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College Hoop Thoughts

Posted by davefowkes on 02/22/2009

The hype yesterday was on bracket-buster weekend, but it was the big boys that made a lot of the news:

–I think we can officially call Stanford a bad basketball team right now. It is hard to know where it all went so wrong. Three one-point road losses in a row? The home shellacking to Oregon State? Bottom line, there is no excuse for losing to Oregon this year. And that is what the Cardinal did yesterday. It is a brutal year on the farm and with three seniors departing and not much fresh talent coming in, it could be a long couple of years for Stanford.

–By the way, how far has the Oregon program fallen that the Duck faithful decided they needed to storm the court after beating Stanford! Can we all say it together, “Oregon now introduces Mark Few as new basketball coach….”

–Bad loss by Cal. OSU is clearly better than it has been but the Bears could be in 2nd place today. Instead they need at least one win either at home against the LA schools or on the road in Arizona to secure that tournament bid.

–Kudos to OSU for sweeping the Bay Area this year. 4-0! That is impressive. I am quite sure that has not happened since the Ralph Miller era!

–Losing at home to WSU is bad enough but how the heck did UCLA give up 81 points? It usually takes WSU a game and a half to get 80 points. Yet they did it on the Bruins home court against a traditionally strong, defensive minded team. UCLA will find themselves out of the top 25 this week. A true sign of how far behind the Pac Ten is this year.

–That said, the Huskies keep rolling. Nice road win for them over USC.

–Big game tonight in the state of Arizona. The Cats are one of the hotter teams. Can they keep the streak alive? ASU seems to have rebounded from a mid-season slump. For ASU 2nd place is on the table, for AZ it is about getting to the tournament.

–A win by Maryland is bad for those of us dreaming about mid-major conferences getting at-large bids. By rallying to beat UNC (and shocking me) Maryland is right back in the tournament talk. The more of these mid-level big conference schools that make a run, the less opportunity for the mid-majors to participate in March.

–Congrats to USF for getting the big win in OT over Santa Clara. Since USF suspended 4 players last week they have been competitive in all their games, including Gonzaga last weekend. It was nice to see them get rewarded for their efforts last night. Maybe Rex Chapman knows what he is doing after all?

–With a recent loss to Boise State (who got pounded last night by Portland State) and then losing at St. Mary’s last night, Utah State has proved the WAC will only get one team into the tourney. They better win their conference tournament! As for St. Mary’s, they are playing well and have a shot at winning the WCC tourney if Patty Mills comes back. They will need to because their losses when he first went down will keep the Gaels from an at-large bid. But if they do manage to win the berth, Gonzaga would get an at-large bid!

–I know nobody else west of New York cares, but I would love to see Niagara beat Sienna in the MAAC tourney and then the tournament reward Sienna with an at large birth. Both teams could create match up issues in the big dance and shoot their way to potential first round upsets.

–Butler vs Davidson was a good game but I wonder what would have happened had Stephen Curry not been hurt last week. He clearly was not the same player yesterday that he has been. Butler plays good defense so give them some credit but Curry just did not seem to have his legs under him. Anyone else catch how young that Butler coach looks? They pick him up out of high school?

–How do I know that Oklahoma is a great team? On the road, with the best player in college hoops on the bench (Blake Griffen left early with a concussion), they still almost beat Texas. With good health Oklahoma wins that game by 10.

–Three of the top four teams lost this past week. Still, this is a four team race as far as I am concerned with the top four teams being much better than the rest. After yesterday’s results, this would be my top five if I had a vote: 1. Pittsburgh 2. UConn, 3. Oklahoma 4. UNC 5. Memphis.

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Big Game Recap

Posted by davefowkes on 02/15/2009

That one hurt yesterday! A tale of two halfs. Stanford blows up Cal in the first half with a lead that reached 22 points at one point. Cal responds in the second half to pull out the 82-75 win and a season split with the Cardinal.

