butler vs. (8) LSU in Greensboro, N.C. (LSU by 3)
The Tigers were one of the nation's best-kept secrets with new coach Trent Johnson but were seeded low because the SEC got no respect this year. Tasmin Mitchell is one of the better scoring guards in the country and the Tigers will have enough to get past the young Bulldogs. LSU 67, Butler 61

(15) CS Northridge vs. (2) Memphis in Kansas City, Mo. (Mem by 19 1/2)
This could get ugly because the Matadors have overcome so much adversity just to make it to this point and the early start along with Memphis' press could take them out early. Look for a big game from Tyreke Evans. Memphis 86, CSUN 61

(9) Texas A&M vs. (8) Brigham Young in Philadelphia (BYU by 2)
Didn't these teams play last year? The answer is yes, and the NCAA shouldn't have matched them up again in the first round. But the Aggies are scrappy and balanced while the Cougars depends on NBA prospect Lee Cummard and a trio of outside shooters. BYU's experience edge the Aggies. BYU 61, Texas A&M 58.

(12) Northern Iowa vs. (5) Purdue in Portland (Pur by 8)
Don't sleep on the Panthers, who used an 11-game winning streak to win the Missouri Valley Conference regular season and tournament. The Boilers will have to grind in this one but the Panthers are going to pull off the upset. Northern Iowa 63, Purdue 60.

(16) Radford vs. (1) North Carolina in Greensboro, N.C. (N.C. by 26 1/2)
The Highlanders can score, so that will make this game entertaining for a while. And while the Tarheels will likely be without Ty Lawson, they should have plenty enough to win a fun game to watch. UNC 103, Radford 84.

(10) Maryland vs. (7) California in Kansas City, Mo. (Cal by 1)
The most competitive game of the day will be a battle of perimeter teams with very little in the paint. The question is who wins the battle between Jerome Randle and Greivis Vasquez. The Bears have more balance and if Vasquez misfires, then the Terps could be in trouble. Cal 70, Maryland 67.

(16) Chattanooga vs. (1) Connecticut in Philadelphia (Conn by 20 1/2)
UConn coach Jim Calhoun said the 16-1 upset is coming and it is indeed approaching. But the Huskies are going to be a mean bunch after losing a 4-13 matchup to San Diego last season. There is no way it happens again. UConn 78, Chattanooga 61.

(13) Mississippi State vs. (4) Washington in Portland (Wash by 5)
Mississippi State is seeded way too low for an SEC Tournament champion but the Huskies are way too physical for the athletic Bulldogs, who don't have a lot of size. Over-under on Jarvis Varnado blocked shots is 4 1/2. He will be impressive but the Huskies will win. UW 70, Miss. State 63.

(10) Minnesota vs. (7) Texas in Greensboro, N.C. (Tex by 4)
The Longhorns could be in for a long tournament run because they have major talent and a veteran scorer in A.J. Abrams. Minnesota is basically led by Lawrence Westbrook and is used to winning ugly Big 10 games. This is a bad matchup for the Gophers. Texas 77, Minnesota 66.

(10) Michigan vs. (7) Clemson in Kansas City, Mo. (Clem by 5 1/2)
The Tigers are a dangerous team because they have so many athletes and play an exhausting full-court press and also have rugged Trevor Booker in the paint. Michigan is back in the tourney after a long absence and its stay will be short. Clemson 71, Michigan 58.

(14) American vs. (3) Villanova in Philadelphia (Villa by 17)
Villanova is a strong team and it also gets to play at home for the first two rounds. That's too much for the Eagles to overcome, although Seattle native Garrison Carr will be a fun player to watch. Villanova 67, American 53.

(13) Akron vs. (4) Gonzaga in Portland (Gonz by 12 1/2)
The Zips were precariously close to losing to 12-seeded Toledo in the first round of the MAC Tournament and probably are a little over their heads. Gonzaga is a motivated team and doesn't want to go out early -- again. Gonzaga 63, Akron 54.

(15) Binghamton vs. (2) Duke in Greensboro, N.C. (Duke by 21 1/2)
Duke will be motivated for this game because the Blue Devils don't want any hints of vulnerability so early in the tournament. A player looking to make a national name for himself will be Binghamton's D.J. Rivera, who led the America East in scoring. Duke 78, Binghamton 62.

(15) Morgan State vs. (2) Oklahoma in Kansas City, Mo. (Okla by 16 1/2)
Todd Bozeman's Bears won't be intimidated because of a challenge schedule that took them all the way to Seattle to play Washington. The Sooners haven't made major noise in the tournament in years and Blake Griffin will want to go out a winner. OU 86, Morgan State 69.

(11) Virginia Commonwealth vs. (6) UCLA in Philadelphia (UCLA by 7)
Don't fall for the trendy pick of VCU. UCLA is a much better team than it showed late in the season and its style is difficult to face for first-timers. The Eric Maynor-Darren Collison matchup will draw droves of NBA scouts. UCLA 69, VCU 63.

(12) Western Kentucky vs. (5) Illinois in Portland (Ill. by 4 1/2)
How many times can you say Orlando Mendez-Valdez fast? He will become a familiar name if the Hilltoppers make another tournament run and the Illini is quite vulnerable without key guard Chester Frazier. WKU 65, Illinois 64.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

NCAA Tournament quick thoughts

(4) Washington vs. (13) Mississippi State (in Portland) -- This is a ridiculous first-round draw for the Huskies. Didn't Mississippi State , led by Jarvis Varnado (right) just win the SEC Tournament, and the Bulldogs are a 13 seed while Siena is a nine seed? Washington gets to play in Portland but will not have an easy time advancing to the second round.

(6) UCLA vs. (11) Virginia Commonwealth (in Philadelphia) -- UCLA got no favors from the committee, going to Philly to play a VCU team that is capable of beating many major conference
teams. This will be an NBA showcase for UCLA's Darren Collison and VCU's Eric Maynor (right), both of whom could be taken in the first 20 picks. And if UCLA wins, it gets Villanova in Philadelphia.

(6) Arizona State vs. (11) Temple (in Miami) -- Not a bad game for the Sun Devils, who will give Temple problems with their versatility. Dionte Christmas (right) is one of the better players no one outside of the East has ever heard of, and his matchup with James Harden will be fun to watch.

(7) California vs. (10) Maryland (in Kansas City) -- The Bears were lucky to get a seventh seed given they dropped their last two games and three of their past four. They get a enigmatic Maryland squad that could make a Sweet 16 run or lose by 10 points in the first round. Regardless, it's a difficult game for a Cal team that has little in the paint to bang with the Terps. Greivis Vasquez (right) leads Maryland in points, rebounds and assists.

(7) Boston College vs. (10) USC (in Minneapolis)-- The Trojans are probably the No. 1 team a higher seed does not want to play because they are a talented club that is just finding it's groove. USC has to find somebody to stop Tyrese Rice (right) and the Eagles are a rugged team that's proven.

(5) Utah vs. (12) Arizona (in Miami) -- It's amazing the Wildcats even got into the tournament but then they got a pretty darn favorable game with the Utes, who lost at home to Cal in December. Utah features skilled big man Luke Nevill (right). The Wildcats looked lethargic in their first-round Pac-10 Tournament matchup against Arizona State, but if Jordan Hill and Chase Budinger play to their potential -- consistently -- they could be dangerous. But we have been saying that all season.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Tournament wrapup

(DeMar DeRozan, Taj Gibson and Daniel Hackett address the media after cinching an NCAA Tournament berth with a 66-63 win over Arizona State. DeRozan was named the tournament MVP)

USC put together three sparkling days of basketball to seize an NCAA Tournament berth and now some bubble team, likely in the Big East, Big Ten or SEC, just lost its bid and will be NIT-bound. Tim Floyd is an outstanding coach and his defensive strategy on James Harden was impressive. If you recall, Harden, the Pac-10's player of the year, scored four points at Galen Center in a loss to USC. On Saturday he had 10 points on 3-for-9 shooting. If Jeff Pendergraph, who led ASU with 18 points, is the Devils' leading scorer, they generally are beatable. Harden sets the pace for that team and he tried two big shots down the stretch.

