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Husky Men's Basketball Blog

Seattle Times staff reporter Bob Condotta provides a running commentary on the Huskies.

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March 31, 2008 5:23 PM

Lopez twins heading to NBA

Posted by Bob Condotta

The first of a number of decisions by underclassmen that will impact the future landscape of the Pac-10 has come down today as Stanford's Brook and Robin Lopez announced they will both declare for the NBA Draft.

Here's a story with details. Each just completed their sophomore season at Stanford.

It was no surprise that Brook turned pro after he dominated the conference this season. Robin's future seemed a little more in doubt as he doesn't have as refined an offensive game yet.

But Robin had some big performances late in the season including 18 points against Marquette in an NCAA tourney second-round matchup and some nonw feel he could be a first-round pick as well.

HoopsHype.com projects both as first-round picks in its most recent projection, Brook going fourth and Robin 19th.

Both were teammates of UW's Quincy Pondexter in high school at San Joaquin Memorial in Fresno and younger brothers of Alex Lopez, who played one season at UW in the mid-90s before transferring to Santa Clara.

The loss of both players will almost certainly drop Stanford back a bit next season as no team would have adequate replacements for twin 7-footers. Jon Wilner of the San Jose Mercury News has a good breakdown of what Stanford might look like in the post-Lopez era (hint, a lot smaller and a lot more dependant on a comeback season from forward Lawrence Hill and improvement from Anthony Goods).


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March 31, 2008 4:40 PM

CBI finals set to tip

Posted by Bob Condotta

The College Basketball Invitational --- remember that? --- will begin its championship series tonight.

This can't be what the CBI was hoping for --- Bradley and Tulsa in the final (here's the schedule). But maybe two mid-major teams will be more excited about it and it will draw better than it would have if, say, UW had hosted Virginia, both schools that drew smaller-than-expected crowds for their home games in the tournament.

Columnist John Klein of the Tulsa World writes today that the CBI could lead to even more similar post-season tournaments in the future (remember, the NCAA can't really legally do anything to regulare these tournaments).


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March 30, 2008 4:15 PM

Bennett says no to Indiana

Posted by Bob Condotta

Since this has been a topic of conversation on here, I will link to a report that WSU coach Tony Bennett says he has turned down an inquiry from Indiana and will stay at Washington State.

Here's the story from the Spokesman-Review quoting him saying that "I am not going to pursue the Indiana job'' and that he has no other offers at the moment.

UPDATE --- Here's our story on the same topic with Bud Withers of our staff noting that Bennett "stopped short'' of saying he won't listen to any other overtures this off-season.


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March 30, 2008 10:48 AM

Meet the new boss. ...

Posted by Bob Condotta

With much of the Pac-10 landscape potentially changing --- is Tony Bennett really thinking of leaving? --- one thing remains the same --- UCLA is the king of all it surveys in the conference.

By getting to its third Final Four in a row, UCLA is staking a claim as the most dominant Pac-10 program since, well, the vintage UCLA teams of John Wooden.

The Bruins have won three straight regular season titles, two of three conference tournament titles, and have advanced deeper into the post-season than any other conference team each of those years.

With three straight Final Fours, UCLA has as many Final Four appearances as the rest of the league combined since 1997 (Arizona two, Stanford one).

The Bruins also salvage what has to be considered a more-disappointing-than-hoped conference run in the NCAA Tournament.

Sure, three teams made it to the Sweet 16. But conference teams really looked bad at times in a year when the Pac-10 billed itself as the best conference in the country.

The five Pac-10 teams that bowed out of the tournament all lost their games by at least seven points, and an average of 14.2. No what-could-have-beens there. Conference teams appeared to reach their ceiling, and it wasn't as high as everyone thought it might be.

And there seems little reason to think anything is going to change at the top anytime soon.

With half of the coaching jobs in the conference in some kind of flux, UCLA's isn't one of them --- Ben Howland is probably a lifer in Westwood.

And while the Bruins will suffer some significant personnel losses (just how significant won't be known until the underclassmen declare) they are also bringing in what Scout.com ranks as the No. 1 recruiting class in the country.

The only thing Howland hasn't been able to do in his time in Westwood is win in Seattle --- he is 1-4 against the Huskies at Hec Ed.

ON TO THE LINKS:

---- All your Tony Bennett needs can be met here at the Spokesman-Review's Cougar blog, which figures to be updated throughout the day. I'll single out a column by our Bud Withers who states his case for why Bennett may stay.

--- Ray Ratto of the San Francisco Chronicle has a good look at all the potential change in the Bay Area.

--- The Chronicle also has this story on how different Stanford may look next season if both of the Lopez Twins head for the NBA, which is an increasing possibility.


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March 29, 2008 10:22 AM

Coaching carousel continues

Posted by Bob Condotta

Lots of coaching news out there today, some of it involving Huskies past and present:

--- First, here's the updated Sacramento Bee story on the coaching search at Sac State. Husky assistant Cameron Dollar will be one of three interviewed for the job, something I also wrote about for today here. With interviews expected to last through next Thursday, this obviously won't be decided for a week or so.

--- The rumors Tony Bennett's future seem to change by the minute. Vince Grippi has a good roundup of all the Bennett-related material here. Most interesting may be this story from the San Francisco Chronicle that says could be a serious candidate for the Cal job. You'll note a lot of these stories point out that Bennett's sister, Kathi, coached at Indiana. Few of them point out that association didn't end so well and I've heard that history could play a role in whether Bennett would be interested.

--- Paul Buker of the Oregonian has this update on the OSU coaching search, reporting that multiple sources have told him the Beavers may have given Randy Bennett a lower-than-expected offer to become the new coach at Oregon State. If so, that could lead to the school turning to former UW assistant Ken Bone who is now at Portland State.

--- Brooks Hatch of the Corvallis Gazette-Times has his own thoughts on the OSU coaching search. He also throws out a scenario I've before --- if the WSU job comes open, Bone could be a candidate for that, as well. WSU AD Jim Sterk was an associate AD at Seattle Pacific when Bone was hired as head coach there.

--- Finally, Lute Olson talked about his reasons for taking a leave of absence this season. The Arizona Republic has this report here
and here's the original ESPN story.

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March 28, 2008 5:39 PM

Dollar officially a finalist at Sacramento State

Posted by Bob Condotta

Sacramento State University has officially announced that it will interview three candidates for its open men's basketball coaching position, among them UW assistant Cameron Dollar.

Here is the official release from the Sacramento State web site announcing that Dollar will interview on Tuesday. As the release details, the other finalists are Brian Katz, head coach at San Joaquin Delta JC in nearby Stockton, and Tony Marcopulos, head coach at Cabrillo JC in Aptos, Calif.

Here is more on the search from the Sacramento Bee.

Dollar has been an assistant at UW for all six seasons that Lorenzo Romar has been the head coach.

Dollar is 32 years old and as would be expected of any assistant, has said that one of his goals is to become a Division-I head coach.

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March 28, 2008 11:26 AM

Some interesting Pac-10 coaching speculation

Posted by Bob Condotta

There are now as many Pac-10 teams without head coaches as there are still playing games, meaning what's happening off the court is beginning to be as interesting as what is happening on it.

So here are a few links and thoughts to the games being played without a ball:

--- Here's the latest from Paul Buker at the Oregonian on what is happening at Oregon State. Buker reports there is speculation that Randy Bennett of Saint Mary's has been offered the job but is waffling with his decision. Maybe he's waiting to see if he'll get offered the job at Cal, which also now is open and which by any current measure is the better of the two (especially if Ryan Anderson returns for another season. If that happens, whoever takes over could get Cal to the NCAA Tournament next year and be an immediate contender for Coach of the Year honors). If Bennett falls through, OSU may then turn to former UW assistant Ken Bone, now at Portland State. But as Buker reports, there is also speculation about Jim Christian of Kent State (a name I've heard for that job, as well).

--- Here's more on the OSU search from the Corvallis Gazette-Times, saying a new coach could be named late next week and also detailing some of the financial aspects of the job.

--- Jon Wilner of the San Jose Mercury News has a good rundown of names for the Cal job. He includes WSU's Tony Bennett as well as a name that seems bizarre to imagine --- Stanford's Trent Johnson. But Wilner explains in this post that Johnson's reported contract extension has yet to officially arrive and at the moment isn't under contract beyond next season, meaning it would be pretty easy for him to move.

--- As for Tony Bennett, he didn't exactly take the opportuntity yesterday to quash speculation about his future (read his comments here). Maybe he simply felt that wasn't the time to discuss it but not sure how reassuring his comments were to Cougar fans. Andy Katz of ESPN breaks down some of Bennett's potential options here saying he might actually be interested in the Cal job (though that seems like a strange move to make) and would "have to listen'' if Indiana comes calling. He said he doesn't expect to be courted by LSU.

--- Finally, Frank Burlison of the Long Beach Press-Telegram reports (in an item near the bottom) that former OSU coach Jay John could end up back on the staff at Arizona. There has also been some speculation that John may be in the hunt for the job at Sacramento State (where UW assistant Cameron Dollar is also a candidate). The Sac State job probably won't be filled for 7-10 days. Burlison also reports that Jerryd Bayless is almost certainly turning pro while Chase Budinger is still 50-50.

All for now.

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March 27, 2008 2:03 PM

More on Dollar and Sac State

Posted by Bob Condotta

Here's an updated story from today's Sacramento Bee on the head coaching vacancy at Sacramento State, mentioning UW assistant Cameron Dollar as one of the prime candidates for the job.

The story also mentions and quotes Joe Cravens as a possible candidate. Cravens also has UW ties, serving as an assistant under Andy Russo, who was coach from 1985-89.

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March 27, 2008 9:15 AM

Picking the Pac

Posted by Bob Condotta

Three Pac-10 teams remaining in the NCAA Tournament, and if history is any guide, at least one won't make it past the next round.

Only once has the Pac-10 advanced three teams to the Elite Eight (2000-01, Arizona, Stanford and USC) and never has the conference had every team win in the Sweet 16 round when more than one has made it that far.

The Pac-10, however, has had multiple teams in the Elite Eight four times since 1997 (97, 98, 2001 and 2007), more proof of the Western basketball resurgence of the last decade.

Not that any of that matters this weekend, when each conference team remaining will face its own separate challenges.

Here's my quick look at each game with some special emphasis on the Cougar-North Carolina contest:

WSU-NORTH CAROLINA --- If ever there has been a clash in styles in recent the NCAA Tournament, this is it. According to Ken Pomeroy, North Carolina had 75.6 possessions per 40 minutes this season, ranking No. 4 in the country, while WSU had 59.6, ranking No. 336.

The team that can best impose its style on the other team tonight will have the best chance.

And pace, more than anything, is the real difference in this game and not ability to play defense. As regular readers of this space now, I'm not a fan of those who look strictly at points allowed as a measure of good defense, as too many talking heads unfortunately tend to do.

In fact, many Cougar fans were actually beginning to grumble a little bit about the team's defense during Pac-10 play, wondering if the loss of shot-blocking big man Ivory Clark hadn't taken a bigger toll than imagined.

Easy to forget now, but the Cougars were seventh in the Pac-10 in field goal percentage defense (a more accurate way to gauge defensive prowess) in conference games this season at 45.5 percent behind Washington and, believe it or not, Oregon, two teams few laud nationally for their defense.

The Cougars weren't any better in the Pac-10 tournament, allowing Oregon to hit 53.2 percent and Stanford 44.4, each above their season averages.

Suddenly in the NCAA Tournament, however, the Cougars have been stellar, allowing Winthrop to make just 30.8 percent and Notre Dame a stunning 24.5. The question, of course, is whether the Cougars suddenly got better, or simply played two teams that were caught unaware by their style and against whom they matched up really well.

It's probably a little bit of both --- surely, the Cougar seniors are playing at the top of their game right now --- though how great the percentage leans one way or the other could tell a lot about how much success WSU can have tonight.

Winthrop simply looked like a team over its head while Notre Dame seemed pretty unathletic and one-dimensional, with few other options once the Cougars shut down its main threats. WSU was also allowed to play pretty physically inside on Notre Dame. calls that could go the other way tonight with the game in Charlotte (ask Husky fans how NCAA games played on the East Coast against East Coast games tend to be officiated).

North Carolina is maybe the most talented team the Cougars have played all season (UCLA might argue that point) with more offensive options. And WSU tended to struggle this season against talented, multi-dimensional teams, going 0-7 against UCLA, Stanford and Arizona, the three conference teams whose starting fives probably possess the most raw talent (USC might argue that point, as well, and the Cougars swept the Trojans this season, though USC was not really at full strength for either game).

Of course, Husky fans know well how much tourney momentum can even the playing field. The Huskies were an even bigger underdog than the Cougars are tonight in 1998 for their Sweet 16 game against UConn that went down to the last play.

Conversely, few teams looked better heading into the round of 16 than USC a year ago after the Trojans routed Arkansas and Texas in Spokane. The Trojans then made the cross-country trip to the Meadowlands to face North Carolina in the Sweet 16, took a 16-point lead early in the second half, then wilted as the Tar Heels rallied for a 74-64 win.

Not sure WSU can take a 16-point lead, but it would be no surprise to see the Tar Heels struggle early against the Cougars' pace. Ultimately, however, the Tar Heels will just have too much for the Cougars. Call it 69-58 North Carolina.

(For another look at this game from a Times writer, check out Bud Withers' capsule preview here).

WESTERN KENTUCKY VS. UCLA --- WKU has one shot at winning this game --- hitting three-pointers. The Hilltoppers made 20-44 in the first two rounds, and 39 percent for the season, 26th in the nation. And that happens to be something UCLA has given up at times this year as the Bruins ranked ninth in the Pac-10 in three-point field goal percentage defense in conference games only at 37 percent, ahead of only Oregon State. But it's hard to figure how Western Kentucky will stop the Bruins on the other end despite ranking 13th in the nation this year in defensive turnover margin. And obviously falling behind early won't rattle the Bruins, who are showing an uncanny ability to pull games out. I don't think they'll need any miracles tonight. UCLA 71, WKU 52.

STANFORD VS. TEXAS --- These two teams play Friday night in another clash of styles --- Stanford has one of the best inside games in the country, Texas flourishes on the perimeter. Historically those are the kind of matchups that usually favor the team with the better big men. But this game is in Houston, and the college game is more guard-centered than ever, and the Cardinal seemed a little more mortal than expected against Marquette. If guard Anthony Goods snaps out of his tournament shooting slump (5-17 in the first two rounds) the Cardinal could romp. But I've just got a feeling that the Longhorns are going to prevail. TEXAS 73, STANFORD 69.

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March 26, 2008 9:31 PM

Dollar candidate at Sacramento State?

Posted by Bob Condotta

Several recent newspaper reports in the Sacramento area have listed Husky assistant Cameron Dollar as a candidate for the vacant head coaching position at Sacramento State, and a source said tonight that he is still in the running for the job and may soon interview.

Sacramento State is a member of the Big Sky Conference and fired Jerome Jenkins earlier this month after he compiled an 80-147 record in eight seasons.

Here's a recent story from the Sacramento Bee that mentions Dollar and also talks about the financial challenges the school faces in putting together a competitive program (the story also mentions UW assistant Jim Shaw as a possible candidate but he isn't thought to be involved any longer)

Also apparently a serious candidate is Brian Katz, head coach at Delta JC in nearby Stockton, as detailed in this story.

Dollar has been a candidate for several jobs in recent seasons, most seriously last year at Long Beach State when he was one of three finalists for that job before the school hired former Gonzaga coach Dan Monson.

The 32-year-old Dollar has been an assistant at UW for all six years of the Lorenzo Romar regime, and was also an assistant for Romar at Saint Louis. He has a lot of ties to California, having played at UCLA and worked as an assistant at UC-Irvine and head coach at Southern California College, an NAIA school.

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March 26, 2008 2:46 PM

Cal's Braun fired

Posted by Bob Condotta

There are now two head coaching vacancies in the Pac-10 as the Cal Bears today decided to fire 12-year coach Ben Braun.

Here's the official release from the school's web site.

Cal finished 17-16 overall this season, 6-12 in Pac-10 play and a game behind the Huskies.

One name that will immediately crop up as a replacement is Randy Bennett of Saint Mary's, who has also been considered a front-runner at Oregon State, the other conference job that is open. Bennett is more likely to consider Cal than OSU.

This has some UW implications as Bennett is one of Husky coach Lorenzo Romar's closest friends. Bennett spent five years as an assistant under Romar at Pepperdine and Saint Louis before taking over at Saint Mary's.

UW and Saint Mary's have played practice games several times in past seasons due in part to the tight relatiionship of the two coaches.

And if Bennett goes to Cal, that could entice OSU to take a closer look at another former Romar assistant, Ken Bone, who is now at Portland State.

As for Braun, the general consensus seemed to be that he was a solid coach who had done a good job for a number of years, but that the Bears program had grown stagnant. Cal hasn't won an NCAA tournament game since 2003 and advanced to the tourney just once since then, in 2006.

Braun's last home game, a first-round contest against New Mexico in the NIT, drew just 1,906 fans, which probably helped seal his fate.

The Bears were just 79-75 the past five seasons and 39-51 in Pac-10 play.

Interestingly enough, Braun coached five players who led the conference in scoring during his reign --- Ed Gray (96-97), Sean Lampley (2000-01), Joe Shipp (2002-03), Leon Powe (2006-07) and Ryan Anderson (this season).

UPDATE --- Some interesting stuff on the Braun firing from Jon Wilner's College Hotline blog, including the news that he will get about a $1 million buyout. He would have only gotten $400,000 if fired after next season, one reason some thought Braun was safe. But as Wilner reports, a booster apparently decided to ante up the difference.

O'NEILL BACK TO ARIZONA --- Also today is the news that Kevin O'Neill will return to Arizona next year as an assistant with plans to eventually take over for Lute Olson.

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March 26, 2008 8:56 AM

Brandon Roy injured

Posted by Bob Condotta

Unfortunate news out of Portland last night as Brandon Roy suffered a right groin strain that could sideline him for the rest of the season.

Here's a link from the Oregonian, and another from the Portland Tribune, the latter seeming to downplay the severity just a bit.

IN OTHER NEWS

--- The Tribune also has this wrapup of Portland State and Oregon, quoting Ken Bone as saying he doesn't think he'll be a serious candidate for the OSU job and that he won't chase after it. Also some thoughts from Bone on how Phil Nelson will fit in with the Vikings next season.

--- Here's the Tribune's update on the OSU coaching search that mentions Bone.

--- Here's a good story on ASU's loss to Florida last night.

--- Finally, here's our WSU coverage from today with a story on Taylor Rochestie.

All for now.

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March 25, 2008 9:39 PM

Suggs honored, more

Posted by Bob Condotta

I'll lead off a few links with the news that Husky recruit Scott Suggs was named today to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch's All-Metro Team.

Here's the link, reporting that Suggs averaged 22.5 points, nine rebounds, 2.8 blocked shots, shot 33 percent on three-pointers and maybe most importantly, 85.4 percent on free throws this season. Suggs is already academically eligible and is expected to make an immediate impact, maybe even start, for the Huskies next season.

--- The Pac-10 is down to three active teams with Arizona State getting bounced out of the NIT tonight by Florida. Not sure if it means much, but ASU becomes the third Pac-10 team to lose a post-season game this year as a higher seed, joining Washington in the CBI and USC in the NCAA Tournament. No Pac-10 team has yet to win a post-season game as a lower seed, though obviously UW, ASU and UCLA were all No. 1s in their tournaments and Stanford and WSU have yet to play as a lower seed (meaning Oregon, Arizona and Cal all lost as lower seeds).

--- This happened a few days ago, but here's a story on former Husky Bobby Jones failing to get another 10-day contract with Miami despite, as the headline says, a "job well done.'' Jones has had a crazy year, playing for four NBA teams and in the NBA D-League, and you're forgiven if you can't keep it all straight, so here's his season summary from NBA.com.

--- For anybody still keeping track of the CBI, here's the schedule of the semifinal games, which will be played Wednesday night.

All for now.

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March 25, 2008 9:19 AM

Tuesday morning links

Posted by Bob Condotta

A few stories to pass your away today:

--- There are only four Pac-10 teams still playing in any kind of tournament after Cal lost at Ohio State last night in the NIT. But despite another disappointing season for the Bears it is expected that Ben Braun will be back for another season as coach, according to Jon Wilner, who provides a good analysis of the situation in Berkeley.

--- One of the four left is Arizona State which plays Florida tonight for a chance to get to the semi-finals of the NIT.

--- The Corvallis Gazette-Times provides its wrapup of Oregon State's season with the appropriate headline "Train wreck is over.''

--- Here's a good overview from the Oregonian of where Oregon goes from here, with lots of thoughts that the Ducks never really found an identity this season.

--- Ken Pomeroy rates the Pac-10 as the best conference in the country through games of Monday. He also rates UW 51st and says the Huskies played the No. 16 toughest schedule in the country both overall and out-of-conference.

--- Pomeory also picks North Carolina to beat WSU 71-69.

--- Bud Withers of our staff breaks down the WSU-North Carolina matchup.

--- Here's more on Valpo's drubbing last night at the hands of Houston.

--- Finally, I thought last night I'd dig up a Sweet 16 projection I wrote for the Times' college basketball section last November to see how I did. I got nine right, and many are obvious lay-ups --- UCLA, North Carolina, Memphis, etc. But I'm happy to take some credit for No. 16 on the list.

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March 24, 2008 9:05 PM

Valparaiso drubbed

Posted by Bob Condotta

Valparaiso didn't exactly help the perception of the Huskies any tonight.