I could feel it coming. Despite how much the Cardinal dominated in the first half, the fact is they did it with 77% shooting. They could not miss. And they weren’t turning the ball over. The reality is all those numbers were due to come back to earth in the second half. They key to the game was a late run by Cal in the first half. Rather than going to half down 20+ they were able to make a quick run and cut the lead to 14. That gave them a manageable number in the second half and a little momentum.

Then in the second half, they just dominated. While they never seem to hit their first shot, they dominated the boards getting second and third attempts until they got the bucket. They wasted no time in coming back and while Stanford tried to fend them off, eventually they caved in.

Stanford again showed their team weakness. NO inside game. Cal won the game when the crashed the offensive boards. Stanford could do nothing to stop them. On offense, Stanford showed they are only as good as their outside shooters. In the first half they could do no wrong, but in the second half when the laws of averages hit and they started missing their shots, they really could not do anything to manufacture good shots. Stanford has a long season in front of them and with 4 outgoing seniors and only 1 incoming freshman next year, it could be a down couple of years for the Cardinal program. Johnny Dawkins is going to have to prove just how good a coach and recruiter he is. If he doesn’t….

As for Cal, Jerome Randle is an amazing point guard and he just seems to get better every time I watch him play. Cal turned their game (and maybe their season) around by playing tough perimeter defense, challenging the Cardinal on the outside. If Cal is willing to commit to playing Mike Montgomery’s defense, and they continue to hit shots, and Randle stays healthy, they really will compete in a down Pac Ten. Jorge Guttierrez looks like a great freshman and I don’t believe there are any seniors on the team. The future for Cal looks pretty bright!

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Pac Ten Weekend Plays

Posted by davefowkes on 02/07/2009

I was so spot on for Thursday I decided I would try again today. Granted, being spot on means I picked every winner!  LOL.  Not sure I can say I hit every spread. But there is always today:

Washington State at Cal: Despite a stretch of games where they lost four out of five games, Thursday night’s win over Washington put Cal right back in contention in the Pac Ten. Cal is now in a three way tie for third with USC and Arizona, one game behind the Huskies and two behind UCLA. This is a dangerous matchup for the Bears. On paper they should win this game easily. But WSU makes teams look ugly with their defense. The key for the Bears is to not get caught up playing ugly ball with the Cougars. If they limit turnovers and hit a few 3’s they really should win this game easily. I like Cal at home, but this is a trap game I could see shocking some people at the end. CAL 67-57.

Washington at Stanford (Sunday): Very big game here. Washington is trying to prove they belong in the upper echelon of the Pac Ten. To do that they cant get swept in the Bay Area. Stanford meanwhile had a nice win at home against WSU. Can they make it two in a row? Jon Brockman’s layup in January gave Washington a 1-point win over the Cardinal in Seattle. That said, I dont think Stanford is palying as well as they were then. And I am quite sure Stanford still does not have an answer for Brockman, the best big man in the Pac Ten. For Stanford to win, they need to shoot well, especially beyond the arc, and play very tough perimeter defense. Brockman will beat them so they can not afford to give up many 3’s. Let Brockman score his 30 points, grab is 20 rebounds, but if they shut down everyone else, they have a chance. My heart bleeds red, but I am not a believer right now.  Washington 78-72.

The other games:

Notre Dame at UCLA: Huge game here and mostly it is for Pac Ten bragging rights. We all know the Pac Ten is down this year! Well this is UCLA’s opportunity to prove that the league is improving and is better since the preseason. UCLA must beat the Big East school. Especially since that Big East school comes to town riding a six game losing streak. If Notre Dame wins this one on the road, it could mean bad things for UCLA in terms of seating, and maybe even for the conference in terms of how many teams go to the tournament. A must win for UCLA and the Pac Ten. That said, UCLA is playing better, they will take care of business!  UCLA 78-69.