The first was blocked by Taj Gibson, who did not have a strong game (7 points, 5 rebounds, 37 minutes) but came up with the defensive play of the game. Harden, with the Sun Devils trailing by two, tried for the decisive 3-pointer but missed it. Marcus Simmons made the smart play to flip the ball off Harden out of bounds, giving USC the possession and eventually the win.

Here is ASU reaction:

Coach Herb Sendek

"They came out and sort of hit us between the eyes to start the second half. They went on that flurry and then we regained our footing. We didn't do a very good job of executing our press in that instance and it led to some easy baskets for them and certainly turned the momentum of the basketball game, and what was a lead for us quickly evaporated.

"Taj Gibson is an outstanding defender. He's one of the best defenders in the Pac-10 and we are well aware of his excellence in that area."


"James' presence on the court creates opportunities on the court for other guys to score. If they put a defender like (Daniel) Hackett who doesn't have any help responsibilities, other guys are the benefactors. In James' case, you can't simply say that's it's five isolated games of one-on-one and sometimes he doesn't get the credit he deserves because all the attention he draws that allows other people to eat."


"USC has a real exciting defense. They have a lot of great defenders on their team and their defense is tough; they play man and they guard their man. They're such a unique defense. Hackett is a great defender and a great basketball player. His primary goal is to contain me and that's all he has to worry about. He's just a great defender and the team has great defenders as well so they did a pretty good job today."


"One of the things we talked about before the game was that Taj is great at protecting the basket. If you get by the guy that's guarding you, you can guarantee he's going to be there waiting for you. I guess we forgot about that and just jumped right into him thinking we were going to draw fouls, but he's a smarter defender than that and just kept blocking shots."

Celebration in Troy

USC's Dwight Lewis cuts down the net after the 66-63 win over ASU at Staples Center.

The Trojans put together one of the most impressive conference tournament runs in recent memory, beating Cal, UCLA and Arizona State on consecutive days to become the fifth Pac-10 team that will make the tournament along with the aformentioned three and Washington.

USC turned up the defensive intensity in the second half, holding the Sun Devil to 24 points and neutralizing the effectiveness of forward Jeff Pendergraph. Tournament MVP DeMar Derozan likely cinched his top 10 pick status with another strong game while James Harden finished with just 10 points.

Taj Gibson motions to the crowd after cutting down the nets.

Final: USC 66, Arizona State 63 -- Trojans headed to Big Dance

Dwight Lewis cans one free throw and Derek Glasser misses desperation 3-pointer at buzzer and USC has burst the bubble of some team and is headed to the NCAA Tournament.

USC 65, Arizona State 63, 2.4 seconds left

Taj Gibson has not been much of a factor today but the USC all-time blocks leader delivered a big one against James Harden and was fouled. Harden misses a 3-pointer and Marcus Simmons makes the biggest play of the season by knocking the ball off of Harden out of bounds.

USC 64, Arizona State 63, 25 seconds left

Daniel Hackett drains both free throws and suddenly the Staples Center is in a frenzy

Arizona State 63, USC 62 50.7 left

The two teams continue to trade baskets but when the Trojans needed a stop, James Harden went to the basket and was fouled by Daniel Hackett, hitting one free throw.
Dwight Lewis responded with another big 3-pointer and Harden has just picked up a charging call. Hackett will go to the line to give USC its first lead since 5-4.

Arizona State 60, USC 57, 2:33 left

USC continues to make runs at Arizona State and Arizona State continues to stave off those runs. Taj Gibson's slam with 8:44 left brought USC to within 55-53 but Arizona State has fought off the Trojans, keyed by big shots from Ty Abbott and Jeff Pendergraph, who has 20 points. James Harden has just nine, dispelling those notions that Harden has to have a big game for ASU to fare well.

Arizona State 51, USC 45 -- 12:42 left

The Trojans have cut significantly into the Sun Devils' lead using a full-court press that is speeding up the game, causing turnovers and creating transition baskets. DeMar DeRozan continues to make his bid for tournament MVP with 20 of USC's 45 points. Daniel Hackett has 13.

James Harden has nine but the Trojans have seized momentum and increased their defensive intensity.

USC mounting rally -- trail 46-35

The Trojans has scored the 11 of the first 13 points of the half to cut the lead to 41-35 before Ty Abbott, a candidate for all-tournament team, responded with a momentum-changing 3-pointer. Derek Glasser responds with another jumper and it's an 11-point game again with 15:53 left.

Sitting in front of UCLA guard Josh Shipp, who is watching his brother Jerren of Arizona State.

The Staples Atmosphere

Friday night was rocking here at Staples as USC and UCLA renewed their bitter rivalry but today is different as the USC faithful have not been able to full the lower bowl of Staples Center. It's a disappointing crowd considering USC is one win away from the NCAA Tournament.

Meanwhile, the Trojans have scored the first five points of the second half and trail 41-31.

Halftime: Arizona State 39, USC 24 (USC has nothing in tank)

LOS ANGELES -- Well you would have thought USC would enter this monumental game with major momentum and fire but it's been exactly the opposite. Arizona State has been the better team, more motivated team and smarter team.

The Sun Devils have ran their offense to perfection, relying on the dominating paint play of senior Jeff Pendergraph and the 3-point shooting of Derek Glasser, James Harden and Rihards Kuksiks. USC tied the game at 18 but then wilted and allowed Arizona State to end the game on a 21-6 run.

Taj Gibson, who was such a factor in the first two Pac-10 Tournament games, has two points and three rebounds and he can't stop the bigger Pendergraph in the paint. Pendergraph, whom may have made himself some NBA money this weekend by showing his developing jumper, has 10 points and four rebounds.

USC has no energy and looks like the team that lost at Oregon State, Stanford and Seton Hall.



WHEN/WHERE: 3:15 p.m. today, Staples Center


(DeMar DeRozan, right, shoots against Arizona State's Rihards Kuksiks. DeRozan has been the best player in the NCAA Tournament and is a projected top 10 pick if he departs for the NBA.) Associated Press

USC (20-12, 11-9 Pac-10)

Trojans starting lineup Pts. Reb. Ast.
G Daniel Hackett(Jr.) 12.3 4.2 4.8
G Dwight Lewis (Jr.) 14.1 3.2 2.1
G DeMar DeRozan(Fr.) 13.3 5.8 1.3
G Marcus Simmons(So.) 2.1 1.4 0.4
F Taj Gibson (Jr.) 14.6 9.5 1.2

ARIZONA STATE (24-8, 13-7)

Sun Devils starting lineup Pts. Reb. Ast.
G Derek Glasser (Jr.) 8.3 2.0 4.8
G Ty Abbott (S0.) 6.6 4.1 1.7
G James Harden (S0.) 21.1 5.6 4.1
F Rihards Kuksiks (So.) 10.3 3.9 1.5
C Jeff Pendergraph (Sr.) 14.4 8.5 0.9

WHAT TO KNOW: The game will gain major national attention, especially from those bubble teams such as Florida, Arizona, St. Mary's Kentucky and Creighton because if the Trojans win, they are taking someone else's tourney slot. There is little chance USC would reach the NCAA with 13 losses if they drop today's game but they would have to be considered the prohibitive favorite considering they haven't trailed in the two wins over Cal and UCLA. ... USC is getting exceptional contributions from DeRozan, Gibson and Lewis, whose big shots in the first half allowed USC to take a sizable early lead and then hold off the Bruins in the second half. Gibson has produced 34 points and 27 rebounds in the two games and his matchup with Pendergraph will be one of the game's highlights. ... The Sun Devils took a 21-point lead against No. 1 seed Washington and held on behind a spunky performance from Glasser, a surprising contribution from Abbott and a typical Harden effort. An ASU win could mean a fourth seed and a better first-round NCAA matchup and the Sun Devils have also never won a Pac-10 Tournament.