Instead, in their first game after beating the Huskies in Seattle last Wednesday the Crusaders were hammered tonight at Houston in the second round of the CBI, 91-67.

Houston hit 16-36 three-pointers while Valpo made just 7-23.

The Valpo blog from the Gary Post-Tribune reports that Crusaders coach Homer Drew said the positive experience at UW would outweigh the blasting at Houston.

The Huskies, meanwhile, can console themselves with the thought that they remain the last team to have beaten UCLA.

SONICS LOOKED AT CONROY: The Sonics apparently considered former Husky Will Conroy before they signed Eddie Gill to a 10-day contract to fill in at point guard. Apparently there might have been some complications with Conroy's Italian League contract that got in the way.

Conroy has been lighting up the NBA D-League since returning from Italy, averaging 18 points, 10.4 assists andn 4.7 rebounds.

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March 24, 2008 6:14 PM

Wallace update

Posted by Bob Condotta

UW has released official word today that Artem Wallace suffered a torn ACL and lateral bone contusions when he was injured last Wednesday against Valparaiso.

He is scheduled for surgery April 8.

UW trainers say normal recovery time for such a surgery is 6-9 months.

At six months, Wallace would be ready for the start of practice Oct. 15.

At nine months, Wallace wouldn't be ready until the end of December or so, but would be ready for the beginning of Pac-10 play.

As reported here last week, however, UW coach Lorenzo Romar anticipates Wallace playing next season.

Wallace, who will be a senior next season, was injured when his knee buckled as he planted in an attempt to block a shot early in the first half of what turned out to be UW's final game of the season against the Crusaders.

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March 24, 2008 8:46 AM

Monday morning links

Posted by Bob Condotta

A lot out there today that may be of interest:

--- You can find all of our coverage of the tournament here including a column by Steve Kelley on the Davidson win and a story on the Cougars. I'll also spotlight this look at how local players have fared in the tournament.

--- Lots of post-mortems out there on the Pac-10 teams now done:

Greg Hansen writes that this was one of the most dysfunctional Arizona teams ever;

Oregon will have to deal with the end of the Malik Hairston-Maarty Leunen-Bryce Taylor era and start over;

And Oregonian columnist John Canzano says Mark Few should be the coach to lead the Ducks into that new era;

USC is in complete uncertainty unsure who is staying and who is going. For what it's worth, word at the Pac-10 tourney was O.J. Mayo and Davon Jefferson gone (Jefferson apparently not liking school all that much) but Taj Gibson likely back;

Paul Buker updates Oregon State's coaching search;

--- Valparaiso (remember them?) plays at Houston tonight. Here's a short preview of that game that mentions the Crusaders feeling they matched up well with teams like the Huskies that are "bigger, more physical'' but not quick teams like Houston. Says something about how opponents view UW, obviously. The Huskies also figure they'll be closer to their normal selves in the quickness department next season.

--- Tulsa hosts Utah tonight in another CBI game fresh off having drawn the largest crowd of the tournament, 5,365.

--- Cal plays at Ohio State in an interesting NIT game tonight that is also a rematch of the 1960 NCAA final.

--- You can find the results of the first weekend of the ESPN Challenge here and it's pretty competitive at the top.

--- Speaking of ESPN.com, Andy Katz has a good wrapup of the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament though some of you may take issue with his description of the "greater Spokane-Pullman metropolitan area.''

All for now.

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March 23, 2008 5:59 PM

Pac-10, Big East lead Sweet entries

Posted by Bob Condotta

The first weekend of the NCAA Tournament is complete, and the Pac-10 and Big East each have three teams remaining, the most of any conference.

The Big 12 and Big Ten each have two while the SEC, ACC, Southern, Sun Belt, Atlantic-10 and Conference USA each have one.

Other than the one-bid conferences that still have teams left, the Pac-10, Big 10 and Sun Belt are tied for the highest percentage of teams remaining --- Pac-10 has three of six, the Big 10 two of four and the Sun Belt one of two.

Here's a breakdown of the records by conference of those that had at least one team win a game (in order of percentage):

Conference USA 2-0, 1.000
Southern 2-0, 1.000
Big Ten 5-2, .714
Big East 10-5, .667
Pac-10 6-3, .667
Sun Belt 2-1, .667
Big 12, 7-4, .636
ACC 4-3, .571
Atlantic 10, 2-2, .500
Horizon, 1-1, .500
MAAC, 1-1, .500
SEC 4-5, .444
Mountain West 1-2, .333
West Coast Conference 1-3, .250


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March 23, 2008 11:04 AM

Pac-10 survives, prospers

Posted by Bob Condotta

Outside of Trent Johnson, the biggest sigh of relief heard yesterday likely came from Pac-10 Commissioner Tom Hansen.

Thanks to Johnson's Stanford players bailing him out after he was kicked out of the game early on --- as well as a becoming-routine comeback by UCLA --- Hansen avoided seeing the top two teams in the conference go down in flames before the first weekend was through.

Now, with the survival of Stanford and UCLA, combined with the dominant performance of Washington State, the Pac-10 will have three teams in the Sweet 16.

That's an effort solid enough to help the conference live up to its regular-season hype while continuing a run of post-season success unmatched in its history.

It's the second straight year the Pac-10 has had three teams reach the Sweet 16 (Oregon, UCLA and USC did it last year) and the sixth time since 1997 --- the only six times it has happened in the conference's history.

The Pac-10 had four teams reach the Sweet 16 in 1997, 1998 and 2001, and three in 2002, 2007 and now this year.

Prior to 1997, the Pac-10 had as many as two teams reach the Sweet 16 just once, 1995, when UCLA won it all and Arizona State got to the Sweet 16.

The tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985, meaning that in the first 10 years of the expanded tourney the Pac-10 never got more than one team as far as the Sweet 16, and in the first 12 never got more than two.

Now, in the last 12 years, the Pac-10 has six times had three or more make it that far and two on another occasion (2005, Arizona and Washington).

Further speaking to the depth of the conference, every Pac-10 team except Oregon State has now made the Sweet 16 at least once 1995, and six different teams --- UCLA, USC, Oregon, Stanford, Washington and Washington State --- have made it in just the last three years and seven (adding Arizona) in the last four.

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March 21, 2008 10:55 PM

A few tournament thoughts

Posted by Bob Condotta

As the headlines says....

--- I was at a party tonight watching some of the tournament and couldn't hear Billy Packer all that clearly (not that I'm complaining). But I saw each conference's tournament record flash on the screen at one point and could only guess at what he was saying --- Eastern basketball rules, etc. But the sad fact is that it ends up not being pretty for the Pac-10 in terms of making a case as the best conference in the country this year.

Here are the records of the six BCS schools after the first two days of the tournament

Big East 7-1
Big 12 5-1
ACC 3-1
Big Ten 3-1
SEC 3-3
Pac-10 3-3

And the Pac-10 lost all three games in which it faced teams from other BCS conferences --- Arizona against West Virginia, Oregon against Mississippi State and USC against Kansas State.

All were basically toss-up games. Still, those who will want to call the conference overrated now have plenty of ammunition, and it will be hard to argue, especially if one or two of the teams left stumble tomorrow.

I watched a lot of each of those losses and tried to come up with a common Pac-10-related reason as to why all three lost and really couldn't.

Oregon just seemed to fall prey to its own worst instincts, shooting a stunning 38 three-pointers out of 64 total attempts; Arizona, which never had any depth, ran out of gas (getting just eight minutes from its bench); USC, youthfully erratic all year, was so again, while also getting killed on the boards, something it hadn't been great at during the Pac-10 season, ranking sixth in rebounding. Both USC and Arizona shot more foul shots than their opponents, so the old theory that Pac-10 teams have trouble adjusting to games being called a little differently by neutral refs in the tournament didn't seem to apply (and Oregon's FT totals weren't much less than MSU's until the end when it fouled a lot).

But for a year when many touted the conference as being the best it has ever been, the post-season isn't off to a great start --- getting three into the Sweet 16 for a second straight year, however, would help.

--- Speaking of Arizona, here's a good overview of how the next month or so could be program-altering for the Wildcats depending on the decisions made by players and coaches alike.

--- John Canzano says Oregon simply blew it against Mississippi State and agrees that the Ducks shot way too many three-pointers. He also says Oregon State should give a call to Ken Bone.

--- Interesting story I missed the other day that Dennis Erickson bought 200 NIT tickets for students at Arizona State.

--- That Stanford loss to Siena doesn't look so bad anymore, does it?

--- Jon Wilner says Stanford will roll over Marquette tomorrow. I agree.

--- In fact, I'm going to stick with my pre-tournament bracket that all three of the Pac-10 teams left standing will reach the Sweet 16. WSU-Notre Dame is the trickiest to call. ND's size inside means Aron Baynes won't be able to dominate the way he did against Winthrop and will put more of a premium on WSU's backcourt (specifically Derrick Low) to play well all game, and not just for a half. But I think WSU's perimeter defense and overall experience (specifically, the three seniors --- ND has just one) will prove the difference in the end.

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March 21, 2008 9:37 AM

A look ahead

Posted by Bob Condotta

A little earlier than anyone hoped, the Washington Huskies are left with little to do but look ahead to potentially better times ahead.

That was the focus of my story today, which also includes a player-by-player look at the roster for next season.

As the story notes, UW coach Lorenzo Romar is pretty optimistic about the future, noting the return of everyone on the roster except Ryan Appleby and Tim Morris and the addition of five players (if you include the redshirting Darnell Gant). The mix of experience and new talent, he thinks, will get UW back to where it was a few years ago.

"Next year is a year where I feel like if you want call it the rebuilding or whatever has now taken place,'' he said. "Next year is a year where we can get back in the direction of where we were a couple of years ago.''

As is almost always the case, there's a lot of stuff that didn't make it in the story, so I'll touch on some of that here:

--- Romar says he expects all of the incoming freshmen to be eligible. Isaiah Thomas and Elston Turner are not eligible yet but Romar said "eventually they will be.''

--- Romar says he's confident the free throw shooting will be better next season if for only because most of the Huskies have proven to be better FT shooters at other points in their career. "It just had to be a mental thing,'' he said. "Obviously, all those guys will shoot a lot of free throws this spring and summer. But I'm going to base it off what they were before this year that they will get back to where they were. They will have a spring and a summer, get their mind refreshed, you move on. And (all three guards coming in) are very good foul shooters.''

--- Romar said he thought Jon Brockman's FT shooting might have been impacted this year by having to do so much, while Justin Dentmon might have struggled a little bit with having a new role off the bench. "With Jon, it could have been that he was asked to do so much this year in terms of his minutes and defending and rebounding and scoring and that may have affected him at the line this year,'' Romar said. "Next year he will have experience in that role.'' As for Dentmon's FT shooting, Romar said "this was the first year in JD's career here that his minutes were up and down and maybe that had something to do with it, that his role changed throughout the season.''

--- Here is Romar's take on the three incoming guards: "All three of them have high basketball IQs, all three of them can pass, shoot and handle thte ball. All three of them can finish. I think that we our best when we have great guard play. In basketball to be a success you've got to have great guard play and I think those guys can provide that. They don't have to come in and be saviors. They don't have to take that expectation and put it on their back. They can blend in with the veterans that we already have and just think that what they will bring will have a significant impact. So I think it will be the first time in three years that we will have experience and really good guard play across the board. So when I say I think we'll be better, my talk is not wishful thinking, I've got concrete reasons as to why.''

--- Romar said he expects everyone on the roster to be back and all the incoming players to be eligible, which means the Huskies could be one over the scholarship limit. However, he also said it will work out, though without elaborating. So obviously something is going to have to give somewhere (maybe one of the seniors gives up a scholarship for their final year or something).

--- UW still needs to add a couple of games to fill out the schedule and is looking for a big-name opponent to begin a home-and-home series. That would likely begin with UW playing on the road next season. UW will host Oklahoma State as part of the Big 12/Pac-10 Challenge next year, and will also play in the CBE Classic that will feature two home games and then, if UW advances, two games in Kansas City. It will feature a field similar to the pre-season NIT this year, so that will likely give the Huskies a couple of games against top 100-type RPI teams as well. The rest of the schedule will be similar to this year's.

At some point later, we'll go through a more expanded player-by-player look at the roster.

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March 20, 2008 9:24 PM

So is the Pac-10 holding up its reputation?

Posted by Bob Condotta

This was a record day for the Pac-10 in the NCAA Tournament, with conference teams taking part in five games. That had never happened before.

The Pac-10 went 3-2, with big favorites UCLA, WSU and Stanford winning easily, but the two teams in relative toss-up games --- USC and Arizona --- each losing, and each in what ended up as fairly decisive fashion.

So does that begin to impact what we thought about the Pac-10 all season, that this might have been the best year in the history of the conference?

I've always thought it dangerous to base too much on the tournament, which is such a function of matchups, momentum and the vagaries of what can happen in any one game (foul trouble or an injury to a key player, etc.).

But it's a popular (and easy) way to make such comparisons, and the Pac-10 will judged as intently as any other conference after all the hype it received this year.

A lot may rest on Oregon's shoulders tomorrow when it plays Mississippi State in an 8-9 game.

Having half the conference gone before the second round even starts obviously won't look good, and would be worse than the conference has done a number of times of late.

Four Pac-10 teams got to the second round last year, three to the Sweet 16. Four also got to the second round in 2003, and five in 2002, the season that coaches often said was the best for the conference prior to this year. That season, Arizona, Oregon, Cal, Stanford and UCLA all won first-round games, and Arizona, Oregon and UCLA all got to the Sweet 16.

The best years for the Pac-10 in terms of the tournament were 1997 and 1998 when four teams got the Sweet 16 each time (including UW in 1998) with Arizona winning it all in '97, the last conference team to capture the national title.

This can still be that kind of post-season for the conference, but the margin for error shrunk a little today.

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March 20, 2008 2:03 PM

Wallace update

Posted by Bob Condotta

Several of you have asked about the status of Artem Wallace.

There is nothing new official yet --- as soon as there is I will pass it along here.

However, I talked with UW coach Lorenzo Romar this morning for a season wrap-up story that will run later and he said he's confident Wallace will be able to play next season even if Wallace has suffered a tear of his ACL and not just a sprain.

"Even if it's serious, he could be back in six-eight months,'' Romar said. "Brandon Rush (of Kansas) tore his in May or June (actually, late May) and made it back. So I would anticipate Artem being back.''

Wallace said he was simply preparing to jump to block a shot when his knee buckled and he fell to the floor with 18:33 left in the first half.

"It just kind of buckled on me,'' he said. "I went to plant to take off and block a shot and the knee just felt like there was a snap of some sort. It was pretty painful. I was planting getting ready to take off and that's when it happened.''

He's scheduled to have an MRI today or sometime soon to determine the extent of the damage.

"You always want to be in there with your team and try to play but all I could do was try to stay on the bench and cheer for our guys,'' he said.

Wallace said he's never had any knee injuries before.

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March 20, 2008 12:02 PM

Final free throw numbers

Posted by Bob Condotta

As became obvious long ago, the single-biggest problem the Huskies had this season was shooting free throws.

Now that the season is over, let's look at some of the numbers.

UW hit 403-688 for the season, a percentage of 58.6 that is the worst in school history except for a 57.5 mark in 2000-01.

It was a 14 percent drop from last season when the Huskies hit 460-635 (72.4), interestingly attempting 53 more free throws this year (playing just one more game) despite all those missed front ends of one-and-ones that surely would have resulted in an average of one or two more attempts per game (UW missed the front ends of three straight one-and-ones down the stretch last night, for instance).

Part of the reason for the drop is that UW lost a few of its better FT shooters after last season --- Spencer Hawes shot 75 percent, Adrian Oliver 77 percent and Hans Gasser 77 percent among players who shot enough free throws to make a difference statistically.

But every returning player this year was simply worse at the line than they had been previously, most by a significant percentage. Here's a look:

Jon Brockman --- 66 percent in 2007 (103-156); 51.9 percent in 2008 (94-181)

Justin Dentmon --- 79.8 percent in 2007 (83-104); 70.6 percent in 2008 (77-109)

Quincy Pondexter --- 76 percent in 2007 (76-100): 68.5 percent in 2008 (76-111)

Ryan Appleby --- 92.7 percent in 2007 (38-41); 85.2 percent in 2008 (23-27);

Artem Wallace --- 35.9 percent in 2007 (14-39); 23.3 percent in 2008 (10-43).

And the Huskies replaced some of the guys who left with players who weren't as good at the line.

Tim Morris shot 59.1 percent (26-44), Venoy Overton 65.9 percent (60-91), and Matthew Bryan-Amaning 34.8 percent (16-46). Even Joel Smith, a 76 percent shooter his first two years before missing last season, returned to a much worse percentage, shooting 57.9 percent (11-19).

All the things I hear other coaches say they do to improve their team's free throw shooting are the things UW coaches say they do --- shoot before and after practice; attempt to simulate game conditions by shooting free throws in the middle of practice or during practice, etc.

Players seemed to say it was a mental thing, something that grew contagious after a while.

"That's one of the things we need to focus on this summer as a whole,'' Smith said after the Valpo loss.

UW coach Lorenzo Romar says the Huskies will make it a definite focus of the off-season. But he also said the team should be better next year simply because the three incoming guards --- Isaiah Thomas, Elston Turner Jr. and Scott Suggs --- are all good free throw shooters.

He also wonders if Brockman's troubles might have been due in part to having to do so much this season, and Dentmon maybe not being as comfortable while adjusting to a new role.

Whatever the cure, the Huskies have to hope they find one --- as of March 16, UW ranked dead last in the nation (328 out of 328 teams ranked) in free throw shooting.

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March 20, 2008 9:49 AM

The day after

Posted by Bob Condotta

I'm sitting on the couch, watching the NCAA Tournament, alternating preparing season wrap-up stories on UW while trying to make sense of a Husky season that didn't meet anyone's expectations.

I'll pop back in here from time to time throughout the day with some thoughts --- maybe on the NCAA Tournament as well.

First, here's our story from today focusing on an all-too-fitting ending. And here's the notebook, with UW officials saying they would do the whole CBI thing again despite the loss of a game and money.

Seth Kolloen of Enjoy the Enjoyment points out this is the first time since 1958 UW has had losing records in both football and men's basketball (so at least you can say you took part in history).

And here's a Valpo take on things from the Gary Post-Tribune, And more from the Post-Tribune's Valpo blog with some good quotes from Crusaders coach Homer Drew.

Everybody seemed to agree later that Valpo was simply the more mentally strong team down the stretch.

So thought I'd break down what Valpo did the last 2:45 after it scored its final point of the game --- went 0-2 from the field, 0-2 from the free throw line and allowed five offensive rebounds.

But Valpo escaped because UW went 0-8 from the field and 0-2 from the line.

I watched the replay last night and the final eight shots included four or five that it's hard to believe didn't go down.

In order:

--- Quincy Pondexter missed on a driving layin that rattled off the rim at about the 2:14 mark.

--- Jon Brockman missed on a short hook in the lane and Justin Dentmon then missed a follow jumper in the lane at the 1:24 mark.

--- After a time out, Ryan Appleby missed a wide-open three-pointer from the corner and Dentmon then missed a follow jumper from about 15 feet or so, but pretty wide open at about the 1:10 mark.

--- Pondexter then missed on a short-runner with 25 seconds left

--- After Valpo's two missed free throws, Brockman missed on a short driving shot, got the rebound and was fouled.

--- After Brockman missed two free throws, Dentmon got the rebound and missed a short jumper in traffic (he got some contact but maybe the refs had seen the way the Huskies had been shooting free throws all night and thought better of it).

That's an open three-pointer from the best three-point shooter in school history, two misses by the team's All-Conference player and the other five from the players who are third and fourth on the team in scoring. All eight shots, in other words, coming from UW's four leading scorers.

The right guys got good shots. But kind of like the season, it just didn't happen.

SPEAKING OF THE NCAA TOURNAMENT --- Danny O'Neil is following it all day long with his "A day on the couch'' blog you can find here.

As for me, I'm breaking down some free throw numbers that I'll present here later.

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March 19, 2008 10:21 PM

Valpo aftermath

Posted by Bob Condotta

You didn't necessarily think it was going to end tonight. Not once Jon Brockman shook off the warmups and entered the game midway through the first half, then hit six of his first eight shots.

But if it was going to end, you figured it would end this way ---- with a lot of missed free throws, and clanked shots and a general inability to get it done when it really counted.

"Free throws, finishing games, we had numerous opportunities where we could have stepped up,'' Brockman said, agreeing that the 72-71 loss to Valparaiso was pretty much a microcosm of the season. "A lot of times in close games like that it's just the more mentally strong, experienced team (that wins). The team that isn't going to get flustered and isn't going to change the way they play but just play the same way the whole time.''

The Huskies finish 16-17 overall, their first losing season since Lorenzo Romar's first year in 2003, and 2-7 in games decided by four points or less.

They also don't take advantage of the second (or maybe it should be third) chance given to them by the CBI to make something of this season.

"They just wanted it more than us today,'' said UW guard Joel Smith.

Maybe, though no one really questioned the effort a whole lot afterward.

Speaking specifically of this game, the Huskies were definitely hurt when Artem Wallace went out with a knee injury less than two minutes in. For all the things he's not, he is one of UW's best defenders, and Valpo immediately took advantage by going inside time and again. Anybody who didn't know who Bryan Bouchie is knows who he is now after he scored 20 points on 9-12 shooting.