Arizona at Oregon: How is Arizona only favored by 5? Oregon is bad. Playing at home keeps from a huge blowout!  Arizona 77-64.

Arizona State at Oregon state:  This could be ugly to watch. OSU is a legitimate team this year. But in the end, ASU has better players. ASU 64-58.

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Pac Ten Thursday

Posted by davefowkes on 02/05/2009

It seems like I say it every Thursday when the Pac Ten schedule pops up, here is another huge weekend of games. When you have a conference that is clearly down compared to past years, every weekend seems to be huge. Especially for teams that look fabulous one week, and then lay the egg the next week:

Washington at Cal: Huge match up here for Cal! Are the Bears a good team or a bad team? They started off so hot and when they played Washington in Seattle they won in triple overtime. But since those opening couple of weeks, Cal has not dropped four of their last five, and that only win was against a very bad Duck team. The Huskies meanwhile are clearly the surprise of the Pac Ten this year and need a win to keep pace withUCLA. Sweeping the Arizona teams on the road last week was huge. This game should be a good one that goes down to the wire – but probably not to triple overtime. The key for Cal, play better defense and cut down turnovers. With their backs to the wall and playing at home, I think Cal gets the much needed win!  CAL: 78-73

This is truly a what could have been season for Stanford. Three road losses by 1 point. The could be atop the standings in the Pac Ten, instead they are in 9thplace and coming off a 34 point loss at UCLA. With WSU coming into town this is gut check time for Stanford. Win at home, pull some upsets on the road and maybe they can salvage the season. But if they are beat and demoralized, they will live in 9th place the rest of the way. WSU plays great D, so Stanford must play better defense than they have in weeks to try and keep up. STANFORD: 65-60.

The other two games tonight:

Oregon state has been a huge story this year in the Pac Ten and even nationally. Unfortunately I fear their win streak may come to an end tonight – although i will be routing for them!  ARIZONA 68-61.

Oregon is just a bad team. ASU has got to be embarrassed after getting swept at home. If ASU is for real as some of us believed two weeks ago, they win this easily by double digits even on the road.  ASU 74-59.

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Bay Area Basketball Saturday

Posted by davefowkes on 01/31/2009

Lots of games to choose from today as all the local boys are in play. But while most fans keep an eye on Stanford or Cal down in LA, how St. Mary’s does without Patrick Mills at Portland, or even the resurgent Broncos to against Pepperdine, my focus will be on the city on the bay: USF hosting Loyola!

Why you ask? First of all, this has some serious potential for bad basketball! The WCC is clearly down this year and two of the bottom dwellers have been Pepperdine and Loyola. Pepperdine only have 5 wins this year. But now, one of those wins is a conference road win at San Francisco on Thursday night. So this sets the stage for one win Loyola, coming off a 26 point loss at Santa Clara to visit the Dons a team that is apparently bad enough to lose to Pepperdine at home! Yes, this could magical. I made the comment on Thursday that USF might be trying to get demoted to Division 1-AA. Well if they lose today, lets just take them down the Division 2. Yes, this is a big game for the Dons for all the wrong reasons!

Meanwhile, Cal is playing horribly these days. They are a better team then they showed at UCLA. But results are what they are, and right now Cal is not playing well. USC plays great defense, Cal will need to hit their 3s and reduce their turnovers. If they do they can win. And right now, they need a win!

Stanford has a tough one today in UCLA. How do you respond to that tough one point loss at USC on Thursday night? Well in the state of Washington they responded with another one point loss. I dont see it today. I hope I am wrong, but I think the frustration finally starts to sink in a bit today and UCLA wins easy.

Portland is a decnent up and coming team. No easy win there and now St Mary’s will be battling without Patrick Mills who is out with a broken wrist and coming off the emotional let down of their loss to Gonzaga. St Mary’s needs this win to keep the hope for a potential at large birth alive! They cant sleep on this one, and without Mills they have no business sleeping at all!

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