WHO TO WATCH: DeRozan has realized that the Pac-10 Tournament is littered with NBA scouts and he has shined, tallying 38 points and 21 rebounds in the previous two tournament games, including a furious dunk on UCLA Nikola Dragovic that set the tone for the game. If he is on and matches Harden, USC could be headed to the NCAA Tournament.

HEAD TO HEAD: This is the third meeting between the two clubs and each team won at home. DeRozan scored 22 points and Lewis added 18 as USC cruised to a 61-49 win on Jan. 15 at Galen Center. Glasser scored 18 and USC coach Tim Floyd was ejected in the final minutes as Arizona State won 65-53 on Feb. 15 in Tempe.

(Floyd gets ejected for arguing a charge call against Hackett) Associated Press

WASHBURN'S PICK: The Trojans are headed dancing, using the momentum from the previous two wins to edge the Sun Devils 75-72.

Friday, March 13, 2009

USC 65, UCLA 55, What an atmosphere!!

The Trojans withstood a late UCLA rally and hit free throws late for a 10-point win and a chance to go to the NCAA Tournament with one more win -- over Arizona State. This was an intense battle and the atmosphere was amazing and there was even a fight in the stands to display the bitterness. The Staples Center, which had been pretty quiet all weekend, was rocking and the Trojans never relinquished the lead.

(USC freshman DeMar DeRozan talks with a television reporter after the victory while the UCLA players walk off the court after the defeat).

UCLA's performance is disturbing, considering the Bruins were rather flat against Washington State and haven't been dominating since the middle of the Pac-10 season. Josh Shipp led the Bruins with 19 points and Nikola Dragovic added 12 but besides Shipp, the Bruins were 9-for-54 from the field (16 percent).

USC is playing like it was expected to in the beginning of the season, DeMar DeRozan was sparkling with 21 points and 13 rebounds and outclassed buddy Jrue Holiday in front of a bevy of NBA scouts.

Dwight Lewis hit some big shots early and helped the Trojans race out to a first-half lead while USC won the game in the second half with defense, taking 20 fewer shots than its opponents.

We will have more on this game and a preview of the ASU-USC game upcoming.

Washington Quotes following 75-65 loss to ASU


"I felt the stepped up and hit big shots. Derek Glasser hit big shots. Jeff Pendergraph hit some big shots. They came through when they needed to.

"I thought we came out with great energy on the defense end. I thought we were rotating well and moving our feet. We were quick to the ball. Arizona State did a good job at maintaining their poise throughout that and they just chipped away and chipped away. And we struggled putting the ball in the basket early and with that combination they were able to slowly jump out in front of us.

"We talked more about our lack of aggressiveness. We were the more tentative team of the two in the first half. That’s some of the things I thought we tried to address in the first half, coming out with a little more fight. We talked about our shot selection, which at times bites us in the butt."

(on the scuffle)

“Just guys competing, we’re playing hard, sometimes bodies get banged around and feelings get hurt I guess you could say. Sometimes games just get heated like that.


“I haven’t seen the replay or anything but I thought what went on is the same thing that goes on in practice. Like Jon said, two teams really competing at that point, really competing and neither wanted to give the edge to the other. I don’t think anyone lost control. I just think it was two teams competing really hard.


"We knew they were going to come out and play hard. We said it’s going to be a war, a fight couple break out. We knew it could be one of those heated games where bodies were banging against each other."


“One, two, three, NO. When you’re playing out there and competing, you’re not thinking of getting one out of the way.

"We expect to be part of the (NCAA Field). Where we’ll go and how high we’ll be seeded, I think that’s in the committee’s hands. We’re fortunate that we have the opportunity on Sunday that our name is going to be called. Wherever we’re sent, whomever we are going to play, we just have to make the best of it.”

Arizona State quotes following 75-65 win

Arizona State player and coach reaction following 75-65 win over Washington:


"It was just a great competitive game. Washington’s a great and competitive as well. So it was just a great game. Guys were playing hard. I don’t know what happened but guys were just playing hard.

"Washington is a great team and we knew they were going to make a run and all we had to do is keep our composure and just settle down and get great shots on offense and do what we do on defense and I think we did a pretty good job of that.

Coach (Sendek) has a lot of course and he trusts in us a lot and we were short so we just had to play hard and do what we do. We’re in condition to play 40 minutes each games so guys stepped up late in the game and made big shots and big free throws and kept our composure and got it done.

He’s a great defender. He’s a guy you don’t want to play against. He’s a great person, a great defender. I have nothing but respect for him. He’s just one of those guys. You’ll be on the court with him and you’re kind of nervous about it. I have nothing but full respect for him and he’s a great player.


"Like I said there’s great coaching, great players here so I wanted to stay here and not be one of those one-and-done guys who just got to the NBA. I needed a lot more to learn a lot more. I think I’ve matured a lot more in the past year and we’re doing some pretty good things at Arizona State and hopefully we can keep it up."


"Right now, I don’t think we’re worried about the NCAA Tournament. We’re in a tournament and the goal right now is to win it. We’re not looking too far ahead. That’s not how you win championships. Right now we’re excited to be going to the championship tomorrow and does feel a lot better to know that after tomorrow we’re going to be comfortable on selection Sunday."


"I really didn’t make any adjustments (after Washington's rallies). We just talked about maintaining our poise and composure and giving great effort. We talked about the need to try to get some stops because it seemed like Washington was scoring every single time down the floor. We had the lead in large part at the half because of our defense and it had evaporated. And we talked about hunkering down on defense and maintaining our composure.

"I think it’s important for us to stay in the moment and enjoy what just happened and get our rest and just try to recover as much as we can."


"Whenever things hit the fan and everybody is booing him, just hating on him and he uses that and it just boosts him through the roof. He starts getting stops. He takes care of the ball. He starts finding open people. He just steps it up and that’s a credit to being a big-time point guard."


"It’s been an adventure. Every year both of us get better and it’s a showdown every time. You can expect a big game from both of us, like a lot of hustle and a lot of hard work, guys playing hard and touch-guy stuff. Guys pushing each other and fouling and rebounding, just gritty, grimy stuff that coach Sendek likes. Typical sewer-rat ball."

Halftime: USC 33, UCLA 28

The Trojans are playing like an NCAA Tournament team and the question is whether they can withstand continuous UCLA runs throughout the second half. The Bruins closed the half on a 19-13 run to cut the deficit to five with some high-intensity basketball.

The atmosphere in the Staples Center is electric, mostly UCLA fans, who are cheering vigorously after every basket. This is what the rivalry should be.

By the way, I was not convinced that DeMar DeRozan (left, thanks to the Associated Press) was a one-and-out guy but he has pleaded his case this weekend. He thrilled the crowd (and media) with a high-flying dunk on UCLA's Nikola Dragovic midway through the first half. DeRozan is a superior athlete and a tough matchup for shooting guards because of his size and mid-range game.