Wallace suffered what may be a serious ACL injury, though it won't be known for sure until he is examined further, and that may not happen for a few days. Wallace said later his knee simply buckled as he tried to jump for a rebound. "I hope it's just a sprain,'' he said, though otherse feared it may be worse.

Wallace's absence helped force the hand on the decision to use Brockman. Romar said he hoped he wouldn't have to play him in this game at all.

"When neither team scored too much early, we decided to give him an opportunity just to see how he would look,'' Romar said.

Brockman looked just fine on offense, hitting 9-13 shots and grabbing 12 rebounds. But he didn't seem to move well on defense, saying he couldn't jump and didn't have much explosion, and with Matthew Bryan-Amaning and Joe Wolfinger each struggling, as well, Valpo's inside guys had some of their best days of the season.

"He didn't have his normal spring,'' Romar said. "Even during timeouts, as he walked back out on the floor, I could see as the game progressed his limp became stronger.''

With Wallace out and Brockman still gimpy, Valpo, which came in with a reputation as a dangerous three-point shooting team, scored 34 points in the paint.

"They didn't go crazy from the three-point line (7-25) but I think that spread us out and we just had one-on-one coverage (inside),'' Romar said.

So that was a problem specific to tonight.

The other problems, however, we've seen all season.

UW hit just 11-24 free throws, 3-12 in the second half, with Brockman missing two that could have put UW ahead with 4.7 seconds left. He finished the game 4-8, sadly almost right on his average of 53.6.

Brockman said he had hit 84-100 in practice Tuesday and felt like he was going to make them. He said later that "it's a mental thing.''

But he wasn't alone. Quincy Pondexter was 2-5, Tim Morris 3-5 and Justin Dentmon 1-3.

"We definitely were a horrible free-throw shooting team this year and that's one of the keys that we need to focus on this summer as a whole,'' said guard Joel Smith.

Said Romar: "If we were a decent free-throw shooting team. I firmly believe we'd be in the NCAA Tournament.''

UW finishes the year at 58.6 percent from the line, the second-worst in school history (worst was the 2000-01 Huskies of Bob Bender at 57.5)

UW also simply couldn't convert down the stretch, missing its last eight shots in the final 3:10. Brockman, Pondexter, Dentmon and Ryan Appleby all had makeable shots in that stretch that just didn't go down.

'It's frustrating,'' said Smith, who played one of his best games of the season with nine points and three assists in 20 minutes. "We scrapped and tried to get the job done. We just couldn't pull it out in the last couple of minutes.''

Just like the two WSU games, or the Pitt game, or the Stanford game, or the two Cal games.

UW ends the year on a three-game losing streak, the defeats coming by a combined seven points.

"I'm obviously very disappointed,'' Romar said speaking of the game, and surely the season.

It was a somewhat weird atmosphere all night with just 3,227 in attendance. But when things got exciting, the crowd got loud, and no UW players or coaches used the somewhat odd surroundings as an excuse.

"This is our homecourt,'' Smith said. "It shouldn't be a weird atmosphere at all no matter how many fans are there. We still have to bring it to the floor.''

UW will lose money on the deal, having to pay a $60,000 guarantee for the right to host. It figured it needed at least 4,000 to break even. But Husky officials said they would do it again, saying their ultimate purpose is to provide opportunities for their athletes. "I'm grateful we got a chance to participate although we had a quick departure,'' Romar said.

The loss came two years and one day after the Huskies beat Illinois to advance to the Sweet 16 for the second straight season.


The Huskies may seem far away from such heady days now.

But Romar remains confident the program is on the right track, and while I know there is frustration in the fan base, it's absurd to even bring up the issue of Romar's future. He's 119-72 in six years at UW, a winning percentage just shy of that of Marv Harshman (who was 246-146) and miles beyond his predecessor, Bender, who was 116-142.

Sure, there are questions about where it's all headed, and lots of issues about the future to ponder.

I won't get into those tonight as we'll have lots of time to ponder those later ---- a lot more time than anyone wearing purple and gold hoped.

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March 19, 2008 5:56 PM

Valpo game thread

Posted by Bob Condotta

CAN UW WIN A CLOSE ONE? --- As I wrote earlier today, UW is 2-6 in games decided by four points or less this season. This one looks headed that way with Valpo leading 72-71 but UW holding the ball with 1:40 to play.

VALPO PLUS 10 LOOKS LIKE A GOOD BET RIGHT NOW --- The Crusaders continue to lead at 68-64 with 4:25 left. Valpo has hit 14-27 shots this half.

VALPO CLINGING TO LEAD --- So who knew Bryan Bouchie would be the star of this game? The freshman has 20 points in keeping Valpo ahead, at 58-56 with 7:37 to go. Brockman came back in the game with 10:47 and has 16 points and seven rebounds. But UW is again killing itself at the FT line going 9-18, Pondexter missing both after he was fouled when Valpo was called for an intentional foul. UW got no points out of the sequence.

QUESTION ON OFFICIALS --- They are indeed from the West Coast Conference.

NERVOUS TIME --- Valpo isn't going away and with 12:23 to go it is still a tie game at 48. Brockman has sat the last four minutes as Romar may be saving him now for the stretch run. Huskies are in a 2-3 zone at the moment, the defense they have often used of late when Wolfinger is in the game. With Wallace out, UW needs minutes from Wolfinger and MBA.

TIED AT 42 --- With 15:54 to play. Some ragged play throughout this game as Valpo has 11 TOs and UW nine. Ryan Appleby is 0-4 and scoreless and back on the bench in favor of Dentmon, who is playing well with nine points and two steals.

BROCKMAN STARTS SECOND HALF --- With Wallace out, Brockman is back in the starting lineup, Pondexter also remaining in the lineup.

WALLACE WON'T RETURN --- We've gotten word that Wallace won't return with the knee injury suffered early in the game, which seemed obvious as he needed crutches to get to and from the bench with an ice bag covering his knee. He will have the knee examined after the game to determine the extent of the injury.

HUSKIES UP 36-33 AT HALF --- UW overcome a five-point deficit to take a three-point lead at the half thanks to 14 points from Brockman, who after shaking off the rust looks back in mid-season form. He has hit 6-8 shots and also has five rebounds. Dentmon has nine points for UW and Pondexter six along with five rebounds and three assists. UW is also getting a good game from Joel Smith who has two points, on a soaring dunk, and three assists off the bench. Bouchie leads all scorers with 15, tying his most for a game since Dec. 8. Valpo's leading scorer, Shawn Huff, is scoreless, going 0-2. It's a little strange here with so many empty seats, but the Huskies appear to be providing their own energy at the moment.

VALPO LEADS 26-24 --- Brockman is playing well --- he now has seven points and four rebounds. But the Crusaders continue to lead having hit 4-11 three-pointers and getting 11 points from freshman center Bryan Bouchie. Justin Dentmon leads UW with 9.

TIED AT 19 --- With 7:31 to play. Brockman went out briefly then came back in and he has led UW back from a five-point deficit with two assists and three points.

BROCKMAN GETS REBOUND --- Brockman got a rebound on his first play on the floor, but he looks a little slow getting up and down the floor, and worth noting that not having practiced or played since March 8 his conditioning is likely affected a bit. He missed a short shot the one time he got the ball close to the basket. It's 10-9 UW with 11:55 left.

BROCKMAN IN --- Brockman is in the game with 13:35 to play, eliciting the loudest ovation so far.

COLD SHOOTING EARLY --- UW is 1-6 and Valpo 2-8 at the first media time out. Valpo holds a 4-2 lead. The Dawg Pack has filled in better and looks about 50-60 percent full. Otherwise, there may not be 4,000 people here.

WALLACE INJURED --- Artem Wallace crumpled to the ground here with 18:33 to go in the first half, holding his right knee. He was then taken immediately to the locker room with an apparent knee injury. It's 4-0 Valpo.

FOUR MINUTES TO TIP --- The final total of tickets sold prior to the game was 2,200 and it's not looking like there will be a huge walk-up. At the moment, a final crowd of 4,000 may be on the high side. It's definitely a strange atmosphere here with such an empty house.

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March 19, 2008 5:22 PM

Brockman going through warmups, house empty

Posted by Bob Condotta

Jon Brockman is in uniform and going through the layup line as the Huskies warmup about 25 minutes before game time.

But the official word is that he will be limited tonight, meaning he could play, but likely not a lot. But this is more than he did in the prelude to the Cal game when he stood to the side and watched the warmups.

There are few people here watching it, however. This is finals week, with a lot of students already gone, and the Dawg Pack is maybe a quarter-full.

The rest of the arena is maybe one-tenth full, if that, and right now, any hopes of getting to 5,000 fans seem pretty far-fetched.

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March 19, 2008 4:19 PM

My bracket

Posted by Bob Condotta

Due to overwhelming popular demand (okay, the two of you who asked) here is my NCAA Tournament bracket.

These are, in fact, the picks I submitted for the tourney challenge on ESPN.com set up by reader Matty Simone (click here for details).

First, though, I must point out to the holder of the contest entry named "I just wanna beat Bob'' that you must have some serious self-esteem issues. If you set your sights any lower you'd be Spud Webb.

Last time I came close to winning an NCAA tourney pool, Cameron Dollar was a player (in fact, I won it all in 1995, though it was a pretty small office I worked in at the time --- it was more like a cubicle pool ).

Beating me in an a tourney pool is like beating Oregon State on the court --- and I won't even come to your house and talk smack as you are filling out your bracket.

So I promise nothing and expect less.

That said, here are my picks.

EAST

I've got North Carolina beating Tennessee in the regional final. Boring, I know, but other than Louisville, I don't see any team capable of getting to the regional final.

My first-round winners are: UNC, Indiana, Notre Dame, WSU, St. Joe's, Louisville, South Alabama and Tennessee.

South Alabama's my only upset pick there, and it's not much of one. But I'm not very sold on Butler this year.

Second-round winners are: UNC, WSU, Louisville and Tennessee. Yes, I like the Cougs to get to the Sweet 16. They are a senior-laden, experienced team with a style that should wear well in the tournament. And they are battle-tested after a long Pac-10 season. If there's a worry about the Cougars in my mind it's the fact that they don't necessarily just steamroll opponents, and close games down the stretch could favor the underdogs in the first two rounds.

Regional finalists: UNC and Tennessee.

MIDWEST

First-round winners: Kansas, Kent State, Clemson, Vanderbilt, USC, Wisconsin, Davidson, Georgetown.

Davidson is an upset in terms of the seeding, though Gonzaga is actually a two-point underdog according to the Vegas line. I really like Stephen Curry and Davidson just seems ready to finally get a tournament win. But if Josh Heytvelt shows up, this may not look like a good pick.

Second-round winners: Kansas, Vanderbilt, Wisconsin, Georgetown.

Boring, by-the-book picks there, but that's the way I see it.

Reginal finals: Kansas over Georgetown, as a member of the Stewart family gets to the Final Four.

SOUTH

First-round winners: Memphis, Mississippi State, Michigan State, Pitt, Marquette, Stanford, Miami-Fla., Texas.

Again, no real upsets, which I didn't realize as I did it. Oregon's the only Pac-10 team I don't have getting out of the first round. But if the threes fall, Oregon could even give Memphis fits in the second round.

Second-round winners: Memphis, MSU, Stanford, Texas.

Regional finals: Texas over Memphis. Memphis will miss a bunch of free throws down the stretch to allow the Longhorns to get to the Final Four in front of a friendly crowd in Houston.

WEST

First-round winners: UCLA, Texas A&M, Western Kentucky, UConn, Baylor, Xavier, Arizona, Duke.

A couple of upsets here with No. 11 Baylor and No. 12 WKU. Just not sold on Drake that high, and I see Baylor-Purdue as a relative tossup and went with the Bears, who will emerge as the feel-good story of the first round.

Second-round winners: UCLA, UConn, Xavier, Duke.

Really tempted to go with Arizona here over the Blue Devils, but the Wildcats are just too inconsistent to envision them going real far.

Regional final: UCLA over Duke.

FINAL FOUR

UNC over Kansas (and we'll all get sick of reading and hearing about Roy Williams in the prelude to this one); and UCLA over Texas (as the Bruins get revenge for a loss at to the Longhorns in December).

NATIONAL TITLE GAME

UCLA over UNC.

In the 40-year anniversary of UCLA's win over UNC for the 1968 title, the Bruins will again reign supreme.

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March 19, 2008 1:38 PM

More info on tonight's game

Posted by Bob Condotta

A few notes on how to see tonight's game:

--- First, a reader writes that for DirecTV subscribers the CBI games will be available live on Ch. 669, including tonight's UW game. He writes that DirecTV does not carry Fox College Sports but added this dedicated channel for this FCS exclusive tournament.

--- The game will also be shown delayed on FSN-Northwest at 11 p.m.

--- The CBI website says that all games will be available live on the internet. Here's a link with more info.

--- Finally, the CBI also has a good downloadable program of tonight's game that you can print and take with you.

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March 19, 2008 8:19 AM

Scouting Valpo

Posted by Bob Condotta

For my preview story today, I quoted Lorenzo Romar saying that if the Huskieis had played the entire season the way they played the last month, they'd be in the NCAA Tournament right now.

The Huskies can't really prove that with anything they do in the CBI. But they can disprove it by not lasting very long in this thing. In fact, a loss tonight at home against Valparaiso might almost be worse than not having played in this tournament at all.

And while UW is a 10-point favorite, there are reasons for worry. First, Jon Brockman may not play, and will be limited if he does.

Second is the opponent, a team that plays the kind of style that can pull off March upsets, heavy on good three-point shooters and an ability to score quickly.

"They live and die by the three,'' said someone I talked with who has seen Valpo play often this season. "On the nights they hit 50 percent they destroy people, when they hit 30 percent, they lose.''

Roughly 44 percent of Valpo's field goal attempts this year were three-pointers --- 808 of 1843. (By comparison, UW has attempted 528 three-pointers out of 1951 shots, 27 percent).

One of Valpo's best three-point shooters, Samuel Haanpaa, won't play tonight, still battling mono. He hit 43 percennt on the season. But three others who hit at least 49 or more this season will play tonight --- 6-7 forward Shawn Huff (88-182), 6-0 guard Jarryd Loyd (51-140) and 6-1 guard Brandon McPherson (49-121).

Loyd is also essentially the point guard though he usually comes off the bench. McPherson is also now something of a sixth man as Valpo has altered its lineup a bit of late, going lately with 6-6 freshman Michael Rogers as one guard. He's regarded as one of the more athletic players on the team and has had some big rebound totals of late.

Also a starting guard for Valpo is 6-3 Jake Diebler, who is the team's defensive stopper and the man sure to guard Ryan Appleby tonight.

Valpo's best player up front is 6-9 junior forward Urule Igbavboa, who averages a team-high 7.4 rebounds per game. The other starting big man is 6-11, 245-pound freshman Bryan Bouchie, who averages just 16.7 minutes per game, his playing time often subject to favorable matchups.

Valpo has usually been known as a more deliberate team offensively, but the Crusaders have more athleticism than some years and are running more as a result, averaging 71.1 points per game (not far off UW's 73.3 total).

The Crusaders don't apply much defensive pressure, however, and were one of the worst in the nation in steals (163 in 34 games this year compared to UW's 202 in 32).

Valpo started 10-1, its best start ever, and finished 7-2. In between was a five-game losing streak that coincided with a viral infection that hit a number of players. But other than Haanpaa, the team is healthy now.

Valpo also had a few games that it blew late, losing three games by five points or less during that stretch. Valpo lost an eight-point lead in the last 80 seconds against Loyola, for instance.

The big question is level of competition. Valpo plays in the Horizon League, and outside of conference, played three games against "power conference'' teams, losing at Vanderbilt 87-78, Wisconsin 68-58 and North Carolina 90-58. But Vanderbilt led both Wisconsin and Vanderbilt fairly late (Valpo was tied with Wisconsin with three minutes to go and led Vandy with 10 minutes left). The Carolina game was actually tied with 17 minutes left before the Tar Heels went on a 27-2 run.

Ultimately, people say, Valpo's a pretty simple team to read.

"It really comes down to hitting their shots,'' one person said. "They are one of those live-by-the-three, die-by-the-three teams.''

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March 18, 2008 9:20 PM

Houston next for Huskies?

Posted by Bob Condotta

Houston won at Nevada tonight, 80-79, to advance to the quarterfinals of the College Basketball Invitational and set up a possible game at UW Monday.

Should the Huskies beat Valparaiso tomorrow night, UW and Houston will play next Monday at Hec Ed at 6 p.m.

And if that comes to pass, it will bring Houston coach Tom Penders back to the scene of one of his more excruciating days.

The last time Houston and Penders played at UW was Christmas Eve 2004 when the Huskies pasted the Cougars 110-63 (read about it here).

Afterward, Penders railed about the officiating (not the first guy not to like Pac-10 officials) saying "the game was not called within the rules. We had absolutely no chance to win that game.'' Later, he said if the game was held on a neutral floor that his team would win, asking "what are we, in some foreign country or something?''

By the way, the four CBI games tonight were decided by 14 points, so it's at least providing some competitive games. (Though only 4,252 attended the Nevada-Houston game, so none of the four games today drew very well).

And for those who think tournaments other than the NCAAs are a waste of time, I submit the tip dunk by the guy from Alabama State against Arizona State that I just witnessed. That alone was worth the existence of the NIT for this season.

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March 18, 2008 6:56 PM

Brockman questionable and tickets still, uh, available

Posted by Bob Condotta

Two bits of news to pass along:

--- First, Jon Brockman did not practice today, meaning he has not practiced since spraining his ankle against WSU March 8. A team spokesman said he is "very questionable'' to play Wednesday against Valparaiso and Quincy Pondexter is now listed as the official starter at forward alongside the four regulars in the lineup for tomorrow. Brockman said Monday he was "confident'' he would be able to play some, and coaches will make a gametime decision tomorrow as to whether to use him. Pondexter started the Cal game in Brockman's place, scoring 23 points.

--- Next, tickets aren't exactly flying out the door. A spokesman said about 2,000 tickets had been sold as of Tuesday afternoon. However, he said UW officials aren't necessarily disappointed, saying they anticipated that many people might buy tickets at the door, knowing tickets will be available. However, UW officials will be hoping for a large walk-up gate to get the 5,000 or so they feel is necessary to break even and pay off the $60,000 guarantee for hosting a game. Tickets are $15 for the general public, and $5 for students.

Mostly, they are hoping to do better than the last time games were held here that weren't part of a season ticket package. Those games came in November, 2005 when the Huskies hosted the Black Coaches Association Classic, which was also organized by The Gazelle Group. UW played three games in that tournament and none drew more than 3,976, with a low of 3,217. That was the beginning of Brandon Roy's senior season when UW was coming off its first of two straight Sweet 16 appearances.

But so far, the CBI doesn't seem to be attracting much interest. Virginia drew 4,022 for its game tonight against Richmond (the Cavaliers drew 11,893 for its season opener against Vermont, for what it's worth), while Ohio drew 1,169 for its game tonight against Brown and Old Dominion 2,036 for its game against Rider.

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March 18, 2008 1:09 PM

CBI-ology?

Posted by Bob Condotta

As others have pointed out, one mistake the CBI may have made in attempting to build a following was deciding to re-seed after the quarterfinal rounds.

That makes it impossible to do a bracket and follow it through to the end. Conjecture is the decision to re-seed was done for financial reasons --- heck, the whole tournament is being done for financial reasons, obviously --- with the four semi-finalists seeded based on who can best, or is willing, to host games and sell a few tickets.

So for now, we can only break down the CBI through the first two rounds. I'll do so region-by-region acknowledging that I know little more about teams like Brown or Ohio than I do, say, knitting.

WEST

Only in the CBI could the highest seed have the lowest RPI of the four teams in its region. But that's the case as UW is at 121, compared to 74 for Nevada, 80 for Houston and 97 for Valparaiso (in fact,UW's RPI is the third-worst of the 16 teams in the field).

But the Huskies will have the home court throughout, and if they can get past Valparaiso, should have a pretty healthy Jon Brockman from there. Nevada is a tough home team (11-3 this season) that should be able to get past a slumping Houston squad (losers of three of last four and five of last nine) to win its first-round game tonight. That would create a UW-Nevada quarterfinal game and the Huskies should be able to make it to the semis from there if the home court (sure to feature below-average crowds) proves to be any sort of edge.

EAST

By RPI, anyway, the weakest region in the field as all of the teams are at 109 or below --- Rider is 109, Richmond 120, Virginia 127 and Old Dominion 129.

Rider tied with Siena for the MAAC regular-season title led by forward Jason Thompson, who averages 12 rebounds a game (second in the nation just ahead of Brockman's 11.5.) It should beat ODU today.

Virginia fell hard after a 10-2 start to finish 15-15 and in Richmond, faces a long-time rival (this will be the 88th meeting between the two). That should make for an emotional game. But Virginia has the best player in guard Sean Singletary and should win tonight. Virginia should then be able to beat Rider to get out of this region.

SOUTH

Miami-Ohio, at 73, has the best RPI of any team in the tournament, due largely to wins over NCAA tourney teams Xavier and Mississippi State. But it opens at Tulsa against a team that won 10 of its last 13 games, so slot the Golden Hurricane through.

The other game is Utah at UTEP. Utah has lost six of its last eight after a promising start and probably won't be able to win a road game here. A UTEP-Tulsa game in the second round would be the fourth meeting this year between the two, UTEP winning two. Home court would figure to send UTEP through to the semis.

