PAC-10 HONORS AND TOURNEY PREVIEWSo the Pac-10 handed out its hardware today, and as expected Cal didn't get much of it. Aaron Afflalo is a deserving choice as POY and we are very hopeful that the Bears will see the last of him on Thursday. Chase Budinger beat out Ryan Anderson and the rest of a decorated freshman class to win FOY honors, and the hated Tony Bennett is the pick as COY.
Interestingly, Budinger did not receive enough votes to merit Honorable Mention all-Pac 10 honors, but Anderson and fellow freshman Spencer Hawes did. Strange. I still suppose Budinger is a good choice, given how Ryan's game tailed badly toward the end of the season. Ayinde Ubaka was also named HM.
The all-conference team is as follows: Afflalo, Collison, Marcus Williams, Aaron Brooks, Derrick Low, Kyle Weaver, Nick Young, Lawrence Hill and Jon Brockman. Not much to quibble with there, though I'm surprised that Ivan Radenovic didn't make the first team. One thing that bugs me about the all-conference team is that positions don't matter; the group above has only one 4/5 player (Brockman). Of course, three centers made the All-Pac 10 offensive line last season, so it's a problem in both major sports.
Now on to the Staples Center. After years of mediocrity, the Pac-10 is finally a true power conference, and this week's conference tournament is occasion to celebrate this resurgence. Despite the recent feckless play of our Bears, I'd encourage all of you within shouting distance of downtown LA to pick up a ticket for Thursday's action - it should be great entertainment. As always, there are a few subplots to enliven the festivities, and we try to summarize them here in a handy guide to the mini-madness at Staples.
Subplot #1: Does Stanford need a win to get in? The Cardinal were as high as a #5 seed just a short while ago, and they've got that lustrous home win over UCLA on the resume, but the second half of the season has been a bit of a nightmare: they've lost five of their last eight. Lunardi has them as a #10 seed, and doesn't list them in his "last four in" section (currently populated by Illinois, Purdue, Old Dominion and Missouri State). But if a few conference tournaments go sideways, then it's easy to see Stanford on the outside looking in next Sunday. They draw USC on Thursday, and they've matched up pretty well with the Trojans this year.
Subplot #2: Can Washington make a big run? Assuming the Dawgs get past ASU in the play-in round, they would draw Wazzu in the second round. The Cougs look suddenly mortal, and Washington is coming off its best defensive performance of the season in the upset of UCLA. It's not unreasonable to think that UW could find themselves in a rematch with UCLA in the finals (though it is unreasonable to think they could beat the Bruins twice in one week). Would a 21-13 mark get them in? Probably not, but it would make for great theater.
Subplot #3: If Cal loses to OSU on Wednesday - a distinct possibility - will Ben get the axe? You know my view on the subject, and a loss to the lowly Beavers would only strengthen the case for dismissal - injuries or no. Is Sandy looking for a reason to make the change? I'm not even going to speculate about an NIT bid, since Cal would need to beat UCLA in the second round and I don't see how that can happen. Washington looks to be the only NIT bid from the conference.
Subplot #4: How bad will Arizona look? Well, they'll be wearing these duds on Thursday:
That's right. Skin tight tops and, um, bloomers. Whiskey, Tango, Foxtrot. I presume you don't need to know that Nike is behind this, so I'll skip that bit.
Someone stop them, please. See you at Staples.