Dwight Lewis -- 12 points

Taj Gibson -- 9 points
Josh Shipp -- 12 points
Nikola Dragovic -- 10 points

Final: Arizona State 75, Washington 65

The Sun Devils pull away with a 17-5 game-ending run and advance to the Pac-10 Championship. James Harden finished with 24 points and Jeff Pendergraph added 18. Back with notes and quotes.

Arizona State 73, Washington 62, 54.1 seconds left

The Huskies made a valiant rally to take a 60-58 lead on an Isaiah Thomas layup with six minutes left but allowed a 15-2 run as they appeared to tire from the rally. Things got chippy again in the final minute when Thomas was called for an intentional foul on Derek Glasser.

Washington will now go home and prepare for the tournament and getting some rest may be key to a long tourney run.,

James Harden leads Arizona State with 24 points while Thomas has 17.

Matters getting heated at Staples Center

OK, so with 13:43 left and Washington trying to make a run, things get testy as Arizona State's James Harden gets into an altercation with Washington's Venoy Overton.

Here's what went down: Harden scored a bucket over UW's Jon Brockman and Brockman was called for a block. As Harden's teammates went to congratulate him, he walked from the group and gave a shove to Overton, who fell backward. Overton, a tough player from Seattle's Franklin High School, grabbed Harden's jersey and Harden fell forward over Overton. Arizona State's Derek Glasser when walked over Overton and stood over him while he was lying on the ground.

Quincy Pondexter got into the face of Harden and coach Lorenzo Romar had to run out on the court to separate the parties. After a few minutes of delay, Harden, Glasser and Overton were assessed technicals.

After all the free throws, Arizona State leads 48-36 with 13:43 left.

Arizona State 44, Washington 31 -- 15:17 left

The Huskies are playing better but haven't cut much into the lead and the question is whether Washington should exhaust themselves trying to win this game or go home and get ready for the NCAA Tournament.

As of now, ESPN's tournament bracket guru Joe Lunardi has Washington as a third seed in Portland playing Robert Morris. That is a great seed, location and opponent. A hard-fought loss to Arizona State won't affect Washington's seed but will beating ASU and UCLA tomorrow in a potential final move UW to a No. 2 seed? Doubtfully.

The Huskies are beginning to press to speed the game up and create transition baskets. It should be an exciting finish.

Halftime: Arizona State 38, Washington 21

At 20-13 Arizona State, Washington coach Lorenzo Romar tore into his team for launching 3-pointers and taking ill-advised shots. Well... the Sun Devils went on a 18-8 run after that chat, so that tells you what you need to know about the first half. The Huskies shot 23 percent in the first 20 minutes and missed four free throws.

Arizona State actually trailed 11-5 in the first half but Washington was putrid offensively for the final 12-plus minutes. Any team playing Arizona State knows the worst way to attack the Sun Devils is allowing James Harden to get going early, and his has 15 first-half points and a little scrape with Washington's Justin Dentmon following a mid-court foul in the first half.

Ty Abbott added 12 points, which is a shock because Abbott has struggled with his shooting stroke all season. He shot 34 percent before the Pac-10 Tournament and 23 percent from the 3-point line. In the first half he was 5-for-8 from the field and canned two 3-pointers.

His lone miscue was a foul on Dentmon with 1.5 seconds left in the half that resulted in a four-point play.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Staples Center empty

It's obvious the tournament isn't drawing well. The attendance at Staples Center was listed at 16,271 but that was more like 11,000 tops. After a UCLA-USC matchup was cinched, tournament officials handed out fliers offering tickets for $10 to the semifinal game. You would expect UCLA-USC on a Friday night to fill the house, but in this city with this economy, it won't even come close.

Still, there will be two good games tomorrow night starting with Arizona State-Washington and we will have all the action and details beginning at 6.

Talk to you tomorrow.

UCLA 64, Washington State 53, Notes and Quotes

UCLA coach Ben Howland: "I thought we really did a good job defensively. I was particularly pleased with Jrue Holiday's defense against Klay Thompson. It was a good overall team performance. We're excited that we won and look forward to playing tomorrow."

Point guard Darren Collison: "I thought the team played great today. I don't know if it was the late start, but we played well."


Darren Collison -- 15 points
Nikola Dragoivic -- 12 points, six rebounds
Jrue Holiday and Josh Shipp -- 10 points each


Aron Baynes -- 22 points, 8-for-15 from the field
Taylor Rochestie -- 8 points, 1-for-11 shooting

Baynes -- 8-for-15
Rest of Cougars -- 10-for-45 (22 percent)

Final from Los Angeles: UCLA 64, Washington State 53

The score was closer than the game indicated but the Cougars never relented, forcing UCLA coach Ben Howland to insert his starters with 1:31 left and that still did nothing. Washington State cut the deficit to 60-53 after an Aron Baynes dunk with 31 seconds left and this performance has likely cinched the NIT for Washington State, which got 22 points from Baynes, who manhanded Alfred Aboya in the paint.

UCLA 57, Washington State 41 -- 3:40 left

(The Bruins during a time out)

The Bruins are doing what good teams do, putting a hurting on a tired team as the Cougars aren't sharp and have been a step slow the entire game.

WSU was lucky to be behind 33-21 at the break, shooting 21 percent from the field and getting 3-for-24 shooting from all Cougs not named Aron Baynes. They were a couple of 3-point baskets from making it interesting in the second half but weren't capable of such a run. Darren Collison leads UCLA with 11 points while Baynes has 11.

So it will be UCLA vs. USC and Arizona State-Washington in the semifinals.

Sitting with Dick Enberg

Sat at a Staples Center table with legendary announcer Dick Enberg, who will call the Pac-10 Championship on Saturday for CBS. Eavesdropped on a conversation with former Arizona State coach Bill Frieder and Enberg said, "I haven't had a real job in 50 years." Enberg was talking announcing with Frieder, who now calls games on radio during the college postseason.

Enberg is a definite icon and joked with Frieder that he gets a kick out of younger people saying how they remember certain games and Enberg interjects that he called that game. Good stuff.

Final: USC 79, Cal 75 -- Floyd vs. Randle

(Cal coach Mike Montgomery (left) addresses the media following the 79-75 loss with Patrick Christopher looking on)

By far the best game of the tournament turned heated in the final seconds when Cal guard Jerome Randle shoved USC coach Tim Floyd after making a turnover with under 3 seconds left. Daniel Hackett had just put the Trojans ahead 77-75 with two free throws with 3.8 seconds left and Randle bobbled a pass from Theo Robertson out of bounds. Randle chased the ball out of bounds and pushed Floyd in frustration as he was barking orders to his USC players.

Floyd handled the situation with class after the game, following an apology from Randle, who missed two of three free throws that could have tied the game at 72 with 1:14 left. Dwight Lewis responded with a critical 3-pointer for a 75-70 lead and Cal then rallied with a Theo Robertson 3-pointers, a defensive stop and then a Randle runner for the tie.

USC's Hackett posted up the smaller Randle, who got a foul call by holding Hackett's wrist, not exactly a butcher foul to decide a game, but it was a foul.

Cal played like an NCAA Tournament team in the second half, but USC played like one throughout the game, which has to serve as a source of frustration for USC fans because the Trojans are likely likely headed for the NIT.

USC outrebounded Cal 53-27, most of those was pure desire. DeMar DeRozan and Taj Gibson equaled Cal's rebounding totals themselves.

"I could have told you the way they were going to come out," Cal coach Mike Montgomery said of USC. "I could have told you they were going to come out with a chip on their shoulder. I could have told you they were going to come out and be physical and they were going to try to manhandle us and run us off and they did precisely that. It just took us a long time (to warm up) and it's happened on a number of occasions. Most of those times we bounced back and won games. It's something, I can't explain it."