MIDWEST

So this tournament almost had to have Bradley, which also played in the first-ever NIT, NCAA, National Campus Tournament (1951) and Commissioner's Classic (1974). The meeting with Cincy is a resurrection of an old rivalry that has been dormant since 1981, so it could be emotion-laden, as well. Despite a 13-18 record, Cincy has a 118 RPI. But Cincy lost its last six games and should be no match for Bradley, which won nine of its last 14, including a win at Drake.

Ohio and Brown may be one of the least-sexy post-season matchups in the history of college basketball other than the fact that Brown is coached by Craig Robinson, the brother-in-law of Barack Obama.

Ohio is 12-1 at home including wins over New Mexico State and Cornell --- which won the Ivy League, of which Brown finished second --- so the Bobcats should win this one. Figure Bradley from there.

So yes, that means I've got all four No. 1 seeds advancing to the semifinals.

But then when it comes to the CBI, you just never know what might happen, do you?

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March 18, 2008 8:33 AM

Tuesday links

Posted by Bob Condotta

Here they are:

--- Here's our story today focusing on the Huskies saying they are glad to have a chance to play more basketballl, along with some charts that give some info on the CBI and Valparaiso.

--- Here's a view from the Valparaiso side focusing on leading scorer Shawn Huff getting his wish to continue playing. Also included is an assertion from Valpo coach Homer Drew that the Huskies are the best team in the CBI as well as some detail on the team's rugged travel schedule Monday.

--- Some Valpo players didn't learn who they would play until 2 a.m.

--- Here's an unflattering view of the CBI from Western Michigan coach Steve Hawkins, whose team was left out of the tournament despite a 20-12 record. Hawkins charges that schools that have done prior business with the Gazelle Group (which is running the CBI) had the best chance of getting in the tournament (UW has hosted a Gazelle tournament in 2005 and will play in one next fall). The story also says the entire Big 12 Conference decided to take a pass on the tourney and its $60,000 guarantee (it's been well-reported that Missouri declined an offer).

--- Tim Cronin of the Southtown (Ill.) Star also rips the CBI.

--- The Cincy-Bradley CBI game will resurrect a rivalry dead since 1981.

--- Houston coach Tom Penders says he'd rather play in the CBI than the NIT. Houston will be UW's opponent in the second round if each wins first-round games.

--- Houston plays Nevada tonight in Reno and tickets will cost a little more than UW is charging. Nevada is charging $25, $20 and $18 for public tickets and $5 for students. UW is charging $15 for general tickets and $5 for students.

--- Here's more on the Nevada-Houston game, which is a matchup of two teams that each won 20 games this season.

IN OTHER NEWS:

--- Times columnist Jerry Brewer breaks down the NCAA Tournament field.

--- Bud Withers of our staff offers some thoughts on the post-season.

--- When I wrote a story on the UW-Oregon game a few weeks ago, I noted how Ernie Kent's nickname among some in the profession is "Lazurus.'' John Canzano of the Oregonian columnizes on the same topic, writing that Kent saved himself by guiding Oregon to a No. 9 seed, but that he'll be right back on the hot seat again next season.

Believe it or not, I'll try later to make some picks on the CBI. You're free to play along.


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March 17, 2008 9:09 PM

Huskies favored by 10

Posted by Bob Condotta

So here's the real reason for the College Basketball Invitational --- 17 more college basketball games to bet on.

Yep, there are spreads out already on the inaugural edition of the CBI, with the Huskies having been installed as 10-point favorites on Valpo. The over-under is 144, which means that taking the line at its most literal, the oddsmakers are calling for UW to win 76-66.

If recent trends are any indication, the Huskies might be a good bet.

Interestingly enough, the Huskies had almost the same record against the spread this year as straight up --- 15-16-1 against the number, 16-16 on the court.

But in both settings, UW has been better of late. The Huskies have won six of their last nine against the spread, and five of the last seven, one of the losses coming when they lost to Cal by three (when the Bears were two-point favorites) in the Pac-10 tourney game they played without Jon Brockman. For what it's worth, UW was a three-point underdog when it played at Cal with Brockman 10 days earlier, meaning Vegas didn't account a whole lot for his absence, or maybe didn't really realize it.

UW was 9-8-1 against the spread in Pac-10 play (the push came in the opener against WSU), and 15-10-1 in its last 26 games after starting out 0-6 (Vegas likely correcting a bit after UW's sluggish start).

The over has also been a good bet recently in UW games as the last five games have gone over. That's in contrast to an amazing 10 straight games going under earlier in the year (from the loss at home to Pitt to the win at home over Oregon), which also likely resulted in some reevaluating of the Huskies by the oddsmakers.

But it also does speak a little bit to UW scoring better of late --- after being held in the 50s six times in the first 13 Pac-10 games, the Huskies have scored 73 or more in all but one of their last seven (the other was 63 against ASU).

Valparaiso was 13-15-1 against the spread this year (no line set in the other games) and has gone over the total in the last four.

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March 17, 2008 2:34 PM

Brockman says he'll play

Posted by Bob Condotta

UW forward Jon Brockman said he's "pretty confident'' he'll be able to play against Valparaiso in the first round of the College Basketball Invitational Wednesday at Hec Ed.

Brockman missed the Cal game last Wednesday with a sprained ankle suffered against Washington State.

But Brockman says he feels "a lot better'' and no longer has to wear a protective boot, instead progressing to a smaller wrapping. He planned to try to do a few things in practice today and increase his work until Wednesday.

"I think I'll be able to get in there do a little bit of something (on Wednesday),'' he said. "I'm not sure how much it will be at this point. We'll just have to wait until Wednesday.''

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March 17, 2008 12:38 PM

NCAA Tournament contests available

Posted by Bob Condotta

A quick note to point out that regular readers of this space have a couple of different places to go to prove their capability in picking winners in the NCAA Tournament.

First is a challenge set up by a loyal commenter on here, Matty Simone, through ESPN.com. He has set up a league and invited anyone who wants to participate. Click here and the league name is Pac10rules and the password is bobc (Matt's doing, not mine). Looks like we are up to 33 members.

I'm also obliged to point out that The Seattle Times has its own on-line tournament challenge that you can find here. Prizes include $100 for the high score in each round and a 42-inch TV for the winner of the whole thing.


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March 17, 2008 9:21 AM

CBI ticket info

Posted by Bob Condotta

UW has announced that tickets to the CBI game against Valparaiso Wednesday will be $15, with students charged $5.

Here is more ticket info.

That release also contains TV info for the game, saying that it will be available on-line for those who can't get it on their cable system. According to the CBI web site, the game will be on Fox College Sports Wednesday at 6 p.m. That's Channel 415 on Comcast networks in the Seattle area.

MORE ON VALPO:

--- Valpo coach Homer Drew isn't thrilled the team has to travel so far West when there were a couple of closer teams also in the tournament. Drew, by the way, was an assistant at WSU for one year (1971-72). And Valpo has played in a post-season in Seattle before, getting drilled by Gonzaga in the first round of the NCAA Tournament at KeyArena in 2004.

--- Here's another story that makes it sound as if Valpo was a last-minute addition to this thing.

--- Here's an overview of the entire tournament that mentions UW.

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March 16, 2008 11:24 PM

Huskies to host Valparaiso

Posted by Bob Condotta

It took a while, but brackets for the CBI have finally been announced and the Huskies will host Valparaiso Wednesday at 6 p.m.

Here is the schedule. And Here are the brackets.

The Huskies received a No. 1 seed in the West and if they beat Valpo they will take on either Nevada or Houston in the second round in a game that apparently would also be played at Edmundson Pavilion on March 24. The Valpo game will be televised on Fox College Sports.

As you can see, if UW wins the West Region it will play the winner of the East (Virginia, Richmond, Old Dominion, Rider).

Valpo went 21-13 this year overall and 9-9 and fourth in the Horizon League, which was won by Butler.

Here is a more in-depth look at Valparaiso from ESPN.com. And here is a story on the matchup from the Valparaiso web wite.

Quickly perusing the stats, Valpo appears to still be a good three-point shooting team, hitting 39.1 percent this year. Indeed, Valpo's leading scorer is forward Shawn Huff who ranks second in the nation in three-point shooting at 48.4 percent. Huff is a 6-7 native of Finland.

Valpo finished with an RPI of 97.

It was 10 years ago this month that Valpo had its best moment when it advanced to the Sweet 16 thanks to this miraculous shot from Bryce Drew.

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March 16, 2008 9:17 PM

Still no word on CBI opponent

Posted by Bob Condotta

As of 9:30 there is still no word on an opponent for UW in the CBI.

Husky coach Lorenzo Romar spoke briefly to reporters and said the team is excited to continue playing and that he wasn't worried about the inability of the tournament to announce a field tonight.

"I'm sure once it is time to go play, everything will be worked out,'' he said.

Romar said he thought UW would play a team from the West Coast and would likely play Wednesday at 6 p.m. or 7 p.m.

The only other Western teams known to be in the tournament are Nevada, UTEP --- which was also reportedly told it would host a first-round game --- and Utah.

UW has already played Utah at home once this season, beating the Utes 83-77 in the quarterfinals of the NIT Season Tip-Off in November.

Also, a list of other teams that have reportedly committed to play includes Seton Hall, Virginia, Ohio and Bradley.

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March 16, 2008 7:56 PM

UW in CBI and likely to host Wednesday

Posted by Bob Condotta

That's the word from UW, that the Huskies have been invited. But there is no official word yet on the field itself.

We should know in the next half-hour or so who the Huskies will host on Wednesday and the rest of the field so I'll pass that along as soon as it comes.

Here's a link to the bracket, which should soon be filled.

UPDATE --- The Sonics have a home game with Phoenix on Wednesday night scheduled for telecast on FSN-Northwest, so there might not be local TV for this game unless it's at an unusual start time.

UPDATED UPATE --- As of 8:20, still no word on an opponent for the Huskies, or an official CBI field. However, we're told UW did practice today already in anticipation of a bid. Jon Brockman, still ailing with a sprained ankle, did not practice.

MORE ON THE FIELD --- Other teams that will play in the CBI are Virginia, Houston, Utah and Bradley, and apparently Alabama. So there will be some big names.

A NOTE ON COMMENTS --- You may notice we're being forced to police those pretty rigorously tonight, unfortunately. For those of you who keep sending in comments ripping me for deleting some of those comments, please realize this blog is about a lot more than me. It's a Seattle Times blog --- I just happen to be the guy who writes it at the moment --- and it has to abide by Times standards. There are others here policing it as well. Would be nice if we didn't have to, but at the moment, that's not the case, so we will.

UTEP IN FIELD --- UTEP is also in the field and a story in the El Paso Times says UTEP will play a home game against an opponent to be determined Monday morning. So maybe this means the full field won't be set tonight.

ANNOUNCEMENT DELAYED AGAIN --- It's 9:10 and we were told once again that the announcement of UW's opponent is still on hold. A school official said they had been told it is coming at any moment, but that it isn't ready yet. So as soon as there is something official we will pass it along.

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March 16, 2008 5:55 PM

NIT Field unveiled at 6

Posted by Bob Condotta

The NIT will unveil its field at 6 p.m. on ESPN2.

Once that happens, and UW is not named (as is expected), the CBI field will be announced shortly after.

UW is expected to be part of the CBI, Husky officials saying last week they would participate.

So we should have official news of UW and the CBI shortly.

In the meantime, here's where you can view the NIT field.

UPDATE --- Cal got a 4 seed and will play New Mexico in a first round game.

ASU rececived a 1 seed in the NIT and will play Alabama State.

UW didn't receive a bid so expect a CBI announcement soon.

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March 16, 2008 3:35 PM

Pac-10 gets six in

Posted by Bob Condotta

Seemed like the Pac-10 got a lot of respect, with WSU receiving a No. 4 seed --- higher than most projections --- and the two perceived bubble teams --- Oregon and Arizona --- getting a nine and a 10. And with UCLA a one and Stanford a three, that's three of the top 16 teams from the Pac-10.

But that didn't extend to Arizona State, which was left out despite finishing ahead of both Oregon and Arizona in the standings (getting the tiebreaker on the Ducks) and going 3-1 against those two head-to-head.

What obviously killed ASU is what we mentioned earlier --- a strength of schedule of 296 and an RPI of 88. (What also killed the Sun Devils was a bad call in the Pac-10 Tournament).

Still, six bids ties the most in conference history; and both Oregon and Arizona get in with .500 or worse records in conference play, the first time that's happened in the Pac-10.

It's also the second straight year the Pac-10 has gotten six teams invited, the most-ever over a two-year span for the conference, official validation that the conference has never been perceived to be stronger. Now the task will be following that up with some deep runs in the NCAA Tournament.

CBI BIDS DELAYED --- We've been told that the CBI field won't likely be completed until later this evening, so official news on the Huskies may not come for a few more hours.

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March 16, 2008 12:34 PM

Latest projections

Posted by Bob Condotta

The latest CBI projection has Washington as a No. 1 seed in the West hosting Sam Houston State.

So the first question may be who the heck is Sam Houston State? SHS is a member of the Southland Conference, finishing 23-8 this season, losing in the semifinals of the conference tournament. SHS had a few big wins early, including handing Bob Knight one of the more embarassing losses of his career (56-54 over Texas Tech) and also beataing Fresno State.

The second question may be will Husky fans be excited about a home game against a team like Sam Houston State? I've got to figure they would rather play teams like the No. 2 and 3 seeds, Nevada or San Diego State.

As for the Pac-10, an increasing number of the final brackets have the conference getting just six bids (like this from SI.com). Or even just five (like this from Rivals.com, which also includes a good explainer of how the field is formed).

Here's the latest list of Pac-10 RPIs and as you can see, what may make ASU the odd team out is its RPI of 83, due largely to a non-conference strength of schedule of 296. Only Oregon State played a weaker schedule.

Keep tuned here later for news on the Pac-10 and UW.

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March 16, 2008 12:10 AM

Selection Sunday's here

Posted by Bob Condotta

And the Huskies will be involved, if fairly peripherally.

The Huskies are hoping for/expecting a bid to the BCI today, which I detail here in this story. If so, UW will likely host a game Tuesday or Wednesday at Hec Ed against a team like San Diego State or Nevada.

An NIT bid seems unlikely for the Huskies, who aren't included in the latest NIT-ology. As you can see, that projection includes two Pac-10 teams in the NIT --- Arizona State and Cal --- which if true would mean six Pac-10 teams getting NCAA invites.

That's how Joe Lunardi of ESPN saw it in his Bracketology printed Saturday, listing ASU as one of the last four teams out (and which, if the Sun Devils indeed get left behind, will lead to questions forever of how things might have been different had Scott Eggers not made that call on Jeff Pendergraph at the end of the USC game Thursday).

Gary Parrish of CBS Sportsline sees an even bleaker day ahead for the Pac-10 calling for just five confererence teams to make it to the NCAA Tournament --- excluding both ASU and Oregon but including Arizona along with the four Pac-10 teams that are guaranteed bids. If so, expect lots of questions in Tempe and Eugene from those wondering how Arizona could go 0-4 against the Ducks and Sun Devils and finish behind each in the Pac-10, yet get a bid ahead of both of them.

Also in our paper today is this column from Steve Kelley on former UW assistant Ken Bone, who led Portland State to an automatic bid. Kelley says Oregon State should hire Bone to fill its vacancy. Rumblings at the Pac-10 Tournament hinted that the first coach on OSU's list is Randy Bennett of St. Mary's, with Bone thought to be a fallback candidate.

And Bud Withers offers this Q-and-A on what to expect today.

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March 15, 2008 3:02 PM

Today's pick

Posted by Bob Condotta

I've ridden UCLA all season so no reason to change now.

With the game about to tip, I'll call a score of UCLA 73, STANFORD 68. Bruins seem on a mission to erase any stigma from the way they clinched the regular season title, and with what figures to be a mostly partisan crowd at its back, will get a win that will also sew up a No. 1 seed.

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March 14, 2008 10:58 PM

So much for balance

Posted by Bob Condotta

What some figured might be one of the more topsy-turvy Pac-10 Tournaments has instead gone completely to form.

With the wins by UCLA and Stanford tonight, tomorrow's championship game will feature the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds, and mean that the favored team has won each of the first eight games.

It's the fifth time in 11 Pac-10 tournaments that the top two seeds have advanced to the title game. Two of those instances involved the Huskies --- 2004, when No. 2 seed UW lost to No. 1 seed Stanford; and 2005 when No. 2 seed UW beat No. 1 seed Arizona.

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March 14, 2008 2:11 PM

More Pac-10 notes, picks

Posted by Bob Condotta

A few more news and notes from the Pac-10 Tournament, plus a couple of picks:

--- Some of you have noted what seem like smallish crowds for the tournament games. Attendance was officially listed at 16,442 for the night session Thursday (though it barely looked like half that on TV) so the conference will likely consider it a success.

To me, it felt the same as just about any other year --- pretty empty for games not involving the LA schools, pretty full for the session involving USC and UCLA. They'll catch a break this year with either UCLA or USC assured of being in the final.

Some of you have asked if moving it around might help with the attendance. It might. But nothing's going to happen through at least 2012. FOX Sports now essentially owns the rights to the tournament, and it wants it in LA where the company is based and where many of its sponsors are headquartered. And if it weren't for FOX's involvement, the tournament would have a tough go financially, and would likely have never gotten revived in the first place. Maybe in a few years all parties will be convinced it will work well enough elsewhere to move it around. But it's going to be at Staples for at least four more years.

--- Here's a consensus from people at the tourament on who is thought to be leaving early --- O.J. Mayo and Davon Jefferson of USC, Kevin Love and Darren Collison of UCLA, Ryan Anderson of Cal, Brook Lopez of Stanford, and Jerryd Bayless of Arizona. Chase Budinger of Arizona is expected to stay as is ASU's James Harden. Up in the air is UCLA's Russell Westbrook, whose stock is rapidly rising.

TONIGHT'S PICKS

WSU VS. STANFORD --- The Cougars gave the Cardinal two good games during the regular season only to falter in the final minutes each time. That might lead you to believe that the Cougars are due to finally get one against The Tree. But Stanford just seems like a bad matchup for the Cougars with all of its height inside and the Cardinal is pretty motivated to get another shot at UCLA (not that WSU isn't as the Bruins are the only team Weaver-Low-Cowgill have never beaten, just that Stanford won't be any less pumped). WSU will need a complete game from Derrick Low to win this one, not just a half, as well as some quality minutes from Aron Baynes. Guess here is Stanford again simply wears down the Cougars. STANFORD 65, WSU 60.

USC VS. UCLA --- Teams split this year, each winning on the other's floor. Mayo sure to be primed to avenge the 10-turnover performance of the last meeting, but Bruins are well-rested after the easy game with Cal and may be ready to hit their usual March stride. UCLA 78, USC 71.

SEASON RECORD: 95-21 (5-1 in tournament).


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March 14, 2008 10:15 AM

Friday morning thoughts

Posted by Bob Condotta

Back from the Pac-10 Tournament, which so far hasn't done anything to help anybody other than improve seeding for the four conference teams already solidily in the NCAA Tournament.

Helping the conference get more NCAA bids was one of the stated goals when the Pac-10 revived the tournament in 2002. But so far, I don't think any team has ever gotten an NCAA bid due to anything it has done in the tournament --- there has been no low seed winning it all to get in, for instance.

Given the balance of the conference this year, it was thought that this might be the tournament where that changed. Maybe Arizona would surge from its No. 7 slot to win the whole thing and assure that it gets invited.

Instead, the six games so far have been won by the six favorites (though a lower seed, Cal was favored against UW by two and beat the spread by a precious point).

That leaves the Pac-10's three bubble teams --- Oregon. Arizona and Arizona State --- sweating it out as Selection Sunday comes.

ESPN's Joe Lunardi, however, has all three getting bids in his latest Bracketology projection this morning though he lists ASU and Oregon as two of his last three in, meaning they shouldn't make plane reservations just yet.

If any get sidelined, they will have some legitimate reasons for arguing. Arizona has the highest RPI of the bunch at 39, but both Oregon and ASU swept the Wildcats, and the Ducks went 3-1 against the other two.

But each also had a chance to make a real statement at the Pac-10 Tournament and none did (acknowledging that ASU got fairly hosed by that call on Jeff Pendergraph at the end of the game).

Since tournament money is shared by all 10 schools in the conference, it helps everyone to have as many teams invited as possible. So much as some of you may not want to see, say, Oregon get in, the bean counters on Montlake won't mind (it's a complicated formula that makes it impossible to say exactly how much each school will get, but it's significant).

--- As for the Huskies, they are back home waiting for a bid from one of the other tournaments, most likely the CBI. As I wrote today, the CBI is demanding a $60,000 guarantee from schools that host games. UW officials say they are willing to meet that requirement, which probably means they are going to get in and host a game. The NIT-ology web site today has the Huskies as the No. 1 seed in the West Region of the CBI, a change from yesterday when it didn't list UW at all (maybe just an oversight). The projection has UW hosting Cal State-Fullerton which would be a somewhat intriguing game. The Titans are a run-and-gun team led by former WSU Cougar Josh Akognon, who in his last appearance in Hec Ed hit a game-winning shot that started WSU on its seven-game win streak over the Huskies. The Titans, however, are still alive in the Big West Tournament and hoping for greater things.

--- I talked to Scott Woodward down here and he said again that he is "leaning toward'' applying to become UW's full-time AD. Things are starting to move on that as President Mark Emmert has formed a search committee to compile a short list of candidates. Target date for a new hire is May-June.

I'll make some picks a little later.

