NCAAB: Best Of The Pac 10 – Jim Feist Mar 3rd, 2008
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JIM FEIST EDITORIALS – COLLEGE HOOPS: THE BEST OF THE PAC 10
It’s been a year of “The Big Two” for Pac 10 in basketball, with UCLA and Stanford duking — or dunking — it out much of the season. Here’s a look at the strengths and weaknesses of some of college basketball’s best teams in the Pacific 10.
UCLA: Ben Howland has another super-talented team. Up front, 6-8 junior Luc Richard Mbah a Moute just returned from an ankle injury while 6-10 freshman center Kevin Love (17 ppg, 11 rpg) has been a force in the middle. They are joined by juniors point guard Darren Collison (13.9 ppg) and Josh Shipp (14 ppg) anchoring a deep backcourt on a team that beats opponents by 16 points per contest (74-58 average).
Howland knows how to teach defense and the attacking Bruins allow 42% shooting. UCLA is 2-0 SU/ATS as a dog. That makes the Bruins 12-3 ATS as a dog the last three years! In an impressive 56-46 win over rival USC, the Bruins forced 22 turnovers, held the Trojans to 34% shooting and 22 points below their scoring average.
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UCLA is 53-37 ATS the last three years while making back-to-back Final Four appearances.
Stanford: The Cardinal is hot on the trail of UCLA. The centerpiece for Stanford is a pair of BIG sophomore 7-foot twins Brook and Robin Lopez anchoring the frontcourt. Brook leads the team with 19 points and 8 boards per game, while Robin chips in 9 points and 6 rebounds. They are shot blocking and rebounding forces in the low post.
A pair of juniors provide more offense in 6-8 Lawrence Hill (9 ppg, 5 rpg) and guard Anthony Goods (10 ppg). Stanford plays great defense, allowing 38% shooting and 58 points per game. That’s why they started 16-8 under the total. They got a chance to to play UCLA in early January, but lost at home 76-67. Stanford has one more shot at redemption the first week of March with a trip to UCLA. They are 2-1 SU/ATS as a dog.
Washington State: The Cougars are not always pretty, slowing things down while allowing 55 ppg under second-year coach Tony Bennett. They also win, topping 20 wins for the third time in four years. The backcourt leads the team in scoring with seniors Derrick Low (13.8 ppg) and Kyle Weaver (11 ppg).
A slow-down team needs muscle up front to grab defensive rebounds, and the Cougars have it with 6-7 junior Daven Harmeling, 6-10 senior center Robbie Cowgill and 6-10 junior center Aron Baynes. Washington State has not been a great team to wager under the total, as oddsmakers have caught up, but they are 9-6 SU, 10-5 ATS the last 15 as a dog. After starting 14-0, they went 3-5 SU/1-7 ATS as conference play began.
Arizona: The Wildcats haven’t been as explosive an offensive team under interim coach Kevin O’Neill as they used to be under Lute Olsen. Part of it is that they are not a tall team, which was evident in last week’s 67-66 loss to Stanford, as the Cardinal outrebounded the undersized Wildcats 35-25.
Arizona relies on the scoring punch of freshman guard Jerryd Bayless (21 ppg) and 6-7 junior Chase Budinger (17 ppg, 5 rpg), while 6-9 senior Jordan Hill (12 ppg, 8 rpg) works the glass. They should have motivation over the next few weeks, on the bubble for the NCAA tournment. Note that Arizona is 6-2 ATS as a dog.
USC: The Trojans remind many of UCLA just a few years ago — very talented, very inexperienced. Freshman guard O.J. Mayo was one of the most sought after high school players and he’s leading the Trojans with 19.5 points per game. He’s had an outstanding season, but can be prone to turnovers. In last week’s loss to UCLA he had 10 turnovers. His 23 consecutive double-figure games to start a career is a school record and ended against UCLA.
The frontcourt has 6-6 sophomore Taj Gibson (10 ppg, 8 rpg) as the leading rebounder, along with 6-8 freshman Davon Jefferson (12 ppg, 6 rpg). Tim Floyd has these guys playing great defense, allowing 38% shooting and 62 ppg. They started 14-8 under the total and 7-4 ATS as a dog.
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