Cal shot 56 percent in the second half compared with 41 for USC, but the Trojans always seemed to get the key rebound or loose ball, and that again was desire. Taj Gibson was a monster in the paint and Cal had no answer. Gibson is 24 years old and could dominate the Pac-10 again next year if he returned, and I'm sure the other nine coaches don't want to see him back.

He finished with 21 points, 16 rebounds and hit five of his six free throws. USC has Sweet 16 talent and I was quite impressed with DeRozan, who over matched Jorge Gutierrez and was able to get his shot off at will. He finished with 17 points and 11 rebounds. My key player was Lewis and his 3-pointer was pivotal because it turned a two-point lead into a five-point lead.

"We've been practicing hard all week," Hackett said. "We just carried that intensity into the game."

Said Floyd about Randle: "He's a good kid. He played a great game."


Randle -- 18 points on 6-for-14 shooting
Christopher -- 15 on 5-for-15 shooting
Gutierrez -- 14 on 5-for-10
Jordan Wilkes -- 4 points and one rebound in 14 minutes.


Gibson -- 21 points, 16 rebounds
DeRozan -- 17 points, 11 rebounds
Hackett -- 15 points, seven assists .

USC -- 22 offensive rebounds.

Halftime: USC 42, Cal 27

This is especially tough to watch being a Cal grad but it's easy to see why the Bears could be home for the summer by this time next week if they lose in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Being behind their bench, you could hear frustrated players arguing, including Harper Kamp, who picked up three early fouls and challenged his teammates to be aggressive. Jorge Gutierrez, the sparkplug guard, was angry late in the first half after not getting help seizing a loose ball.

The Bears are a mess and, as this blog expected, USC is playing like a team that should have competed for the Pac-10 title.

The halftime numbers are mind-boggling. USC is outrebounding Cal 32-13. Yes, 32-13. With DeMar DeRozan and Taj Gibson combined for 17. The trio of Theo Robertson, Jerome Randle and Patrick Christopher is a combined 4-for-18 for 11 points. Christopher mysteriously was named to the All Pac-10 first team earlier this week but he hasn't played like an all-conference performer since a triple-overtime win at Washington.

Washington 85, Stanfrord 73: notes and quotes

Thanks to Pac-10 media relations:

Washington coach Lorenzo Romar: "Going into this game we knew how hard Stanford has played us. They are dangerous offensively and we did a good job to get a victory. We probably turned the ball over many times. We were a bit sloppy but we did a good job in the second half of converting and stepped up and did very well. We are just excited that we are advancing in the tournament."

On Stanford's offense:

"Any time you play against someone, if you can get them to take contested perimeter shots you have a better chance to come out on top. They can really shoot the 3-ball and obviously when they are hitting them they are really hard to deal with. We did a pretty good job for the most part of contesting those threes."

On Elston Turner:

"(His three 3-pointers) were huge as we were having trouble taking care of the basketball and not really having an offensive rhythm. He gave us a little breathing room with those 3's before the half. I thought it was a great momentum builder for us going into the second half. Elston is capable of coming in and hitting five or six."

On next opponent Arizona State:

"ASU plays us to the wire and really makes us work, We are going to have to do a great job determining the pace. They are a really, really difficult club to play against."

Washington guard Isaiah Thomas:

"We came out in the second half and did a better job but we need to be better on the defensive end."

Stanford coach Johnny Dawkins:

"I thought it was an incredible game. Washington is a really, really good team. They played extremely well, especially in the second half. I'm proud of my kids. We competed the entire night, and they were the better team tonight. Give them credit."

On the pace:

"We found the tempo for the most part. We've been playing a little faster and as long as we get what we want when we got into transition offensively we were fine. I thought tonight we have some great looks that didn't go down. That's part of shooting the basketball."

Stanford guard Anthony Goods:

"It just came down to shot selection. If they were shooting shots that we were shooting they would have come up short, too. I thought we resorted to the three a little too early. It took its toll on us. They were able to come down and drive to the basket, get fouled and hit their free throws."


*The Huskies are 21-3 when leading at the half. ... it is their first win on a neutral court, having going 0-2 in games in Kansas City in December. ... Jon Brockman moved into third place on the Washington career scoring list and now has scored 1,762. ... Washington finished 3-0 against Stanford.

*Anthony Goods has nine games of 20 or more points. ... Mitch Johnson is second on the Stanford career assist list with 518, trailing only veteran NBA guard Brevin Knight. ... Landry Fields produced a career-high 15 rebounds and turned in his fifth double-double of the season.

James Harden. Bearded or not bearded?

This is James Harden (courtesy of ASU) without a beard, looking like a nice young man who is a college sophomore.

This is James Harden, the bearded version, completing a dunk and obviously enjoying the feeling.

Final from Los Angeles: Washington 85, Stanford 73

The Huskies simply wore down the Cardinal, using an early second-half run to coast to the Pac-10 Tournament semifinals. Now comes a matchup with Arizona State in Friday's semifinals. Stanford, perhaps a postseason candidate, finishes the regular season at 18-13 and 7-13 in the Pac-10. We will have to check to see the last time a Pac-10 team has lost all of its games in conference.


Anthony Goods -- 26 points
Landry Fields -- 16 points and 15 rebounds (not a good matchup for Quincy Pondexter)


Jon Brockman -- 20 points, 8 rebounds
Isaiah Thomas -- 14 points
Quincy Pondexter -- 11 points

Washington wins rebound battle 48-39

Washington 75, Stanford 68 -- 5:03 left -- Isaiah Thomas takes over

Isaish Thomas has come alive with 11 points in the second half with his winding style that frustrates because he is small enough to fit through opposing defenders. But is Thomas considering leaving school early? He said a few weeks ago he would have to consider it if he was a first-round pick and there are dozens of NBA scouts here watching him dominate his matchup with Stanford's Mitch Johnson.

Washington 67, Stanford 59 -- second half

This was expected to be an interesting game because both teams are physical and Stanford is probably the best ninth-place conference team in the country. Sitting behind the Huskies bench, it's interested to see how much coaching former UCLA player Cameron Dollar does. The question for Dollar is how much longer he will have to wait for a head coaching position of his own.

Two jobs have just opened up -- Elon and Boston University -- two mid majors that may be a perfect fit for the 33-year-old Dollar. Of course, he may want something bigger and closet to his native Atlanta.

Back to the game: The Huskies led 38-35 at halftime fueled by three 3-pointers from Elston Turner, who came to Washington with the reputation of being a premium shooter. He has proved that. Eight of the 10 Huskies who played scored in the first half and I'm especially impressed with Englishmen Matthew Bryan-Amaning, who has a toughness that every team needs and he should be a nice replace for Jon Brockman next year in the starting lineup.

Stanford keeps hanging around but the matchup between the Cardinal's Landry Fields and Washington's Quincy Pondexter is a mismatch. Fielders scored 13 at halftime with eight rebounds and his combination of bulk and athleticism drives Pondexter crazy.