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March 13, 2008 4:50 PM

More on CBI

Posted by Bob Condotta

The Huskies headed home to Seattle this morning after a shorter-than-hoped-for stay at the Pac-10 Tournament.

What they are hoping for now is a bid from either the NIT or the new College Basketball Invitational.

And while at least one university (Missouri) says it is not interested in the CBI due to a $60,000 guarantee from schools that host games (read about that here), the Huskies remain interested. UW officials say they think they can make enough money to pay off the guarantee.

The tournament also gained some additional credibility when it announced last week that it had reached a deal with Fox College Sports to televise many of its games.

Here's a link to the CBI's web site which also includes a bracket and TV schedule.

The CBI may be UW's best hope now that the Huskies are 16-16, which may make it difficult to get into the NIT. The NIT passed on UW last year when the Huskies were 19-13.

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March 13, 2008 2:33 PM

NIT-ology says no to Huskies

Posted by Bob Condotta

The latest NIT-ology is out and it doesn't include Washington, saying that the Huskies "played themselves out of the NIT'' with its loss to Cal last night.

Here's the link.

Their mock bracket also includes a projection for the CBI. As you can see, it also doesn't include the Huskies, which means these guys think UW is done for the year. But Husky officials here are optimistic that they will at least get a call fom the CBI, which is thought to prefer big-name schools that may draw a decent TV audience and/or schools with large fan bases.

UW coach Lorenzo Romar said last night he thought the Huskies would get a bid to something but that "I thought that last year, too.'' Last year, the Huskies scheduled a practice for Sunday night, anticipating an NIT bid. Romar said last night he hadn't decided yet if he will schedule any practices or wait until after UW gets its name called. If UW goes to the CBI it will be a quick turnaround as first-round games are Tuesday and Wednesday.

JONES TO MIAMI: Also, in case you missed it, Bobby Jones signed a 10-day contract with Miami.

AND FINALLY: I'm still in LA, taking a flight back tonight, and still at the tournament. For anyone out there, did the call on Jeff Pendergraph at the end of the ASU-USC game look as bad on TV as it did in person? That call might have cost the Pac-10 a little bit of money (cash that is shared by all 10 conference teams) if that loss keeps the Sun Devils out of the NCAA Tournament.


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March 13, 2008 11:06 AM

The day after

Posted by Bob Condotta

One of the fun things about the Pac-10 tournament is that it is also something of a convention for the conference, the one time people who work in anything connected to the Pac-10 get together.

Meaning, stayed up a little too late last night, so the day after report is a little more delayed than usual.

Here's my game story which hopefully adds some more detail to the events at the end of the game.

Columnist Bud Withers took a look ahead to next year for the Huskies, which as he says, looms large for the Lorenzo Romar regime.

Our UW notebook includes an item on Jon Brockman saying he will attend the NBA Pre-Draft camp this summer if invited.

In a quote on that topic that didn't make it into the paper, Brockman said that "I don't think it would be a bad idea. I still have plans and expect to come back. But at the same time, they allow you to do that one year (go to the camp and come back if desired) so I don't think there would be any hurt in doing that.''

But Brockman apparently hasn't gotten an invitation yet.

The Cal coverage tended to focus on the Bears getting a rematch with UCLA today, and how the prospect of that helped inspire them all week. Here's another version of that from the San Jose Mercury News which also has some insight from the Cal side on the last-minute shot by Ryan Anderson. Other than the offensive rebounds, which we touched on last night, the theme afterward seemed to be that Cal simply made a few more plays than the Huskies, ala the Anderson shot or the Patrick Christopher steal and dunk that keyed the 16-0 run.

TODAY'S GAMES:

Some quick thoughts and picks on the games today.

ARIZONA STATE VS. USC --- Great matchup of O.J. Mayo and James Harden. By the way, word down here seems to be that Harden is returning (one ASU-affiliated person told me it's "99 percent'' he'll be back). If so, the Sun Devils could be one of the favorites in the conference next season. As for this game, I like USC due to what will amount to something of a home-court advantage and wanting to show better than the game in Tempe a few weeks ago. USC 69, ASU 61.

UCLA VS. CAL --- As noted above, Bears highly motivated to get another shot at the Bruins. But this is also a tough turnaround, tipping off about 18 hours after finishing the win against the Huskies. Cal did it last year, upsetting UCLA in this round after beating Oregon State the night before. But hard to see them doing it again. And you figure UCLA's pretty tired of hearing about how they won only because of the officiating. UCLA 71, CAL 59.

WSU VS. OREGON --- Ducks may need this one to get into the NCAAs while the Cougars are playing for seeding. Ducks have always seemed to save their best for the Staples Center, winning this tournament twice under Ernie Kent. But their days of having WSU's number are over. WSU 69, OREGON 63.

ARIZONA VS. STANFORD --- Arizona can all but clinch a bid with a win, but Cardinal also needs a win to improve its seeding after the two losses last week. Figure Stanford to wear down the Wildcats late. STANFORD 72, ARIZONA 69.

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March 12, 2008 10:35 PM

Cal post-game

Posted by Bob Condotta

And is it season post-game?

That's the biggest question now, whether the Huskies will have another game left to play this season.

Indications are that the Huskies are likely to at least get a call from the new CBI, but that it will be a lot harder to get into the NIT now with the Cal loss giving them a 16-16 record.

"From what we've done, the games we've won and how we've been playing lately, I think we deserve to keep playing,'' said Jon Brockman.

And Brockman said he'll likely be there if the Huskies get that chance.

He said later he tried to make a go of it in warmups before the game but finally decided that it wasn't worth the risk to his ankle, and that he also probably couldn't do enough to make it worth taking that risk.

UW guard Ryan Appleby said "it was weird'' playing without Brockman since so much of the offense runs through him. "When we need an easy basket, we can just throw it to him,'' he said. "So it's tough not playing witih him.''

But for much of the night, the Huskies did okay getting a lot of contributions from a lot of different players.

Quincy Pondexter scored a season-high 23 points, showing he can respond to a greater role when asked. He hit 9-16 shots and never seemed to waver in his aggressive attitude.

Artem Wallace almost had a double-double (11 and 9) and played good defense, especially early. Joel Smith shook off the cobwebs to score eight points in 20 minutes, his best game since the win at Arizona State. And Justin Holiday, in his first game since Feb. 10, was a presence in the eight minutes he was on the floor.

"Our guys did a great job of trapping, of being patient offensively and getting good shots,'' UW coach Lorenzo Romar said.

Unfortunately, Joe Wolfinger couldn't repeat the success he'd had against Cal in Berkeley, going scoreless and reboundless in 10 minutes, and Matthew Bryan-Amaning picked up three fouls in 10 minutes and was never really a factor.

Romar pointed later to the stat sheet showing Cal with a 43-34 rebounding edge, and 20-14 in second-chance points, and said that was the difference.

"In a game that was decided by three points, I think that might have been the difference,'' he said.

Of course, the shot by Ryan Anderson late was a killer, as well.

"As soon as he caught it I was thinking 'that's not the guy we want to have the ball in his hands,''' Brockman said.

I touch on a lot of the nuts-and-bolts of the game in our coverage that will be on-line and in the paper, so I'll link to that later.

Is it the last time this year I do so?

UW players remained wary but hopeful it won't be their last game.

"But anytime you leave your future in someone else's hands, it's not a good feeling,'' said Brockman.

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March 12, 2008 5:11 PM

Cal game thread

Posted by Bob Condotta

OUCH --- That's a heartbreaker there as Anderson scores his 16th point of the half and 22nd of the game on that three-pointer. The Huskies played well without their leader but appear destined to lose and will now need a call from the NIT or CBI to prolong the season.

PONDEXTER WITH SEASON-HIGH --- He has 21 points right now, his most this year. UW trails 79-76 with 2:16 left.

CAL LEADS REBOUNDS 33-25 --- UW is actually outrebounding Cal by one so far this half, but it feels like the Bears are getting a number of key boards that maybe the Huskies would get if Brockman were around.

CAL SCORES 16 IN A ROW --- Before the Huskies stop the bleeding. Cal leads 59-57 with 11:37 left. UW had four turnovers and went 0-3 from the field and missed two free throws during Cal's run.

CAL RIGHT BACK WITH 9-0 RUN --- To make it 55-52 with 14:49 to play. Can't say it's not entertaining.

HUSKIES START HALF ON 13-3 RUN --- Appleby has hit three three-pointers in the first 2:30 of the second half to give UW its biggest lead at 53-41. Huskies are in control at the moment.

SOME HALFTIME THOUGHTS --- The Huskies are being outrebounded 36-27, due, to be sure, to the absence of Brockman as well as the need to play a zone at times to mitigate foul trouble. Cal leads in second-chance points 14-6.

--- Who would have thought Artem Wallace would have more points at the half than Ryan Anderson --- 7-6?

--- Pondexter is stepping up so far, leading UW with 11 points and four rebounds in 15 minutes.

--- Cal's lack of pressure again is helping the Huskies be careful with the ball. UW has just three turnoverse.

--- Cal again holds a lead at the line, going 11-13 to UW's 5-8.

HUSKIES LEAD 40-38 AT HALF --- The Huskies have held the lead most of the way here so far, as much as seven a couple of times and now down to two. Pondexter has 11 points to lead what has been a team effort. The surprise is Appleby wiith zero points, going 0-4. UW will need more than that from him the rest of the way to pull this one off. Joel Smith has had some nice moments off the bench and Artem Wallace has done a good job on Ryan Anderson making him work hard for his six points.

EIGHT HUSKIES HAVE SCORED --- They needed a team effort without Brockman and so far that's what they are getting as all 10 players here have seen significant action, and eight have scored as UW has taken a 38-32 lead with 3:42 left.

A GAME OF RUNS --- Cal's 7-0 run was quickly answered by a 9-0 run by the Huskies, who have taken a 26-20 lead. Pondexter has nine points in continuing his late-season drive.

HUSKIES ON 14-5 RUN --- After a 6-1 Cal start, the Huskies have dominated, going on a 14-5 run to take a 15-11 lead. One problem is fouls --- UW already has five, four among the team's three big men. UW has gone to a 2-3 zone to try to mitigate the fouls.

TIED AT FIRST TIMEOUT --- It's 6-6 with 15:49 to go. UW missed its first five shots by my count but has made the last two, including a three from Quincy Pondexter who again looks aggressive. He's tried three shots, missing on two post-ups inside, and almost had a steal. DeVon Hardin didn't start for Cal as the Bears went with the same lineup that went against UCLA.

BROCKMAN IN UNIFORM --- The Huskies just took the floor and Brockman is in uniform and has his shoes on, with heavy tape on the left foot. But he is limping noticeably as he walks with a UW trainer. Now he is standing on the sidelines as the Huskies go through the layup lane, slapping hands with each player that goes by. As noted earlier, he has played in every game in his three years at UW and the only start he missed was on Senior Day in 2006.

PRE-GAME --- I'm set up at press row, watching the Bears and UW go through early warmups.

And there is no Jon Brockman in sight as he has been officially ruled out for the game and is likely not to even bother suiting up.

"He'd like to go, but he's not going to be able to,'' said one UW official.

Brockman took off the boot and tried to practice a little during the team's shootaround today at Pauley Pavilion but was unable to do much. He's likely out for as long as the Huskies are here.

The team remains upbeat, however. When the players got to Pauley, Justin Dentmon grabbed a ball and headed to one end of the court, attempting to replicate the shot Josh Shipp hit on Saturday. It apparently took him only three tries before he made it.

Right now, the Huskies might take being in position to have a game-winning shot against the Bears tonight.

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March 12, 2008 4:17 PM

Pondexter to start

Posted by Bob Condotta

At the arena and probable starting lineups have been released with Quincy Pondexter starting at forward for the Huskies in place of the injured Jon Brockman.

The rest of the lineup remains the same.

Word is Brockman may try to suit up but almost certainly won't play.

For Cal, center DeVon Hardin is listed in the starting lineup. He missed the UCLA game with a hip injury but has practiced this week.

And for those of you who aren't Dave Libbey fans, you don't have to worry about officiating this game. Word is he was injured while working the West Coast Conference tournament and is out for the year.

In fact, the officials for this game are Verne Harris, David Hall and Chris Rastatter, all Pac-10 regulars.

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March 12, 2008 1:20 PM

Tonight's picks

Posted by Bob Condotta

Have landed safely in Los Angeles, and the flight allowed a couple of hours to peruse stats and box scores to try to come up with a prediction for tonight's game.

All the while realizing, of course, that most of that history may be meaningless given the probable absence tonight of Jon Brockman. How can you really assess how UW will play without him when he has played double-digit minutes in every game since joining the Huskies in 2005?

Still, as I pointed out earlier this week, the Huskies played 80 minutes this year against Cal and for 33 of those were without Brockman due to foul trouble, their most activity against any conference team this year without their leader.

And for most of that time, with and without Brockman, the two teams couldn't have been more even. In fact, UW outscored Cal without Brockman in beating the Bears 87-84 in Berkeley. UW outscored Cal 22-19 when Brockman sat seven minutes in the first half, and played the Bears even when he sat out again for 10 minutes in the second half.

I think UW survived against Cal without him in part because the Bears are an up-tempo team that doesn't pressure much --- the Huskies lost only 15 turnovers in the two games against Cal this year.

That style seems to suit well the players who will see action in place of Brockman, primarily Quincy Pondexter, who had 12 points against the Bears in Berkeley.

Brockman's absence, however, surely contributed to a 78-64 rebounding edge Cal had on UW in the two games (Brockman combined for just eight rebounds against Cal this year).

The other big difference between the two teams was free throw shooting. Cal, the best FT team in the conference, made 34-41 against UW. The Huskies, the worst, made 20-39.

But many of the rest of the stats were even --- UW shot 48.1 percent against Cal while the Bears shot 48.3, for instance, and UW hit 16-41 three-pointers while the Bears sank 17-39.

So what the heck. Maybe Pondexter continues his recent resurgance, and Joe Wolfinger again lights up the Bears with a few threes, and Matthew Bryan-Amaning has another quietlly productive game, and Ryan Appleby shrugs off the flu of last week to drain a few long ones and finally leave the Staples Center with a good memory (remember, this is where he got hammered by Aaron Brooks two years ago). Besides, I'm packed for two days. WASHINGTON 83, CAL 79.

OREGON STATE VS. ARIZONA --- Do we really need to go here? Arizona is a 19-point favorite and there's little reason to think the Beavers can win this one. The one attraction? With the arena likely being a third (a tenth?) full by the time this one tips, you may be able to hear Marcel Jones' smack talk in the upper reaches. ARIZONA 78, OSU 54.

SEASON RECORD: 70-20.


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March 12, 2008 9:28 AM

Off to Los Angeles

Posted by Bob Condotta

As I type this, I'm at the airport, waiting for my flight, having already confronted the big decision of the day --- how many days of clothes to pack?

I'm sure Lorenzo Romar has socked away four suits, being the glass half-full guy that he is (and having once before entered a tournament as a ninth seed and winning the whole thing --- at Saint Louis in 2000).

My wife will tell you I'm more of a there's-just-a-few-drops-left kind of guy. But I decided to alter the outlook a little today and pack for a two-day stay and not just a Spencer Hawes trip (a one-and-done).

Given the circumstances --- likely playing without Jon Brockman --- I think one victory here has to be considered a big victory for the Huskies and almost certainly enough to assure some sort of post-season. I wrote about the stakes of today's game and how Brockman's probable absence could impact the Huskies for my story today.

I'll make an official pick later, but as I wrote today, I think there are some things about this game that make it maybe the best Pac-10 matchup (other than Oregon State) that UW could face to take on a team without Brockman.

Of course, I'll happily admit that a long stay here is fine with me as this is shaping up as one of the best Pac-10 tournaments ever, something our Bud Withers wrote about today.

Before I get on the plane, I'll leave you with a few more links:

--- Former Husky Will Conroy is back in the states after playing in Italy since September. He's now with Albuquerque of the NBA D-League playing alongside Julius Hodge, the former NC State star with whom the Huskies had a couple of memorable meetings during Conroy's career.

--- As I alluded to in my story, Cal coach Ben Braun is under the gun a little bit and today's game (or more accurately, the tournament itself) could help determine his future. Here's one Bay Area columnist's take on Braun.

--- Here's another look at Cal entering the tournament from the San Francisco Chronicle with a frank quote from Braun on the new CBI that "we're not really thinking about that until we have to.''

--- Here's another take on Cal with some quotes from Bear players saying the UCLA loss "lit a fire'' under them.

--- Here's a breakdown of the game from the Kansas City Star that says that the Huskies have "had some issues'' from the free throw line this season. Kind of like Britney Spears has had a few parenthood issues of late.

Plane's about to board, so more later from LA.

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March 11, 2008 9:58 PM

UW-Syracuse NIT rematch?

Posted by Bob Condotta

So does the world need a third meeting this year between Syracuse and Washington in a major sports competition?

NIT-ology apparently thinks so, as their latest projection has the Huskies playing at Syracuse in the first round of the NIT.

Here's the link.

UW played at Syracuse in football in August and the two hoops teams met in November in the NIT Season Tipoff in New York.

As you can see, they have UW as a No. 8 seed, and if they are in any way on target, that could mean the Huskies needing to win a game in the conference tournament to make a good final impression.

As an added bonus, you see they also now have a bracket for the CBI.

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March 11, 2008 2:32 PM

Brockman named to USBWA All-District Team

Posted by Bob Condotta

Jon Brockman may be out for the Pac-10 Tournament, but he continues to pile up post-season awards.

The latest came today from the United States Basketball Writers Association, which named him to its 10-man District IX team, which consists of players in any conferences from Washington, Oregon, California, Arizona, Hawaii and Alaska.

Here's a link to the team and as you can see, all 10 players on the team are from the Pac-10. In fact, the District IX team is simply all 10 players who made up the Pac-10's first and second teams, which were announced Monday.

TV TOMORROW: As a few of you have pointed out, the UW game tomorrow will be joined in progress on FSN after the telecast of the Sonics game at Boston, which begins at 4:30 p.m. That means the first half of the UW game may be pre-empted. However, the Pac-10 Tournament will also be available on Fox College Sports (channel 415 on Comcast). Poster Rob also reports that the game will be available on FSN West DirecTV or Dish. So there are some options for those of you with expanded systems.

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March 11, 2008 11:45 AM

Brockman progressing slowly

Posted by Bob Condotta

UW coach Lorenzo Romar was just on the Pac-10 coaches conference call and said that if the Huskies were playing a game today Jon Brockman would definitely be out. Brockman is ailing with a sprained ankle suffered Saturday at Washington State. UW plays Cal in the first round of the Pac-10 Tournament in Los Angeles Wednesday at 6 p.m.

Asked if Brockman had gotten much better over night, Romar said that there has "not been great progress. He can walk a little bit without the crutches, but if we were playing today he definitely could not play.''

No word yet on who would start in his place, and I'm not sure there will be any until shortly before the game as they wait to see Brockman's status.

IN OTHER PAC-10 NEWS

--- In response to reports that he has been contacted by LSU about its head coaching vacancy, USC's Tim Floyd said "this is my last job.'' Told that that didn't necessarily dispute that he'd been contacted, Floyd said "I just answered the question. This is my last job, at SC, okay?'' Okay.

--- Cal coach Ben Braun said center DeVon Hardin, who sat out the UCLA game with a hip injury, will "definitely play'' and that he's been able to practice the last two days.


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March 11, 2008 8:35 AM

Tuesday links, notes

Posted by Bob Condotta

On to the links:

--- I wrote today about Quincy Pondexter, who has quietly played some of the best basketball of his UW career the last three games. It's a story I might not have written if not for the injury to Jon Brockman, which makes it that much more vital for Pondexter to continue on this track in the Pac-10 tournament. There have admittedly been lots of instances in the last year where it has seemed like Pondexter has been ready to turn a corner. But UW coach Lorenzo Romar seems to believe this one may be for real. One thing that didn't make it into the story was Romar's lauding of Pondexter's work ethic of late. As I talked with Romar, Pondexter was out on the court before practice going through an intense session with assistant Paul Fortier. "He's just working his butt off right now,'' Romar said of Pondexter. "He comes out here every day, before and after practice.'' Romar said that's a dedication he hasn't seen from Pondexter previously. He also noted the way Pondexter rebounded from a shaky first half Saturday against the Cougars. Pondexter had no points, two rebounds, two fouls and two turnovers in the first half, but finished with 12 points, five rebounds and two steals before fouling out (on what was a pretty suspect call with 56 seconds left that might have done as much as anything to turn the direction of the game). "Last year, he wouldn't have come back from that first half,'' Romar said. "This year, maybe in the beginning of the year he wouldn't have. But he came back and was a factor. If you win that game, you've got to point to Quincy Pondexter.''

--- Also in our paper today is this column from Jerry Brewer, who says UW's problems are in the backcourt. Jerry also has more here in his Extra Points blog. Jerry leads off his column with a reference to the last possession of regulation where Justin Dentmon dribbled the ball off his leg. I've heard some questions why the Huskies didn't call time out there (they had one left when they got the ball with 14 seconds remaining when Robbie Cowgill missed a free throw after scoring a tying basket). Romar said later the Huskies wanted to be aggressive at that point, especially with their guards, since WSU's Taylor Rochestie had four fouls. In fact, Rochestie picked up his fourth with 4:51 left in regulation but then played the final 13:33 of the game without getting his fifth.

--- The Daily Californian reports that Cal center DeVon Hardin, who missed the UCLA game with a hip flexor, is expected to play against the Huskies. Also included in that story are some notes on the UCLA loss and the observation that the Bears had an especially intense practice Monday as a result.

IN OTHER NEWS AROUND THE PAC-10:

--- With Lute Olson back in the fold, Kevin O'Neill says he doesn't know what he'll do next season.

--- The LA Daily News says LSU has contacted USC coach Tim Floyd, who has lived and worked previously in Louisiana. I'd think Floyd stays put.

--- Good story on O.J. Mayo in the LA Times.

--- Jon Wilner's College Hotline has a good assessment of the last weekend in Bay Area hoops with some interesting insights into Cal.

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March 10, 2008 9:41 PM

Brockman and Cal

Posted by Bob Condotta

After completing our interview sessions before practice today, most of us stayed in the media room to write our stories.

When I was done, shortly after UW's practice ended, I headed down the hallway behind the court just in time to look up and see Jon Brockman walking on crutches into the training room.

It was almost exactly 48 hours before tipoff of UW's Pac-10 tournament game against Cal, and it seemed hard to believe he'd be able to play. Brockman expressed his own doubts when he talked to reporters before practice, though still holding out hope.

"There's a chance,'' he said. "So that's what I'm holding on to.''

It seems a bleak way for the Huskies to enter a tournament in which they may need to win at least one game to assure some sort of post-season bid.

If there are any good omens in any of this it's UW's history this season against Cal.

The Huskies have more experience playing without Brockman against Cal than against any other conference team as he recorded two of his three lowest-minute outings of Pac-10 play against the Bears (the lowest was in the blowout at Oregon State). Those were also two of his least-productive games.

Brockman played 24 minutes in the first game against Cal and 23 in the second, limited each time due to foul trouble (he averages 31.7 minutes for the season).

In the first game, Brockman had 15 points and just four rebounds. In the second, he had 10 points (tying his lowest of the season) and again just four rebounds (which made it somewhat ironic that Cal coach Ben Braun speculated aloud afterward that it had to have been a long time since Brockman had managed only four rebounds in a game). The two four-rebound games against Cal were his two lowest-rebound totals of the season, and two of only nine in single-digits all year.

In the first game, besides battling foul trouble, Brockman was at about his lowest ebb in dealing with a groin injury. With Brockman ailing and in foul trouble, Artem Wallace turned in his best game of the year with 17 points and 10 rebounds, a performance that might have been good enough lift UW to the win had the Huskies shot better than 8-18 from the three throw line (or 7-27 from the three-point line).

Brockman picked up his second foul with 5:14 left in the first half of the second meeting with Cal and was replaced with the Bears ahead 27-26. He sat out the rest of the half, and the Huskies then went on a 23-17 run to take a 49-44 halftime lead, a lead UW never gave up.

Brockman picked up his fourth foul with 16:07 left in the game and then sat until the 6:14 mark during which time the Huskies and Bears played to a standoff --- UW led by seven when left, and by seven when he returned.

So while his teammates would obviously rather Brockman be out there Wednesday, at least it won't be a completey unfamiliar feeling being without him against the Bears.

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March 10, 2008 2:58 PM

Brockman doubtful, Appleby fine

Posted by Bob Condotta

The news on Jon Brockman didn't get any better Monday as the UW forward is now being officially listed as "doubtful'' to play Wednesday against Cal, a downgrade from the questionable ruling of Sunday.

"That's a good word (to describe it), doubtful,'' said Brockman, who remains on crutches and unable to put any weight on his left foot after spraining his left ankle with 1:56 left in the second overtime at WSU Saturday. "In talking to the trainers and doctors, typically things don't turn around that quickly.''

Brockman said that while X-rays revealed no break in the foot they did show a break in an old bone spur which presents a slight complication.

However, he said he was also told that "if it's tolerable, give it a go. At the same time. not being able to walk,
I don't think it would be very smart to walk on the court when I would just be hurting the team.''

Brockman said he played on a sprained ankle in high school but that "I don't know if it was this bad. I've typically been able to walk a little bit more one or two days afer I did it. This one is going to take a little bit more medical magic.''

Brockman, however, said he remains optimistic such magic may happen.

"There is still hope,'' he said. "It's not a shut door by any means.''

UW coach Lorenzo Romar said the team will begin to make plans for playing without Brockman.

"Something great could happen and he could play Wednesday but at this point we are probably preparing, anticipating, him not being in the game,'' Romar said.

Romar said he didn't know who would start in Brockman's place but said it would be one of Quincy Pondexter, Matthew Bryan-Amaning or Joe Wolfinger. He said he will almost certainly just slip someone into Brockman's place rather than make wholesale changes to adjust.

Romar said Brockman would probably be doubtful for the entire Pac-10 tournament, which runs through Saturday (if UW were able to advance). But he said he thinks Brockman would be able to play if the Huskies make it into some sort of post-season next week.

"If we were able to get into post-season I think he'd be okay for that,'' Romar said.

In more health news, UW guard Ryan Appleby said he was bothered by a flu-like illness last week that limited his participation in practice. But he said he is recovering from it and pronounced himself cured. "I'm 100 percent,'' he said.

Appleby had a similar illness last season but played through it then, as well.

He played 34 minutes Saturday and said he was more tired than usual but said he's feeling better now. He said he hadn't lost any weight, agreeing that he really doesn't have much to lose --- he said he regularly weighs 162-165 pounds.

Romar said tests on Appleby last week were negative.


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March 10, 2008 12:31 PM

Pac-10 teams announced, Brockman second team

Posted by Bob Condotta

The All-Pac-10 teams, as voted on by conference coaches, have been announced.

As expected, Kevin Love was Player of the Year and Freshman of the Year. Stanford's Trent Johnson was named Coach of the Year and UCLA's Russell Westbrook won honors as Defensive Player of the Year.

Washington's Jon Brockman was named to the All-Pac-10 Second Team and guard Venoy Overton was an honorable mention selection to the All-Freshman Team. Brockman was also an honorable mention selection on the All-Defensive Team.

Here are the teams:

ALL-PAC-10 FIRST TEAM
Ryan Anderson, Cal
James Harden, ASU
Brook Lopez, Stanford
Kevin Love, UCLA
O.J. Mayo, USC

SECOND TEAM
Jerryd Bayless, Arizona
Jon Brockman, Washington
Darren Collison, UCLA
Maarty Leunen, Oregon
Kyle Weaver, WSU

THIRD TEAM
Chase Budinger, Arizona
Taj Gibson, USC
Derrick Low, WSU
Jeff Pendergraph, ASU
Russell Westbrook, UCLA

PAC-10 ALL-FRESHMAN TEAM
Jerryd Bayless, Arizona
James Harden, ASU
Davon Jefferson, USC
Kevin Love, UCLA
O.J. Mayo, USC

PAC-10 ALL-DEFENSIVE TEAM
Darren Collison, UCLA
Taj Gibson, USC
Robin Lopez, Stanford
Kyle Weaver, WSU
Russell Westbrook, UCLA

You can find the complete release here.

OLSON TO RETURN: And in case you missed it, Arizona announced today that Lute Olson will definitely return as coach of the Wildcats next season.

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March 10, 2008 9:26 AM

Awards time

Posted by Bob Condotta

The All-Pac-10 team and other conference post-season awards are expected to be unveiled in the next day or so.

Here are my picks:

PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Kevin Love, UCLA. A lot of good candidates --- Brook Lopez, O.J. Mayo, Ryan Anderon, Jerryd Bayless. Ultimately, Love gets the nod for his consistency and value to a team that won the title. In a rather amazing achievement for a freshman, he scored in double figures in every game UCLA played this season. And in the team's biggest game of the season, the league clincher against Stanford, he put it all on display with 17 points, 10 rebounds and a season-high five assists. He also became much more of a shot-blocking threat as the season wore on (17 in the last eight games). One scout noted to me recently that you could argue that Brook Lopez means more to his team. UCLA even without Love, he said, could win the Pac-10. Not the case with Stanford without Lopez. A good point. But to me, Love just did it all, and did it all every night.

ALL-PAC-10 TEAM

Remember, this year there are three teams of five, and position doesn't matter (meaning, five centers could go on the first team if so desired).

FIRST TEAM
Kevin Love, UCLA --- For the reasons stated above.
O.J. Mayo, USC --- Averaged 26.1 points the last six games.
Brook Lopez, Stanford --- Most intimidating player in the conference.
James Harden, ASU --- Biggest reason for ASU's revival.
Ryan Anderson, Cal --- Second in scoring in Pac-10 (21.1) and third in rebounding (10.3).

SECOND TEAM
Jon Brockman, Washington --- Made more FGs (129) than anyone but Mayo in Pac-10 play.
Jerryd Bayless, Arizona --- Coaches might switch Bayless and Harden. I went with Harden on first team after seeing he tied for lead in conference in steals (2.06) along with offensive numbers comporable to those of Bayless.
Kyle Weaver, WSU --- Not a guy you can define with stats. Simply does what it takes to win.
Maarty Leunen, Oregon --- Shot an amazing 56.5 percent on three-pointers in Pac-10 play (39-69) and also ranked in leaders in rebounding and assists (3.17 a game, as many as Mayo).
Darren Collison, UCLA --- You'd never know it by how he plays at Hec Ed, but, he's the best-shooting PG in the conference (53.8 on three-pointers).

THIRD TEAM
Derrick Low, Washington State --- Third in conference play in three-pointers made (46).
Chase Budinger, Arizona --- A little too erratic to warrant being any higher.
Taj Gibson, USC --- Led conference in blocked shots and field goal percentage (in Pac-10 play).
Russell Westbrook, UCLA --- Another whose impact on the game is greater than any stats.
Taylor Rochestie, WSU --- Coaches will probably go with Malik Hairston of Oregon. But Rochestie is hard not to honor in some way for his amazing 3.55 assist-to-turnover ratio while also shooting 41 percent on threes.

ALL-FRESHMAN TEAM
Mayo, Bayless, Love, Harden and USC's Davon Jefferson.

DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Weaver, WSU. A tough, tough call over Brook Lopez and Gibson, who dominate in the middle. But Weaver is the standard-bearer for defense on the perimeter and his versatility increases his value.

ALL-DEFENSIVE TEAM
Weaver, Brook Lopez, Robin Lopez, Stanford, Gibson, Jeff Pendergraph, ASU.

COACH OF THE YEAR
Trent Johnson, Stanford. Herb Sendek of ASU is the other legit contender, and probably will be the winner. But Johnson should be honored for getting Stanford one really controversial call away from potentially tying for the conference title in a year when the Cardinal was picked to finish fifth, which is as big a jump as Sendek's ASU team ultimately made (ninth to fifth). Tim Floyd of USC also deserves mention.

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March 9, 2008 3:39 PM

Brockman questionable

Posted by Bob Condotta

That's the official word today on UW forward Jon Brockman for Washington's game Wednesday against Cal in the first round of the Pac-10 tournament.

Brockman suffered an injury to his left ankle late in Saturday's loss at WSU. He was examined further today and the diagnosis remains that it is a sprain. But Brockman declared it "a pretty good sprain'' and said he couldn't put any weight on it after the game Saturday.

Brockman said that he would try to play as long as it was just a sprain and nothing more serious.

Still, it seems unlikely he would be anywhere near 100 percent, which could be a severe blow to the Huskies.

Brockman entered the WSU game scoring 24 percent of UW's points this season (17.6) and grabbing 33 precent of their individual rebounds (11.6) --- Washington also has 106 team rebounds for the season.

Cal also has some injury concerns as senior center DeVon Hardin sat out the UCLA game Saturday with a left hip flexor. Oddly, the Bears have seemed to almost thrive without Hardin, sweeping the Washington schools on the road earlier this year when he was out with an illness and then almost winning at UCLA Saturday.

Brockman pointed out that the Huskies have played well when he took rests the last few games --- he played just 23 minutes in the win at Cal.

But it's not something anyone in purple and gold really wanted to put to a test for a whole game right now.

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March 9, 2008 10:39 AM

The day after, WSU edition

Posted by Bob Condotta

A few Sunday morning notes:

--- There may be an update on Jon Brockman at some point today. When/if we get one I'll pass it along here.

--- By losing yesterday, the Huskies fell out of a chance to play Oregon State in the first round of the Pac-10 tournament and will instead face Cal in the first round in the 8-9 game. And then it would be UCLA in the second round. Tough duty anyway, much tougher if Brockman can't go.

--- Cal may be coming off an even tougher loss than the Huskies, the controversial defeat to UCLA Saturday. The Pac-10 coordinator of officials, Bill McCabe, said the shot that won the game for UCLA might have been illegal. But he also said it was a judgment call. San Francisco Chronicle columnist Ray Ratto said the game is further proof that the Pac-10 needs to do something about its officials.

--- Vince Grippi of the Spokesman-Review said yesterday's game was "a classic'' and also provides lots of links to coverage of the game.

--- Someone asked for final stats of the game, so here's a link that includes a breakdown of the turnovers.The main offenders were Venoy Overton (five) and Brockman (four). Brockman admitted later he was a little too amped up early, trying to do too much, when he committed a few turnovers in the first moments of the game. Overton committed a few while trying to push the pace, something that was a priority for the Huskies to be as aggressive as possible. The trick is to do that while still taking care of the ball, obviously. And the Cougars, despite their defensive prowess, aren't a team that always forces a lot of turnovers since they don't really pressure much. WSU hadn't forced more than 19 in a game all season and no more than 17 in any Pac-10 game. UW had 18 turnovers at the end of regulation, and then four more in the overtimes.

--- O.J. Mayo said he might actually return next season, but think I'll believe that when I see it.

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March 8, 2008 11:23 PM

WSU post-game

Posted by Bob Condotta

So this is the kind of day it was for the Huskies.

After playing their hearts out, and getting their hearts ripped out, they showed up to the Pullman airport only to find they were getting one of those new Horizon planes painted in the colors and logos of the Northwest Pac-10 schools. And guess which one the Huskies got? Yep, the Cougar plane.

But on a night when the Huskies seemed to lose a lot --- a game, and maybe their leader ---- it also felt like they gained a lot, as well. (Here's my game story which has a lot of the nuts and bolts of what happened in the game so I won't repeat a lot of that here).

Sure, it was a seventh straight defeat to rival Washington State, a record for this series. And I know that causes a lot of frustration among a lot of you out there.

And no doubt, the other harsh reality is that the Huskies finish at 7-11 in Pac-10 play, their worst record since the 2002-03 season, Lorenzo Romar's first, and in eighth place (also the worst since that season).

But you also had to like a lot of what you saw tonight.

I thought this might have been the grittiest performance by a Husky team since the Brandon Roy days considering the opponent, the venue and the Senior Day setting.

UW dominated the boards, 47-29, and came right back every time it seemed the Cougars were on the verge of pulling away.

Quincy Pondexter battled back from a scoreless first half to score 12 in the second and power a UW comeback; Venoy Overton kept aggressively pushing the ball and finished with six assists; and Ryan Appleby finally find some open looks against the Cougars and finished with 16 points.

"We battled for the whole time,'' said Overton. "We never gave up."

That's not something that could always be said the last two years, and I know that can sound like moral victory kind of stuff.

But it's also something that's too often been an issue for this group of players, one they appear to be solving given the way the last half of the Pac-10 season has gone. Of the last eight games, only the loss at Oregon and the home defeat to Arizona State have had tinges of the bad moments of the last two years.

"We are getting to the point now where we are coming into games and everyone is ready to play,'' said UW forward Jon Brockman. "I think we are playing our best basketball right now.''

Unfortunately, UW may have to go on without Brockman for the immediate future. Playing back the tape of what he said afterward and his comments sounded a little worse. He said of the ankle that "it turned about all the way over that it could.''

He also called it "a pretty good sprain'' and said it's worse than anything he has had in college.

Romar said it may take 48 hours to really assess the damage, though Brockman will see doctors again Sunday for further examination. But Romar also pointed out that such sprains routinely hold guys out two weeks.

So this could mean Brockman is done for the season, or at least nowhere near 100 percent for the rest of the season. Here's more on Brockman's injury from our notebook.

Surely he would have felt a little better had the Huskies pulled this one out, and it seemed several times like all the Huskies needed was one more play. Maybe if Matthew Bryan-Amaning, who continues to emerge, had made that shot with just under a minute left in regulation. Or maybe if UW had made a few more free throws in the first overtime --- UW was pretty good most of the game, going 14-20. But Overton and Brockman each went 1-2 in the last 2:13 of the first OT, points that proved critical.

Or maybe if UW hadn't lost a season-high 22 turnovers, which Romar said "probably cost us the game.''

I'm sure some of you also rue that UW was called for 26 fouls and had two guys fouled out compared to WSU's 19 fouls. But for the record, no one on the UW side complained much about the officiating. Overton said a foul probably could have been called on his drive to the hoop at the end of the first overtime but that "I'm not complaning about it. That was a smart play. One player showed his hands to the ref and the other player kind of got his hands in there.''

As Brockman said: "They are a great basketball team and we gave them a couple of opportunities we shouldn't have given them. But both teams really fought hard tonight.''

The question now will be whether the Huskies can take that fight with them to Los Angeles if they have to play without Brockman.


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March 8, 2008 9:15 PM

Brockman status uncertain

Posted by Bob Condotta

I'll try to have some more rehash of the game a little later.

But the big news for the Huskies now is the uncertainty of forward Jon Brockman, who suffered a sprained left ankle with 1:56 left in the second overtime.

Brockman said that "right now, I couldn't play.''

And he doesn't have much time to get better as UW will face Cal Wednesday in the first round of the Pac-10 tournament in Los Angeles.

But Brockman said that "if it's just a sprain, I'm playing.''

That was the initial diagnosis afterward, but the injury will be further examined Sunday in Seattle. If it's anything more, he's almost certainly done for the year.

Even if it's just a sprain, it could be hard for him to be anywhere near 100 percent with such a short turnaround. He had the foot in a boot and left the arena on crutches.

That's ominous for the Huskies, who dearly want to play more basketball, feeling like they are beginning to turn a corner with what is still a relatively young team. The Huskies are cautiously optimistic they have some sort of post-season awaiting no matter what happens, but a win against Cal, which would assure a winning record at the end of the regular season for UW (which is now 16-15) would likely all but clinch at least a spot in the CBI.

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March 8, 2008 3:48 PM

WSU game thread

Posted by Bob Condotta

WOW, WHAT A GAME --- A great game, regardless of what side you were on. More later.

DOUBLE OVERTIME --- UW had some chances to put it away there but instead the Cougars force another OT. Deadline duties are keeping me away from contributing much here but I'll have lots more later.

OVERTIME --- UW hadn't really played a lot of barnburners this season so maybe it makes sense this one would go to OT. Huskies haven't had an OT game all season. Hard to tell who has the mo here --- UW blew a four-point lead, but Cougars blew two golden chances to win it there at the end.

HUSKIES HIT DROUGHT --- WSU has a 46-42 lead with 6:50 left as UW hasn't scored a field goal since the 12:05 mark. UW has gone 0-4 with three turnovers, two for shot clock violations, in that span.

HUSKIES RECLAIM LEAD --- UW leads 41-40 with 11:16 left and the Huskies have the ball. Those who took the Cougars and gave the nine might be getting a little nervous. On the other hand, UCLA pulled out one of the most amazing nine-point covers ever seen on Thursday night showing again why I can't believe anyone makes any money betting basketball.

PONDEXTER STRUGGLING --- Quincy Pondexter played well here a year ago, with 16 points. But he's struggling today with no points, three fouls and three turnovers in nine minutes. It's 37-34 WSU with 15:49 to go.

SOME HALFTIME NUMBERS --- UW is outrebounding WSU 24-13. UW is 11-29 shooting, WSU 11-26. Weaver leads all scorers with nine points while Appleby has eight for the Huskies.

COUGS END HALF ON 10-0 RUN ---- To take a 30-26 lead into the break. The good for UW is that the Huskies are this close despite shooting just 11-28. The bad is the Cougars were equally ragged early but have rallied to take a little momentum.

COUGS CLOSE GAP --- UW might have missed a real opportunity there to bust out to a significant lead with the Cougars ice cold. UW could have gone up seven with an open three-pointer by Dentmon. Instead he missed and it's now a one-point game, 26-25 with 2:07 left.

HUSKIES ON 13-5 RUN --- UW has taken the lead 22-18, causing the Cougars to call a time out with 5:15 to play in the first half. Appleby has eight points and is playing his best game against the Cougs.

ROMAR PARTICULARLY ANIMATED --- Lorenzo Romar seems particularly heated on the sidelines today, surely sick of losing to the Cougars. When Bryan-Amaning missed a box out that led to a foul and two Cougar points, Romar could be heard yelling at MBA "that's on you, box out'' even from up here in the press section, which is above the student section. Huskies are hanging tough, down 15-13 with 10:09 to go in the first half.

COUGS START ALL FIVE SENIORS --- Tony Bennett hadn't said how he would play little-used seniors Chris Henry and Jeremy Cross today. Ultimately, he decided to start them, and the Cougs looked a little out-of-sync early, as UW led 7-2. But WSU has a regular lineup in now and has closed to 7-6.