Pac-10 Tournament Game 6



WHEN/WHERE: 8:30 p.m. tonight, Staples Center


WASHINGTON STATE (17-14, 9-10 Pac-10)

Wildcats starting lineup Pts. Reb. Ast.
G Taylor Rochestie (Sr.) 13.3 3.6 4.7
G Marcus Capers (Fr.) 1.4 2.3 1.2
F Klay Thompson (Fr.) 13.0 4.0 1.8
F Nikola Koprivica(Jr.) 3.3 2.5 1.6
C Aron Baynes (Sr.) 12.2 7.5 0.6

UCLA (24-7, 13-5)

Bruins starting lineup Pts. Reb. Ast.
G Darren Collison (Sr.) 14.8 2.5 5.0
G Josh Shipp (Sr.) 14.4 3.0 1.6
G Jrue Holiday(Fr.) 8.6 3.7 0.6
F Nikola Dragovic (Jr.) 9.2 4.0 1.5
C Alfred Aboya (Sr.) 10.1 6.0 0.6

WHAT TO KNOW: A battle of tempos and strong defenses conclude the night at Staples Center and despite the dramatic differences between these two schools -- one is in LA and the other is in Pullman, Wash. (have you ever been to Pullman). As former coach George Raveling once said, "It's not the end of the world, but you can see it from there." -- the similarities are striking, starting with the defensive philosophy. The matchup between Collison and Rochestie should be an interesting one because both are scorers who have habits of hot streaks. Rochestie was brilliant in the previous meeting against UCLA while Collison is consistently a productive scorer. It will make waiting for the first three games worth it. ... Also look for Baynes against Aboya and how the two matchup burliness against athleticism. ... The Cougars are likely already in the NIT and a victory tonight may give them a first-round home game.

WHO TO WATCH: Dragovic is a late bloomer whom few expected to make the impact this season that he has. He burned Washington State in the first meeting and his 3-point shooting make UCLA tough to defend because he stretches the floor. A couple of long-range bombs for Dragovic make for a long night for the Cougars.

HEAD TO HEAD: This is the third meeting between the two clubs and each team won on the road. Dragovic scored 20 points and the Bruins staved off a WSU surge in the late going for a 61-59 win at the Palhouse on Jan. 22. Rochestie had the game of his career, tallying 33 points, including five 3-pointers, as he single-handedly carried the Cougars to an 82-81 win on Feb. 21. The Bruins played their worst game of the season defensively.

WASHBURN'S PICK: The Bruins are the better team and the Cougs finally run out of gas in the second half 78-66 UCLA.

Final: Arizona State 68, Arizona 56

What was expected to be a highly competitive war turned into a dude as Arizona ran out of gas and interim coach Russ Pennell likely wrote his ticket out of Tucson. The Arizona coaching job is officially open.

The Wildcats shot 26 percent in the second half and produced 22 points. Their offense was stymied by Arizona State's physical style and they were relegated to launching 3-pointers. Jordan Hill and Nic Wise combined for 38 of the 56 points and 15-for-35 shooting. The rest of the team: 7-for-27.

The biggest disappointment was Chase Budinger, who keeps getting tabbed as a solid NBA prospect but his play has never reflected that. He finished with eight points on 3-for-15 shooting and he took nine 3-pointers, hitting one. Perhaps he should stay in school and work on his game, because he may be another Casey Jacobsen, a scorer whose game can't translate to the NBA.

As for the Sun Devils, a very solid performance, shooting 52 percent for the game, led by 27 points from the bearded one, James Harden. He needs to stop taking 3-pointers (1-for-7) but with his left-handed, unorthodox game, he is difficult to stop in the paint. And remember, he is a legitimate 6-foot-5, so he is an NBA shooting guard waiting to blossom.

Jeff Pendergraph, whom I believe will be on an NBA squad next season (maybe as a D-Leaguer) finished with 10 points and nine rebounds and did want he needed to do. He took just six shots, making four, a testament why he is leading the nation in field goal percentage.

Said Harden: "Until they call our name we are not in the tournament, yet, so we have to keep winning games."

Pac-10 Tournament Game 5



WHEN/WHERE: 6 p.m. tonight, Staples Center


USC(18-12, 9-9 Pac-10)

Wildcats starting lineup Pts. Reb. Ast.
G Daniel Hackett(Jr.) 12.3 4.0 4.8
G Dwight Lewis (Jr.) 14.2 3.3 2.0
F DeMar DeRozan(Fr.) 12.9 5.3 1.3
F Taj Gibson(Jr.) 14.4 9.3 1.1
F Keith Wilkinson (Sr.) 2.7 2.7 1.0

CALIFORNIA (22-9, 11-7)

Golden Bears starting lineup Pts. Reb. Ast.
G Jerome Randle (Jr.) 18.5 3.1 5.0
G Patrick Christopher (Jr.) 14.6 3.8 2.1
G Theo Roberston (Jr.) 12.8 3.8 2.5
F Jamal Boykin (Jr.) 9.7 6.5 0.9
C Jordan Wilkes(Jr.) 4.8 4.0 1.0

WHAT TO KNOW: The Bears could use a win to improve their NCAA seeding and set up semifinal showdown potentially with UCLA. Cal is pretty much a lock for the tournament but a loss could drop the Bears to perhaps a ninth or 10th seed, so the game is critical. ... Speaking of critical, that's USC's NCAA chances and the Trojans need a couple of wins at the Pac-10 Tournament to perhaps give the committee something to think about. USC has a very interesting roster. Gibson is a 24-year-old junior and Hackett is a 20-year-old junior. The team's infighting has become a major issue and perhaps coach Tim Floyd is losing control of the program, although that is something he will never admit. USC is no doubt one of the more talented teams in the conference while conversly it's hard to reason why Cal is reaching the NCAA Tournament after losing its leading scorer (Ryan Anderson) to the NBA Draft. But the two teams are in inverse positions, which will make for an interesting matchup.

WHO TO WATCH: Lewis struggled during conference season, shooting 37 percent, including a fist fight with Hackett after a home loss to Washington. But if he is on and the 3-point shot is going down, Cal could be in trouble.

HEAD TO HEAD: This is the third meeting between the two clubs and each team won at home. Four Trojans scored in double figures and USC went on a monster second-half run for a 73-62 win on Jan. 31 at Galen Center. DeRozan scored 19 points. Christopher tallied 29 as Cal held off the Trojans 81-78 in overtime. The Trojans missed 12 free throws.

WASHBURN'S PICK: The Bears hold on in a while one, 68-67, but don't go to Vegas on that one.

Halftime: Arizona 34, Arizona State 32

The Sun Devils, wearing their white uniforms (we are seated right behind their bench) dominated play thought out the first half of the first half, leading by as much as 18-11, but the Wildcats, fighting for their tournament lives, rallied behind an inspired Jordan Hill, who dominated the paint with 12 points and six rebounds and looks as if he is getting close to healthy following a bad ankle sprain two weeks ago against Washington.

Arizona: Hill 12 points
Nic Wise: 9 points
Jamelle Horne: 8 points
Chase Budinger: 3 points on 1-for-6 shooting.

Question: do you think Budinger should enter the NBA Draft? He doesnt look like an NBA player today.

Arizona State:
Ty Abbott: 8 points
James Harden (with beard): 8 points
Jeff Pendergraph: 6 points, one rebound.

Question for Arizona State: Do you think Harden should go pro?

Finally a connection

It's been a struggle to get connected here at Staples Center but I have hurried back into the media room and away from the court to pass along notes on the opening game Arizona vs. Arizona State.

The atmosphere is much better than the night before. There's about 6,000 in the Staples Center and it's a vibrant feeling as two bitter rivals go at it. Already seen is Lorenzo Romar, who is prepping his team for Game 2 against the Stanford Cardinal.