BEAVERS LOSE --- So the best the Huskies can do now is seventh. That's a good prize, however, as it means a game with Oregon State in the first round instead of Cal. So that's what is now at stake. To repeat, if the Huskies win they get the No. 7 seed since either Oregon or Arizona will lose today and UW has the tiebreaker on both

GANT IN UNIFORM --- UW freshman forward Darnell Gant is in uniform for today's game, but he won't play. He has not made many road trips this season, preferring to stay home to concentrate on academics and also saying he wanted to save that for when he is an active player next year. But he decided to make this one since it's a quick trip --- UW took a late afternoon flight --- and also decided to put on a uniform and go through warmups to get a little feel of a gameday atmosphere. It's the first time this year he has sat on the bench in uniform. He's allowed to do so since he is a redshirt by choice, meaning he is eligible to play this year but is choosing not to (transfers don't have such an option).

LOTS OF EMPTY SEATS IN STUDENT SECTION --- As WSU officials feared, there appear to be a lot of empty seats in the student section, one student telling me this is one of the worst turnouts of the Pac-10 season. The reason is that WSU's spring break has already started with many students heading out of town as early as Wednesday. There are 5,300 seats reserved here for students. Students here may be in danger of losing some of those as school officials see them open for big games like this, when tickets sold out. The tangible impact for UW could be a slightly less intimidating environment, though I think it will still be tough enough.

HUSKIES CLINCH EIGHTH --- UCLA's amazing, and sure-to-be controversial, comeback win against Cal assures that the Huskies will finish no worse than eighth.

The question now is if the Huskies can do better. With a win today and an ASU win, they will finish seventh, and a win and an Oregon State win would put them in sixth.

And look it here. As I write this, the Beavers are down just two with 11 minutes to play. So the Huskies could have a lot to play for today.

If the Huskies lose this game, they are assured of being the eighth seed in the conference tournament and facing Cal Wednesday at 6 p.m. in the opening round at Staples Center.

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March 8, 2008 1:07 PM

Gameday in Pullman

Posted by Bob Condotta

It's cold and drizzly outside, snow still piled high in places.

Meanwhile, there are students lined up waiting to get into Friel Court, others beginning to lube themselves at various locales around what is a pretty-empty campus, with spring break having begun. One shirt I saw walking around is "Our coach is hotter than your coach.'' That may not be such a good thing in a few weeks when Tony Bennett could have a few offers to leave for a warmer seat somewhere else.

But that's a mostly unspoken subtext of the coverage today. Most of it revolves around the the final home game for five WSU seniors, and the six-game winning streak for the Cougars against the Huskies. Vince Grippi at the Spokesman-Review deftly weaves both into his piece here today. including some good quotes from the Cougars on how they have maintained that dominance through the years. Specifically mentioned is the good defense Kyle Weaver has played on Ryan Appleby.

That got me thinking I'd been remiss in not presenting that in more detail this week.

So here are Appleby's career games against the Huskies:

2006 season
19 minutes, 1-5 FGs, 0-4 threes, 2 points (78-71 Cougar win)
28 minutes, 2-8 FGs, 0-6 threes, 6 points (77-64 Cougar win)

2007 season
33 minutes, 3-11 FGs, 3-9 threes, 9 points (75-47 Cougar win)
37 minutes, 3-8 FGs, 3-6 threes, 9 points (65-61 Cougar win)
30 minutes, 3-7 FGs, 3-7 threes, 9 points (74-64 Cougar win)

2008 season
31 minutes, 2-8 FGs, 2-6 threes, 6 points (56-52 Cougar win)

Totals 14-47 FGs, 11-38 threes, 41 points (6.8 points per game)

So obviously, the Cougars have done a good job on Appleby through the years, and it's usually been Weaver defending him. This isn't to say it's all Appleby's fault --- few Huskies have played well against the Cougars through the last three years, and other Huskies haven't been able to take advantage of WSU's concentration on Appleby. But there's no doubt that UW's chances are a lot better if Appleby is shooting well, something WSU has been clearly able to contain the last six games.


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March 8, 2008 12:46 AM

Saturday's picks

Posted by Bob Condotta

Last day of the year for regular season Pac-10 games and though first and last are settled (as is second, for that matter) lots still to determine in between to make this an intriguing day.

STANFORD AT USC: Whole key here is whether the Cardinal can bounce back after being robbed at UCLA --- in case you missed it, the conference's coordinator of officials said the call that ended the game Thursday probably shouldn't have been made. Could be even harder for Stanford since it has little to play for other than maintaining NCAA tourney seeding, as it is locked into second in the Pac-10. This is a matchup of the two best defensive teams in the conference when considering field goal percentage defense --- Stanford is at 39.4 and USC 40.6 (third is ASU at 43.4, a pretty significant drop). It's also a tough setting for the Cardinal to rebound. USC 65, STANFORD 59.

CAL AT UCLA: Neither team has a lot at stake in terms of the Pac-10 --- UCLA has clinched the conference title and the Bears have clinched either eighth or ninth. But the Bruins are now playing for NCAA tourney seeding and maybe getting a No. 1. And Cal continues to play amidst rumblings about the future of Ben Braun, who could use a big win to keep the wolves at bay for a few days. Who also has a little something to play for is Ryan Anderson, who may be considering leaving early for the NBA. But while he's had a great season, he's also often come up short against the really good teams (he had just 12 against UCLA the first time) which has some wondering if he's really ready for the pros. Overall, however, little reason to call for an upset here. UCLA 77, CAL 63.

ARIZONA STATE AT OREGON STATE: The Beavers go for the worst kind of immortality in this one as they can become the first Pac-10 team to go 0-18 in conference play with a loss. That would also make them, in most eyes, the worst team since the conference expanded to 10 teams in 1978. OSU interim coach Kevin Mouton said Friday he doesn't think the Beavers deserve that tag. I would agree that this year's Beavers might beat the 82-83 Arizona Wildcats, who went 1-17 in the year before Lute Olson arrived, a team I've always thought was the worst in Pac-10 history. But not so sure about any of the three WSU teams that also went 1-17. The 1990 Cougars lost five Pac-10 games by five points or less, the 2000 Cougs lost three overtime games and another by four points, and the 2002 Cougs did, at least, beat Bob Bender's last UW team and lost by five to UCLA. These Beavers have come within 10 points just twice, and never closer than five, in Pac-10 play. Sure, the Pac-10 may be better this year than any of those years. But OSU's scoring margin of minus-19.9 in Pac-10 play is astounding. Lose today and immortality is theirs. And it's going to happen. ASU 75, OSU 51.

WASHINGTON AT WASHINGTON STATE: Sorry, just don't see it for the Huskies. Not on Senior Day and against a group of players that just has their number right now. Maybe next year, when Derrick Low and Kyle Weaver and Robbie Cowgill are gone. I expect the Huskies to put up a good fight, a lot better than last time here. But I just think the Cougars will again make the plays when it counts to put this one away. WSU 65, UW 56.

ARIZONA AT OREGON: The biggest game of the day in terms of its meaning to the two teams involved. Arizona can likely clinch an NCAA tourney bid with a win but lands firmly on the bubble with a loss. Oregon would seem to have no shot at an at-large bid with a loss, but sets itself up for one if it can get the win today and then take a game or two in the Pac-10 tourney. It's also the last home game for a noteable group of Oregon seniors, including Malik Hairston and Maarty Leunen. Playing on the road, however, hasn't really been Arizona's problem, injuries playing a bigger factor. With Nic Wise back, Arizona is at full strength, and with as much on the line as the Ducks, should have enough to get the win. ARIZONA 81, OREGON 73.


SEASON RECORD: 66-19.

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March 8, 2008 12:34 AM

Strange bedfellows

Posted by Bob Condotta

Two years ago this month, the Huskies and Utah State met in San Diego in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

Today, they might meet in the lobby of the University Inn in Moscow, Idaho on their way out the door.

One of the unique aspects of the Palouse is that there are two universities within eight miles of each other. And sometimes, that means opponents bunking in the same house, as is the case here this weekend with the Huskies in town to play the Cougars and Utah State here to play Idaho a few hours later on Saturday night. Each is staying here at the University Inn, located across the street from the University of Idaho.

Also here is the Kent State baseball team, in town for a weekend series with the Cougars.

The Huskies got the better of the Aggies when the two met two years ago, a 75-61 win that helped lead UW to the Sweet 16.

But at 22-9 and second in the WAC, it's the Aggies who may have more to brag about this March.


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March 7, 2008 5:22 PM

Latest NIT-ology sends Huskies to Florida

Posted by Bob Condotta

The NIT-ology brackets are now being updated every other day or so, and the latest projections give the Huskies an interesting matchup --- a first-round date at two-time defending NCAA Tourney champ Florida.

Here's the bracket, which lists UW as a No. 8 seed.

Such a matchup would also be a return to his former stomping grounds for UW guard Ryan Appleby, who began his career as a Gator before transferring after one season.

Here's a link to the front page of NIT-ology which includes some of the reasoning behind the projections.

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March 7, 2008 3:43 PM

Springtime in Pullman

Posted by Bob Condotta

I have completed the journey to Pullman via the trusty Hyundai Elantra, and a warning to anyone making the trip that there are almost as many cops along the way as grain elevators.

In other words, a lot.

There were also a lot of cars heading the other way as this is the beginning of WSU's spring break.

That's a somewhat worriesome sight for WSU officials, who are hoping for a full house for tomorrow's game against the Huskies.

A full house includes 5,300 seats allotted for students out of an official capacity of 11,760. The tickets are sold, but whether all the seats will be filled is another question with some students leaving for break as early as Wednesday. To ensure that as many students stick around as possible, dorms are begin kept open until tipoff instead of closing in the morning.

That this is the beginning of spring break, however, was one reason there was talk last summer of moving this game to Wednesday. Pac-10 rivalry games have sometimes been held on Wednesdays through the years, allowing one team or the other to schedule a non-conference game on the weekend. The Cougars and Huskies did just that last season, playing on Wednesday in Seattle with UW then playing at Pitt that Saturday.

That wouldn't have come into play this year, but what might have been an advantage is giving each team a little rest before the Pac-10 Tournament.

"(UW coach) Lorenzo (Romar) and I were going to talk about that,'' WSU coach Tony Bennett said this week. "I think he would have been open to it… if you played Wednesday, you would have had some down time.''

Bennett said the two sides were going to discuss it further, but the Huskies then went on their trip to Greece and the issue was tabled.

Regardless, a raucous crowd is sure to greet the Huskies tomorrow. WSU officials simply hope there's not an empty seat in the house, as well.

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March 7, 2008 8:09 AM

Cursed by the Cougars?

Posted by Bob Condotta

UPDATE 12:45 P.M.--- HOLIDAY AVAILABLE TO PLAY: I don't want to interrupt the thread here with a new post, but wanted to pass along that UW coach Lorenzo Romar said today that Justin Holiday will be avaiable to play tomorrow against WSU. He hasn't played since the UCLA game Feb. 10 when he was emerging as a valuable reserve defender on the perimeter, suffering a sprained knee and ankle in practice. He went through a full practice Thursday for the first time. Romar said everything else with the team is status quo.

ORIGINAL POST --- I wrote today about Washington State's six-game winning streak over the Huskies.

Not a particularly fun topic for UW fans, I realize --- nor original --- but impossible to ignore.

UW doesn't have any other current losing streaks in Pac-10 play longer than two (USC and Stanford) and hasn't lost more than four straight games to any other team since Lorenzo Romar took over (UCLA during his first two years as coach).

The reason seemed obvious early --- WSU played a deliberate style that emphasized defense that frustrated the Huskies (though interestingly, in the first two wins of the series, WSU scored 78 and 77 points, two of its three highest point totals of the 2005-06 season, seeming to beat the Huskies at their game rather than the other way around).

But the styles of the two teams aren't so divergent anymore. The Cougars have increased their tempo under Tony Bennett and are averaging 64.2 points per game in Pac-10 play, while the Huskies have decreased theirs due to changes in personnel in the post-Brandon Roy era, and are averaging 69.1 points this year --- nowhere near the 20-plus difference in the two teams' scoring averages of years past. (There is a greater difference in points allowed, with WSU at 59 and UW at 70).

In fact, if you use field goal percentage defense as your main avenue for judging a defense --- and you should, as points allowed is as much about pace of play than defensive prowess --- the Huskies are statistically as good as the Cougars. In Pac-10 games this year, UW is holding teams to 44 percent shooting, while WSU is at 45.6 (the Cougars are better against the three, at 34.3 compared to 36.7 for the Huskies).

There also isn't as big a difference anymore in turnover margin as each of the two teams rank among the top four in the Pac-10 --- WSU at the top at plus 3.24, UW fourth at plus-0.82.

Instead, the biggest statistical differences between the two these days are in shooting categories --- specifically, three-point shooting and free throws. WSU is making 39 percent of its three-pointers in conference play compared to 31.3 for UW, and the free throw shooting is obvious --- WSU is at 72 percent to UW's 56.8 in Pac-10 play.

Of course, what's hard to measure in overall stats is how well teams play when games are on the line. As pointed out in the story, UW has led at halftime in four of the last six games against the Cougars. But when the games have hit their most critical juncture, the Cougars have shown an ability to make the plays that the Huskies haven't. That's what the Huskies will most have figure out how to improve to win Saturday.

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March 6, 2008 10:22 PM

Standings update

Posted by Bob Condotta

First, here are the updated conference standings:

UCLA 15-2
Stanford 13-4
WSU 10-7
USC 10-7
ASU 8-9
Arizona 8-9
Oregon 8-9
Washington 7-10
Cal 6-11
Oregon State 0-17

What I messed up earlier and am fixing now is that Cal could still win at UCLA Saturday. So, if the Bears do that, and Cal and UW tie (if the Huskies lose to the Cougs), the Bears will get the tiebreaker on UW due to having beaten the Cougars and/or USC. (The next tiebreaker after head-to-head is record vs. teams occupying the highest position in the standings. Both teams would have beaten UCLA once and been swept by Stanford. Cal, however, has wins over both USC and WSU, the teams tied for third at the moment.)

Otherwise, if Cal loses to UCLA, the Huskies are assured of no worse than eighth place in the Pac-10 (which doesn't mean much in terms of the Pac-10 as UW and Cal will play each other if they finish eighth and ninth, no matter the order. The higher-seeded team, however, gets to wear home uniforms).

The only way now that UW can finish any higher than eighth is by beating Washington State Saturday.

But if the Huskies beat the Cougars, there are some scenarios in play.

As you can see, Arizona, Oregon and ASU are all a game ahead of the Huskies.

Since Arizona and Oregon play Saturday one is assured of winning (something even Pac-10 officials probably can't screw up), so one of those two teams will finish ahead of UW, meaning the best the Huskies can do in any circumstance is sixth.

Since ASU plays at Oregon State and is almost certain to beat the Beavers, it's realistically now a huge longshot to finish any better than seventh.

But, if UW were to win and ASU and Oregon were to lose Saturday, the Huskies would finish sixth thanks to having beaten UCLA (since UW, ASU and Oregon all split with each other, the tiebreaker of wins against teams occupying the highest position in the final standings comes into play. UW gets the nod there due to its win over the Bruins).

That scenario wouldn't hold if Oregon beats Arizona. If UW, Arizona and ASU all finish tied the Sun Devils get the nod since they swept the Wildcats this year. In a scenario where UW, Arizona and ASU all tie, ASU would be sixth, the Huskies finish seventh and Arizona eighth due to UW's win over the Bruins.

If ASU beats Oregon State, the Huskies can finish no better than seventh no matter what they do. But if ASU and UW both win, the Huskies would indeed get seventh, and the loser of the Oregon-Arizona game would fall to eighth, again due to UW's win over UCLA.


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March 6, 2008 12:35 PM

CBI announces TV deal with FOX

Posted by Bob Condotta

Depending on how events unfold the next 10 days, Washington's best hope for a post-season berth may rest in the new College Basketball Invitational.

Getting a bid in that 16-team field, however, became a little more appetizing this week with the news that the CBI will be televised on Fox College Sports (read the details here). That also means that games will be on Fox Sports Net when there is schedule availability, and on DirecTV.

A TV deal obviously adds some credibility to the CBI as well as giving the participating teams some exposure in March. The sense I get is that the CBI is looking largely to invite teams like UW, those that are from major conferences with big fan bases that could provide some entertaining and interesting games for TV viewers.

UW coach Lorenzo Romar said this week he thought that the win over Cal assured that the Huskies will have a post-season this year. If it's the CBI, at least it won't be played in a vacuum.

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March 6, 2008 9:52 AM

Figuring the tiebreakers

Posted by Bob Condotta

So with a night to just watch Pac-10 basketball without the Huskies being involved, the obvious question is whether there are some results that will be best for UW in terms of seeding for the conference tournament. In other words, what teams should you root for tonight?

The quick answer is UCLA

But to make it clear why, let's first offer a refresher on the Pac-10 tiebreakers.

The first tiebreaker is head-to-head. In a two-team tiebreaker, this is obvious. In the result of multiple-team tie, it's the collective head-to-head of the teams involved.

If there are still ties after that, then it's on to each team's record vs. the team occupying the highest position in the final regular standings and then continuing down until one team gains an advantage. (If two teams are, say, tied at the top of the standings, then it's a team's collective record against the tied teams).

I can't imagine it would get past that, but if it does, then it's won-lost percentage against all D-I opponents, then, finally, a coin toss.

The Huskies are in pretty good shape against just about anybody they would realistically end up tied with due to their win over UCLA --- the reason UW fans should root for the Bruins tonight in their showdown with Stanford.

UW has split with Arizona, Arizona State, Oregon and Cal, the four teams that surround it in the standings, and the only ones against whom the Huskies can end up tied. And none of those four have beaten UCLA.

At the moment, ASU would have the edge in event of most multiple-team ties due to its sweeps of Cal and Arizona and the chance at sweeping Oregon. However, with the Arizona schools playing at Oregon this weekend, it's still hard to determine exactly how that will unfold.

But in the event of any two-team tie with Arizona, ASU, Oregon or Cal, the Huskies would have the edge due to the win over UCLA (assuming the Bruins stay in first place). If Stanford were to win the Pac-10, then ASU and Oregon would have edges on the others due to their wins over the Cardinal. Arizona didn't beat either UCLA or Stanford this year so it's the odd man out in any two-team tiebreaker with any of the other three.

Finishing with the No. 7 seed could greatly help UW. The first round of the Pac-10 tournament matches the No. 7 seed against No. 10, assured of being Oregon State. The winner then faces the No. 2 seed, which right now would be Stanford.

The other first-round game pits the No. 8 and No. 9 seeds with the winner getting the No. 1 seed in the second round, which right now would be UCLA. At the moment, that's where UW would stand, facing a first-round game against Cal and then having to face UCLA in the second round.

A UW win Saturday at WSU would obviously greatly help the chances of the Huskies finishing with the No. 7 seed --- Oregon and Arizona enter the weekend with just seven wins each, as well, and since they play each other, at least one of them can do no better than getting to eight. If UW beats WSU, then it is assured of at least tying Oregon or Arizona and either tying or finishing ahead of Cal. As mentioned earlier, UW would win a two-team tie against any of those three (though a multi-team tie with Oregon and Cal would go to the Ducks thanks to Oregon's sweep of the Bears. Can't tell yet on a tie with UW, Arizona and Oregon since Arizona and Oregon play one more time).

One possible complication for UW is if it beats WSU and moves into the No. 6 slot. That could mean two things --- getting a bye into the second round, meaning not getting a chance at a first-round game which might be an easier way to get at least one win in the tournament; and also likely having to face the Cougars again in the second round of the tournament.

So basically, root for UCLA tonight and worry about the rest of it later.

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March 5, 2008 8:35 PM

Thursday's picks

Posted by Bob Condotta

One weekend left of regular season action, and it's one that figures to go a long way toward determining whether the Pac-10 gets four, five or six teams into the NCAA Tournament.

I don't really buy the notion that only four will get in, and it's telling that ESPN's Joe Lunardi has six Pac-10 teams in his most recent Bracketology and has them all in comfortably --- the lowest seed is Arizona State at No. 10.

Seems now to be a foregone conclusion that some precedents will be set in the Pac-10, which has never had a team with a conference record worse than 10-8 get an at-large bid. Arizona can no longer do better than 9-9 and ASU needs a road sweep to get to 10-8. Yet if people like Lunardi can be believed, each may be getting in at 9-9, and Arizona may even have a shot at 8-10. My how times have changed in just five years --- remember that only three Pac-10 teams got invites as recently as 2004.

(Speaking of Bracketology, I love some of Lunardi's second-round matchups. Stanford-Gonzaga, a rematch of the memorable 1999 second-rounder at Key Arena? WSU-Wisconsin, with the storyline of Tony Bennett coaching against the state where his dad is a folk hero? USC-Duke?)

But I digress. On with the picks.

STANFORD AT UCLA: The game of the year in the Pac-10. UCLA clinches the outright title with a win, Stanford can stay alive with a win and put the Bruins in the position of rooting for rival USC Saturday. As Bud Withers of our staff noted Wednesday, one of the oddities of the year was both Lopez twins fouling out in the first meeting while Kevin Love wasn't whistled once, a big reason UCLA won 76-67. The teams are pretty even in a lot of statistical categories. Two where they aren't ---- shooting (UCLA is at 48.1, Stanford 42.8) and turnover margin (UCLA is plus-1.31, Stanford minus-1.38). With UCLA at home, expect those two trends to continue and key a Bruins win. UCLA 67, STANFORD 61.

ARIZONA STATE AT OREGON: With a game at OSU in the offing Saturday. ASU can all-but-clinch a tourney spot with a victory over the Ducks. Oregon needs a win to keep its faint hopes alive, but the trends aren't great for the Ducks, who are 4-8 since Jan. 13. Whole key to this one will be outside shooting. ASU's zone defense figures to lure the Ducks into shooting a lot of threes (Oregon leads the Pac-10 in three attempts with 38 more than any other team in conference play). If Oregon gets hot early, look out. Otherwise, the collars could get awfully tight. I'll side with thinking that the home court and some emotion from Oregon's seniors will sway things the way of the Ducks. OREGON 72, ASU 63.