Pac-10 Tournament Game 4



WHEN/WHERE: 2:30 today, Staples Center


Stanford (18-12, 6-11 Pac-10)

Cardinal starting lineup Pts. Reb. Ast.
G Mitch Johnson (Sr.) 6.9 2.5 4.4
G Anthony Goods (Sr.) 15.9 3.4 1.8
G/F Landry Fields (Jr.) 12.6 6.4 1.9
F Lawrence Hill (Sr.) 13.6 5.6 2.5
F/C Josh Owens (Fr.) 7.3 3.6 0.8

WASHINGTON (24-7, 14-4)

Huskies starting lineup Pts. Reb. Ast.
G Isaiah Thomas (Fr.) 15.4 2.9 2.6
G Justin Dentmon (Sr.) 15.3 2.8 2.5
F Quincy Pondexter (Jr.) 11.6 5.7 1.5
F Darnell Gant (Fr.) 3.2 3.5 0.5
C Jon Brockman (Sr.) 14.8 11.5 1.1

WHAT TO KNOW: The Huskies are still basking over their conference title, Washington's first ever unshared Pac-10 crown, and will try to use the tournament perhaps to gain a No. 2 seed in Portland in next week's first-round of the NCAA Tournament. A loss to Stanford probably drops the Huskies to a No. 4 seed, so Lorenzo Romar's club indeed has something to play for Friday afternoon. The Huskies took home several Pac-10 honors, including Thomas as Freshman of the Year and Dentmon as Most Improved. The question is do they have enough energy to win three games in three games or should they rest for the NCAAs? ... Stanford will provide a physical challenge and the two played two grueling games during the regular season. Coach Johnny Dawkins has done a solid job during his first year as a NCAA Division I head coach after seemingly forever as an assistant at Duke. Dawkins has found out that the Pac-10 isn't so easy or soft, as the Cardinal finished ninth in the conference following an 11-0 start. The Cardinal has enough talent to push Washington but players such as Goods and Hill need career nights.

WHO TO WATCH: Dentmon seems to be the team leader and the player who can score a key basket when the Huskies need it. Did we ever think that would be the case? Remember, Dentmon was benched during his junior season and was considered a mediocre player until this -- his senior -- season.

HEAD TO HEAD: This is the third meeting between the two clubs and Washington has won both previous games, an 84-83 win at Seattle on Jan. 8 and 75-68 victory on Feb. 8 in Palo Alto. Pondexter has averaged 17 points in the two games.

WASHBURN'S PICK: The Cardinal push Washington for about 30 minutes and then the Huskies wear them down en route to a potential matchup with Arizona -- 72-61.

Game 3: Arizona vs. Arizona State



WHEN/WHERE: Noon today, Staples Center


ARIZONA (19-12, 9-9 Pac-10)

Wildcats starting lineup Pts. Reb. Ast.
G Nic Wise (Jr.) 15.0 2.4 4.6
G Kyle Fogg (Jr.) 6.4 2.4 1.7
F Chase Budinger (Jr.) 18.2 6.4 3.4
F Jamelle Horne (So.) 6.7 5.1 1.3
C Jordan Hill (Jr.) 18.5 11.0 1.4

ARIZONA STATE (22-8, 11-7)

Sun Deviks starting lineup Pts. Reb. Ast.
G Derek Glasser (Jr.) 8.0 2.0 4.9
G Ty Abbott(So.) 6.3 4.1 1.6
G James Harden (So.) 20.8 5.4 4.1
G Rihards Kuksiks (So.) 10.8 4.0 1.4
C Jeff Pendergraph (Sr.) 14.4 8.5 1.0

WHAT TO KNOW: A brutal rivalry begins the day and the Wildcats need this game a lot more than their counterparts to the north. Arizona is squarely on the bubble and a third loss to Arizona State likely would end its NCAA Tournament hopes. So there is much to play for and this is what makes Pac-10 Tournaments fun -- rivalry games. The Wildcats have perhaps the most talented trio in the conference with Wise, Budinger and Hill, but they rarely play well all in the same game. ... Arizona State stomped on Cal in its season finale and is playing for NCAA seeding, but what team will show up? The Good Sun Devils who dominated Cal, beat UCLA twice and Arizona twice or the bad Devils who lost to Washington State twice, at USC and home to Stanford. ... Harden is the best player in the country college fans really don't know much about. Although his beard makes him look like Isaac Hayes, he is barely 20 years ago. The splendid scorer has tallied double figures in 27 of 30 games en route to Pac-10 Player of the Year honors.

WHO TO WATCH: Kuksiks. The Latvian sharpshooter is nearly a 46 percent 3-point shooter and takes advantage of Harden's dribble penetration and kick outs. He should have a big game.

HEAD TO HEAD: This is the third meeting between the two clubs and Arizona State has won both previous games, a 53-47 win at Tucson on Jan. 21 and 70-68 victory on Feb. 22 in Tempe. Arizona State show 53 percent in the second win.

WASHBURN'S PICK: The Wildcats win a high-scoring contest 75-70 and cling to their NCAA hopes.

Final: Washington State 62, Oregon 40

This was one of those clunkers where Washington State outclassed the Ducks, who were never in this game and depended on one player -- 5-foot-6 Tajuan Porter -- who scored half of Oregon's points.

Washington State's strategy was to pound the ball inside to burly center Aron Baynes and forced the Oregon young big men to stop him. It didn't work. After playing some inspiring ball toward the end of the season, coach Ernie Kent's Ducks looked bad in their final three games, leaving his job status in question. The question for the University of Oregon, with a new arena on the horizon, is do you can Kent after a 2-17 conference record or allow him to come back because Oregon is extremely young and potentially talented.

The Cougars improved to 17-14 and are a cinch for the NIT, likely a first-round game against Weber State, that's my guess.

"I don't think we took a step back against Washington in our final regular season game, but unfortunately didn't come away with one, but we were solid tonight," Washington State coach Tony Bennett said. "We did a nice job getting the ball to inside to Aron. He really got us going offensively. And we made it hard for them. In the first half, even the 3's that they hit, all of them we're pretty well contested."

Now Washington State takes on UCLA in the nightcap on Thursday night. The Cougars won for just the second time at Pauley Pavilion on Feb. 21 as Taylor Rochestie scored 33 points. It should be an interesting game because that was UCLA's last loss and the Bruins are playing for a No. 3 seed.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Halftime: Washington State 34, Oregon 22

Well the Staples Center is beginning to fill up for the second game, but not all that much. There's about 3,500 fans here and we're right behind the Washington State bench and the Cougars have been dominating in the first 20 minutes. Aron Baynes is dominating his freshman counterparts Josh Crittle and Michael Dunigan, scoring 14 points with five rebounds at the break as the Cougars are shooting 61 percent from the field (14-for-23) and have attempted just one 3-pointer, a testament to their inside domination.

Tajuan Porter leads Oregon with 11 points but the rest of the Ducks are shooting 4-for-16 from the field for 11 points. Oregon coach Ernie Kent can't wait for 2010.

In the house: Former NBA guard Gus Williams, former Arizona standout Miles Simon, Clippers guard Fred Jones (an Oregon alum), KJR radio's Dave "Softy" Mahler.

Thoughts from OSU coach Craig Robinson

The Beavers players were obviously crushed following their 62-54 loss to Stanford, given they had beaten the Cardinal soundly in both regular season meetings and had a seven-point lead at halftime. They were outscored 41-26 in the second half and leading scorer Calvin Haynes went scoreless. It was obvious Oregon State was exhausted in their final four games, losing all by at least eight points.

Coach Craign Robinson did a remarkable job bringing the Beavers back to respectability but the tough thing about that is that the players are still devastated after the final loss of the season, regardless of how they have progressed. Robinson, a very intelligent man, chose to look at the positives following the defeat. Oregon State lost all 19 conference games last season. This year the Beavs finished 7-12.

"This was an extremely disappointing outcome but I couldn't be more proud or pleased with these guys over the course of this year. We are having a tough time coming to grips with that because we didn't want to end on a negative note, this negative note. But what I try to remind these guys is that these gusy are the same guys minus their leading scorer and one other key player that went 0-18 in this league last year."

"And by all rights and by all examples were a laughingstock in this league. And we know that. I watched the tapes. I watched how people treated them. The turnaround they did without any additional help should by duly noted and it's certainly duly noted. Again, I couldn't be more proud of this group of guys."

"(Anthony Goods) was terrific. He hit some open shots which we we're disappointed in but he also hit some contested shots. He looked much more inspired than he did the first two times we played them. I can't take anything away from him. We played good defense and kept them to the kind of point total that we like to keep people. But he still got going."

Forward Roeland Schaeftenaar (12 points): "Obviously (this year) has been a lot more fun than last year. But it's just tough for us right now to end this way."

Sophomore guard Lathem Wallace: "I agree with Roeland. We had a great season and we ended on a bad note. And we have improved."

Quotes, notes from Stanford 62, Oregon State 54

Stanford coach Johnny Dawkins: "It was definitely a hard-fought game and our team did a great job of defending in the second half. We showed character. Give Oregon State a lot of credit, their kids play hard for 40 minutes. They make you work for everything you get. I think we were very fortunate tonight."

Did you guys make an effort to have more energy in the second half?: "We talked about (that) at halftime, especially for our seniors. There's 20 minutes left. To be quite frank, all three make great plays in the second half. Of course Anthony (Goods) was terrific. Mitch (Johnson) made some big buckets for us and so did Lawrence (Hill). He was also very good. All four of our seniors really made big plays for us in the second half."

How will you match up with (top seed) Washington tomorrow? "They're a very good team. They're conference champions. We have to play a very good 40 minutes. It's going to be a physical game, it's going to be a hotly contested game. It's going to be testy. Probably the best thing we can do right now is have our players get off their feet and get some rest and get ready to go tomorrow."

Did you have to get Goods (23 points) motivated since he went scoreless the last game against OSU?
"I didn't think he needed to be reminded. He's our leading scorer and that's a tough but I figured he would step up in some respect. You didn't know what his numbers we're going to be but I figured he'd be ready to play."

Final: Stanford 62, Oregon State 54

This is the Stanford team that began the season 11-0 and looked like it could be a contender in the conference. Anthony Goods was sparkling in the second half with 17 points and Stanford used solid shooting to hand Oregon State its fourth straight loss.

About a week ago, I was convinced Craig Robinson was Pac-10 Coach of the Year over Lorenzo Romar, but after the Beavers lost their last four games, I give the nod to Romar. Oregon State still have a long way to go. It shot 39 percent in the second half, hit just one 3-pointers and appeared flat after solid victories over Cal and Stanford two weeks ago.

Back with quotes, notes and a look at Game 2: Oregon-Washington State.

Cougs in the House; Stanford up 58-54 with 1:01 left.

One of the coolest things I think about a big tournament, especially a conference tournament, is the team playing in the next game sitting behind the basket, iPods in hand, watching the current game. The Washington State players strolled into Staples Center and its small rooting section went crazy.

Meanwhile, Anthony Goods may have put this game away with a 3-pointer for a 58-52 lead with 1:30 left. We do not have running stats at the press table, but from the scoreboard, Goods has 22 points. A senior, Goods has been inconsistent in his career, although he is at his best tonight.

Stanford makes run

OK, the Cardinal have awaken, scoring 14 of the first 16 points of the second half to take a 35-30 lead and it looks like this game is going down to the final minutes.

The Cardinal led by as many as eight (49-41) but Oregon State has to be the stubornest team in the country. The Beavers just won't go away and they have cut the deficit to one -- 53-52 -- after a free throw by Roeland Schaftenaar with three minutes left.

Stanford just called time out after a steal ahead 55-52 with 2:35 left, so as expected this game is going to perhaps go down to the final possession.

Halftime: Oregon State 28, Stanford 21

The first half between these two teams has played out just like Oregon State coach Craig Robinson wanted it to, ugly and slow. The Cardinal shot less than 38 percent in the first half, including 5-for-15 from players not named Landry Fields. The Cardinal has a solid club but it can't hit a key shot in the first half.

Oregon State, meanwhile, is doing exactly what it likes to do. Play a stifling zone defense, pound the ball in the paint occasionally and and hit 3-pointers. The Beavers are 4-for-8 from behind the arc at halftime with Calvin Haynes and Lathen Wallace each scoring seven points.

By the way, don't get fooled by Craig Robinson being Barack Obama's brother-in-law. The dude is pretty intimidating looking because he is a solid 6-foot-6. For some reason he looks shorter on television but Robinson is a big dude.

Now back to the game: Stanford will have to improve on its 2-for-11 mark at the 3-point line in the second half.

The Atmosphere

The Stanford-Oregon State game resembles an NBA summer league game with two bands surrounded by empty seats. The Staples Center is beginning to fill in and my press seats are pretty amazing, right behind the Stanford bench. Being a Cal guy, I have mixed emotions about this, but you definitely get a better feel for the game being so close.

There are scouts here, shoe company gurus such as the Pump Brothers, George Raveling, saw Lorenzo Romar hanging out because the Stanford-Oregon State winner will play Washington, and various other assistant coaches and former players checking out the first game.

OK we've got connection

Due to technical difficulties, the debut of the G Washburn sports blog was delayed from the Pac-10 Tournament. I havce notoriously have trouble with the wireless connection at Stapnes Center and despite not covering a game here for nearly a year, it happened again. But I think we're OK.

Here we go.

G Washburn

Pac-10 Tournament Game Two



WHEN/WHERE: 8:30 tonight, Staples Center


OREGON (8-22, 2-16 Pac-10)

Ducks starting lineup Pts. Reb. Ast.
G Tajuan Porter (Jr.) 15.2 2.5 1.8
G LeKendric Longmore (So.) 10.2 3.8 0.8
G Garret Sim (Fr.) 6.8 1.8 2.1
F Joevan Catron (Jr.) 7.3 6.8 2.3
C Michael Dunigan (Fr.) 8.6 4.8 0.5

WASHINGTON STATE (16-14, 8-10)

Cougars starting lineup Pts. Reb. Ast.
G Taylor Rochestie (Sr.) 13.6 3.6 4.7
G Marcus Capers (Fr.) 1.4 2.2 1.2
G Klay Thompson (Fr.) 13.1 4.0 1.8
F Caleb Forrest (Sr.) 6.6 3.2 0.9
C Aron Baynes (Sr.) 12.0 7.4 0.7

WHAT TO KNOW: There is no more dangerous team in this tournament than the Cougars, who beat Arizona and Arizona State in their final home weekend and pushed arch rival Washington to the final minutes before losing 67-60 last weekend in Seattle. Rochestie is the team leader while Thompson could have easily won conference freshman of the year award and Baynes is a burly center with a decent shooting touch. WSU is first in the nation on points allowed per game (55.3) and its methodical style frustrates opponents. A win Wednesday puts the Cougars against UCLA, which they beat in Los Angeles last month. ... Don't sleep in Oregon. The Ducks have finally shown improvement and played respectable basketball after dropping their first 14 conference games. If Oregon's young kids can play a complete game and the Porter, an Allen Iverson-type of shooting guard, can get hot, then the Ducks can easily make it competitive. Coach Ernie Kent is likely safe because Oregon has eight freshman and two seniors, neither of whom are in the regular rotation. Oregon is a team to watch for 2010.

WHO TO WATCH: Rochestie has had an roller-coaster season but it ended on a major upswing with brilliant games against Arizona and Arizona State. The win over the Sun Devils ended with a 26-footer from Rochestie in the final seconds on Senior Day. His matchup with Porter should be interesting.

HEAD TO HEAD: This is the third meeting between the two clubs and Washington State has won the previous two meetings. The Cougars won 74-62 in Eugene on Jan. 17 and 67-38 on Feb. 12 in Pullman. Rochestie scored a combined 46 points in the two games.