ARIZONA AT OREGON STATE: I really didn't think OSU could actually go 0-18. But after watching the Oregon game, when twice late it was the Ducks who dove on the ground for loose balls while the Beavers stayed upright and reached, I decided there's no hope left for the Beavers. No analysis needed of this one. As much of a soap opera as Arizona may be, hard to believe they the Wildcats could lose this one. ARIZONA 82, OSU 65.

CAL AT USC: Serious rumblings that Cal's Ben Braun could be in some trouble, especially if the Bears lose out the season and finish .500, which would be the fourth time in the last five years without a winning record. One of Cal's two home wins came in the first meeting against USC when O.J. Mayo scored 34 --- USC has lost three of the four games where Mayo has score more than 30. Trojans generally assumed to be in the tournament, but one more win will clinch at least a 10-8 conference record and assure a bid. They'll get it gainst the Bears USC 77, CAL 70.

SEASON RECORD: 62-19.

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March 5, 2008 8:37 AM

Wolfinger dreaming big

Posted by Bob Condotta

I wrote today about Husky center Joe Wolfinger, who UW coach Lorenzo Romar has long maintained has legitimate NBA potential.

"He has an opportunity to play at that level because shooting like that at that size is so unique,'' Romar said yesterday.

Wolfinger doesn't shy away from such talk.

"I think I've got a good chance because I'm tall and I've got skill,'' he said. "I've just got to get more athletic and quicker feet and better on defense.''

Wolfinger is listed as a redshirt sophomore, but having missed two full seasons at the beginning of his career, he could likely earn a sixth year later. The way the process works, he can't apply for it until his fifth year, so nothing official on that would happen for a while.

But Romar notes Wolfinger's age --- he's already 22 and would be 25 by the time of a sixth-year senior season --- and isn't sure what will happen.

"He could get his last year back if he really wanted to but he may be a guy who could play these final three years and that's it, and not need his extra year,'' Romar said.

Wolfinger said he'll keep all options open.

Also today, Bud Withers has his weekly Pac-10 notebook.

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March 4, 2008 9:36 PM

Holiday persevering

Posted by Bob Condotta

Seems like maybe we've written that once before already on here this year.

But that's kind of been the theme of the season for UW freshman swingman Justin Holiday as every time he's been ready to begin making a consistent impact, something seems to happen.

In late November, after he turned in an impressive defensive performance that helped UW beat Utah and advance to the New York portion of the NIT Season Tip-off he suffered a viral infection that caused him to miss one game and knock him out of enough practices that he fell out of the rotation for a while.

When he finally got back into it, he suffered a sprained MCL as well as a sprained ankle in what he termed "a freak accident'' during practice a few days before the trip to Oregon.

Holiday said he was maneuvering for a rebound, trying to split through the pack, when he tripped over a teammate's foot (apparently, Artem Wallace's) and landed funny, suffering the injury.

"It wasn't like I jumped,'' he said. "I was just trying to go to the side and get around him.''

Tuesday, he was hoping to take as active a part of practice as he has since the injury, with an eye on possibly playing this weekend against Washington State, and at least next week in the Pac-10 Tournament.

"I'm just trying to get back into it and see what I can take and what I can't take,'' he said before practice Tuesday. "That's what we're trying to do right now.''

Holiday said he didn't think he'd be 100 percent by the Cougar game but figures he should be next week.

"I'd like to (play in the Pac-10 tournament),'' he said. "I should be ready by then.''

The illness and injuries, as well as simply adjusting to the Pac-10, have meant Holiday has played just 112 minutes in 17 games this season (he was injured too late in the year to consider redshirting).

"Everything happens for a reason,'' he said. "So I'll just take it in stride and just keep fighting.''

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March 4, 2008 4:43 PM

Latest NIT-ology includes Huskies

Posted by Bob Condotta

There's a general feeling at UW that the win at Cal Saturday went a long way toward securing a post-season bid of some sort, as it assured the Huskies will finish the regular season with at least a .500 record.

And the latest from NIT-ology appears to give some evidence to that assertion as it includes the Huskies, giving them a No. 7 seed in the bracket of 32 teams.

Here's a link to the proposed bracket.

Interesting to note as well that NIT-ology supposes that seven Pac-10 teams will get NCAA bids, including Oregon.

The wildcard aspect to the NIT is that the tournament must take regular-season conference champions that don't get into the NCAA tournament, which was one of the factors in keeping the Huskies out last season.

But UW officials feel more confident about chances at getting into the NIT this year due to the strength of the Pac-10 and what is apparently going to be a bit more of a push by the conference to get their teams in the secondary tournaments.

But if UW is left out of the NIT, there is a third alternative this year in the new CBI. The CBI will include 16 teams and while it says it will compete for the NIT for schools, seems more likely it will get the next 16 after the NIT picks its field.

Still, it means 16 more post-season opportunities, and much greater of a chance for the Huskies to get into something this year.

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March 4, 2008 4:22 PM

Brockman earns NABC honors

Posted by Bob Condotta

Washington forward Jon Brockman has been named to the District 14 First Team as named by the National Association of Basketball Coaches.

Here's the team.

As you can see, the other members of the first team are WSU's Derrick Low and Kyle Weaver, Cal's Ryan Anderson and Stanford's Brook Lopez.

Here's an explainer of the NABC teams.

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March 3, 2008 10:24 PM

Tuning out turnovers

Posted by Bob Condotta

Lost in some of the individual performances that have keyed UW's surge of late (Joe Wolfinger, Venoy Overton, Justin Dentmon) is a team stat steadily getting better --- turnover margin.

Last year, that was something harped on a lot in this space as a key reason for UW's disappointing season as the Huskies finished ninth in the conference in turnover margin at minus-1.72 (meaning UW lost 1.72 more turnovers per game than its opponent). The problem was even more pronounced in Pac-10 play as UW had a minus-2.06 turnover margin in conference games. Each of those ranked ninth in the conference ahead of only Stanford.

But those numbers have all gotten better this season. After losing just six turnovers Saturday at Cal, the Huskies are now third in the conference for the season in turnover margin at plus-1.23, behind WSU (3.03) and UCLA (2.10), and fourth in Pac-10 games only at plus-.82 (WSU, UCLA and Arizona ranking 1-2-3).

For the season, UW is losing 13.8 turnovers per game while gaining 15.12 compared to losing 15.6 and gaining 13.9 last season

That's a net gain of almost three possessions a game.

The numbers are also good in Pac-10 play as UW is losing 12.8 turnovers per game while forcing 13.6.

And when coach Lorenzo Romar says the Huskies have been "playing right'' the last seven games, turnover margin is one of the numbers to which he is referring.

In the last seven games, UW has a turnover margin of plus-2.7 per game, losing 11.8 while forcing 14.5, losing the turnover battle only once (against Stanford).

Twice in that span UW has had single-digit turnovers (six against Cal, eight against Arizona) something it managed to do only once all of last year.

Obviously, that all just means the Huskies are being more careful with the ball. One of the biggest reasons is the emergence of Overton, allowing Dentmon to play more off the ball. Dentmon led the Huskies with 96 turnovers last season, exactly three a game. This year, he has just 48, or 1.6 a game. Jon Brockman leads UW with 69 turnovers but is still down just a bit from last season (2.6 per game to 2.3). Overton is next with 59, an average of 2.03 per game

Unfortunately, none of that helps the Huskies make any more free throws.

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March 3, 2008 10:15 AM

Ranking the Pac

Posted by Bob Condotta

A week to go, and only one position is set in stone --- Oregon State at the bottom.

Everything else could still change in a season when more Pac--10 teams (nine) will win seven or more conference games for the first time since 1991 (a bizarre year when five teams went 8-10).

On with the rankings:

1, UCLA --- Kevin Love took a big step toward Player of the Year honors with his dominating performance at Arizona Sunday (25 points, 14 rebounds). If he does something similar against Brook Lopez and Stanford Thursday, the award should be his.

2, Stanford --- Trent Johnson may have locked up Coach of the Year honors by keeping the Cardinal in contention for league title until the final week.

3, USC --- Don't seem to play as well when O.J. Mayo scores big --- or maybe he just scores really big when the rest of the team isn't playing well. Can sew up NCAA bid with a win at home against Cal Thursday.

4, Washington State --- Now 0-6 against UCLA, Stanford and Arizona, 10-1 against rest of the conference. Will Cougar fans really be unhappy with an 11-7 Pac-10 finish? That would still be the second-best for WSU since 1983.

5, Arizona State --- Game at Oregon Thursday could be for an NCAA Tourney berth, though Sun Devils also have the hole card of a game at Oregon State Saturday. But Sun Devils might not want to risk being 9-9 in conference play.

6, Arizona --- It's getting a little strange in Tucson, where Lute Olson showed up for Senior Day ceremonies and there appears to be a rift brewing between Olson and Kevin O'Neill. Arizona still has a No., 25 RPI this week so getting to 9-9 in Pac-10 play will probably be good enough.

7, Washington --- 4-3 in conference since that 3-7 start. ASU loss remains a hard one to figure in that stretch, but otherwise, that's been Washington's most consistent stretch of basketball since Brandon Roy left.

8, Oregon --- Ducks avoided embarrassment in Corvallis, but even most of the Oregon players were disappointed in their play. Sweep of the Arizona schools this week a necessity to keep NCAA tourney hopes alive. Ducks are 4-8 in last 12 games, two wins coming against Oregon State.

9, Cal --- Was UW loss Ben Braun's Berkeley swansong? May depend on if Ryan Anderson decides to come back (and there are some indications he will). If so, Bears can still sell hope for next season.

10, Oregon State --- Two chances to avoid infamy, and little reason to think they will. In case you missed it, even more strange personnel goings-on in Corvallis with Sean Carter suspended and heralded transfer Daniel Deane (sitting out the year) leaving indefinitely for personal reasons. You can read about it here.


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March 2, 2008 10:25 PM

Sunday p.m. notes

Posted by Bob Condotta

After the completion of this week's games the Huskies are in eighth place, seemingly headed for a rematch with Cal, the team they beat in Berkeley Saturday, in the first round of the Pac-10 Tournament next week.

Here's a bracket for the tournament and as you can see, the winner of the 8-9 game plays the top seed the next afternoon, which at the moment would mean a game against UCLA.

The Huskies hold the tiebreaker on Cal due to the win over UCLA, but should the teams finish eighth and ninth, it really won't matter.

--- Here are the latest NCAA statistics, and the Huskies are 328 out of 328 teams in the country in free throw shooting. Yep, dead last.

--- Here are a couple of different stories on what was a tough day for UW recruit Tyreese Breshers Saturday in the California Southern Section Div. III-A title game. Breshers went 1-8 and scored four points as his Price High team lost to UCLA recruit Jrue Holiday and Campbell Hall 73-38. First is this from the LA Daily News, including a quote from Breshers. And here's a blog item from the LA Times that says Breshers was dominant early Here's a picture of Breshers trying to block a shot by Holiday, who is the younger brother of UW's Justin Holiday. And here's Breshers getting his shot blocked by Holiday.

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March 2, 2008 10:18 AM

Sunday links and picks

Posted by Bob Condotta

Back from Berkeley to a sunny morning in Seattle --- and the Huskies in seventh place in the Pac-10 standings, which would mean a first-round meeting with Oregon State in the conference tournament in two weeks if it holds.

And remember, in terms of seeding for the tournament, the Huskies currently hold the tiebreaker on Oregon due to their win over UCLA.

On to the links:

--- Our story today focused on the breakout game by center Joe Wolfinger.

--- The notebook led with an item on Spencer Hawes taking in the game and saying that he has no second thoughts about leaving early. In a couple of quotes from Hawes that didn't make the story, he said "it was definitely the best business decision but a lot of it was also about the dream of playing in the NBA. Since I was a little kid it was what I wanted to do.'' Hawes also said that "I don't see a lot of people who (think about leaving) and go back and benefit. You get nitpicked so much (by NBA scouts) that they try to cater to the NBA instead of doing what is best for you.''

--- The San Jose Mercury News says Cal faltered despite some good moments from its seniors.

--- The San Francisco Chronicle details the play late in the game where Cal could have tied it.

--- More from the Cal view.

TODAY'S PICKS

UCLA AT ARIZONA: Not quite the first-place showdown anticipated when this was set for a Sunday national TV game. This game depends mostly on which Arizona team shows up --- the one that won at WSU last week or the one that disappeared at home against USC Thursday to again fall on the brink of NCAA bubbledom. It all caused Arizona interim coach Kevin O'Neill to say Saturday that this "has been the toughest year of my coaching career.'' UCLA has won six straight against Arizona, and while you'd expect the Wildcats to give a good effort, the Bruins are just too balanced and seem to raise their game in these types of settings. UCLA 78, ARIZONA 71.

OREGON AT OREGON STATE: It's tempting to pick the Beavers, who are the first Pac-10 team ever to lose their first 15 conference games, obviously threatening to also become the first conference team to go 0-18. But the Ducks are also feeling the heat today, needing a win to keep hope alive of an NCAA bid. There are also increasing questions about the future of coach Ernie Kent, though this story in today's Oregonian includes a quote from Oregon AD Pat Kilkenny that essentially says Kent will be back next season. Beavers will play though, buoyed by what would figure to be one of its more raucous crowds of the year. But Oregon just has too much talent --- and too much at stake. OREGON 81, OSU 72.

SEASON RECORD: 60-19.

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March 1, 2008 7:34 PM

Cal post-game

Posted by Bob Condotta

Like the Huskies, I have a flight to catch tonight, so I'll give you what I can now and maybe more a little later.

My connection isn't as tight as Washington's, however. The game here tipped at 3 p.m. and the Huskies were scheduled for a 7:30 flight out of San Francisco. When Cal rallied late and overtime seemed a possibility, it only made sense that maybe those plans would go awry, since so much often has here in the Bay Area.

Instead, UW held on for a feel-good 87-84 win, and they got to the aiport in time, only to then find that they were on the same flight as the Washington State Cougars.

"We're meeting them a week earlier than planned,'' quipped one UW official, a reference to the game in Pullman next Saturday.

It will be a happy flight back for a Husky team that is playing some of its best basketball of the season.

"We're playing more the way we know we can play,'' said Jon Brockman. "It's good to see. Any team, if you could pick a time to be playing your best basketball, it's right now, in March. This is when we want to do it.''

If that sounds like Brockman still has the NCAA Tournament on his mind, you'd be right. At 16-14, the Huskies aren't going to get an at-large bid. But having beaten UCLA and played Stanford tight in Palo Alto this weekend, the Huskies think they can do some damage at the Pac-10 Tournament.

"If we can all play like that on the same night, we are a really dangerous team,'' said Brockman of performances UW got Saturday from fellow underclass big men Joe Wolfinger and Matthew Bryan-Amaning. "And guys are only going to get better.''

Wolfinger was the obvious revelation on this trip, scoring 29 points in two games here, hitting 11-16 shots and six-of-10 three-pointers. The threes were a big part of his game, but Wolfinger also finished on two shots close to the basket, the kind of thing he's struggled with in the past and which will make him only that much more of a threat.

But this was a true team effort today.

Consider:

--- UW won Saturday despite just 10 points and four rebounds from a foul-plagued Brockman, each season-lows.

--- UW had just six turnovers, and only one in the first half. That's the fewest in at least two seasons and possibly the fewest since the Huskies committed a school-record low of three in 2005 against Arizona State. It helped that Cal isn't a very good defensive team and doesn't pressure the ball much. Still, UW did a good job taking care of the ball.

--- Quincy Pondexter also had 31 points for the weekend and led UW with seven rebounds and four assists Saturday while losing just one turnover in 31 minutes. He also went hard to the hoop at one point, showing an aggression that has been missing at some times this season, landing hard on his back on a dunk attempt. He got the wind knocked out of him but returned to play.

--- Justin Dentmon continunes to play well, scoring 24 points in two games here --- 12 in each --- with three assists and no turnovers against Cal.

--- Matthew Bryan-Amaning had six points and five rebounds in 20 minutes, spending much of that time guarding Ryan Anderson, who the Huskies kept in relative check --- 19 points compared to the 33 he had in Seattle. The Huskies changed up their scheme on Anderson a bit, doing away with the trapping they used in Seattle, that too often resulted in guys not rotating quickly enough back onto Anderson and allowing him open looks.

--- Joel Smith had just two points in four minutes, but they were a critical two as he was fouled on the play by Cal's DeVon Hardin, which was his fourth at the 13:47 marl. Hardin then sat for about five minutes. "That was huge,'' Romar said.

--- Ryan Appleby had a solid game with 16 points in a team-high 35 minutes.

The big picture is a win that assures at least a .500 record by the end of the Pac-10 tournament, and a big step toward getting post-season of some kind. And at the least, regaining some momentum heading into the off-season.

UPDATE --- Should mention that Bryan-Amaning tweaked his ankle on a scrum for a rebound of a missed free throw. Romar joked that it was that play "where 15 people fell over.'' Bryan-Amaning said it's not serious.


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March 1, 2008 1:41 PM

Cal game thread

Posted by Bob Condotta

HUSKIES HANG ON --- Huskies get a big win here to assure they will not finish the regular season with a losing record. UW is now 3-5 in Pac-10 road games. Final is UW 87, Cal 84. More later.

HELPS HAVING TWO THREE-POINT SHOOTERS --- UW has made nine three-pointers, which is their second-most in Pac-10 play other than the 13 against Oregon State when Appleby made nine by himself. Wolfinger has four and Appleby four.

GAME SLOWS TO A CRAWL --- Suddenly, after all that scoring, neither team can hit a bucket. At the 3:42 mark, neither team has scored in the last three-and-a-half minutes.

CAREER-HIGH FOR WOLFINGER ---- He has 14 points, besting the 12 he had at Stanford the other night. He's hit 10-15 shots in the two games (5-5 today) and 5-9 three-pointers (3-3 today).

UW UP 63-57 WITH 11:50 TO PLAY --- A lot of weird numbers in this one so far and the strangest may be Brockman with just two rebounds. He's still on the bench with four fouls having picked up two offensive fouls in the opening four minutes of the second half.

UW PILING UP THE FOULS --- Huskies drew their ninth foul of the second half with more than 14 minutes to go, and fouls and free throws loom large in this one.

BROCKMAN OUT WITH FOUR FOULS --- At the 16:07 mark. UW will have to get some quality minutes out of MBA and Wolfinger now. Each played well in the first half, with MBA playing good defense to help hold Ryan Anderson to just four points and only three shots. But Anderson looks more aggressive to start the second half with four points already.

UW JUST ONE TURNOVER IN FIRST HALF --- Which was also a huge key to the 49 points at halftime. But UW already has three to start the second half.

UW UP 49-44 AT HALFTIME --- This was old-time UW basketball in the first half as the Huskies scored 49 points, including 16 in the last 4:16. After a little drought early, UW has hit 20-37 shots, including 6-8 three-pointers. It's the most points UW has had at the half all year, topping the 48 at Oregon State two weeks ago.

Bad news is Cal has been almost as hot, hitting 15-28 shots to stay in it.

HUSKIES FIGHT BACK --- Cal led this one 22-15 and it looked like the Huskies were on their way to one of their fallback games. But then the Huskies came back, going on an 18-5 run to take the lead. Appleby hit a long three and Dentmon had five points. It's nonw 35-29 UW with 3:30 left in the first half.

CAL OUTBOARDING HUSKIES EARLY --- Bears have a 15-8 edge with nine minutes to go in the first half, which may be a bad omen for UW.

CHRISTOPHER LABORING --- Patrick Christopher is trying to play for Cal but he seems noticably slowed with his hip injury suffered Thursday night. He was guarding Quincy Pondexter and QP called for the ball a few times but was only able to get off one shot against him so far, which he missed.

CAL SHOOTING WELL EARLY --- Bears are 5-9 and have a 10-8 lead at the first time out.

HAWES IN THE HOUSE --- Among those sitting in the UW section behind the Husky bench is Spencer Hawes, now plying his trade in nearby Sacramento.

SIVA HASN'T COMMITTED ANYWHERE --- One of you asked about a report in another paper that Franklin's Peyton Siva has committed to play Louisville. Simply put, he hasn't. In fact, as we reported earlier this week, Siva has added Texas to the list if schools he is considering, and the Longhorns are thought to be a serious player in this.

THOMAS, BRESHERS SEASONS OVER --- Start the game thread with news on two future Huskies.

First, Tyreese Breshers and Price High were hammered by Jrue Holiday and Campbell Hall in a sectional final game today. Read about it here.

Second, Isaiah Thomas and South Kent were beaten handily last night by Brewster Academy.

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March 1, 2008 10:10 AM

Saturday links, picks

Posted by Bob Condotta

We'll try to throw it all in one big post here:

--- First is my preview story today that takes a look at UW's post-season chances, which most realistically might focus most on the new CBI. I talked with Rick Giles, the president of the group organizing the CBI, and he talked highly of the chances of a team like UW. The tournament isn't being designed as a way to necessarily reward teams with great won-loss records, but to put together as entertaining an interesting a tournament as possible of the teams that are left. So I guess the sense it will consist largely of big-name schools like UW that had a few good wins along the way, but not enough to get in the other tournaments.

--- It's Cal's last home game here today and one columnist wonders if it also might be the last home game for coach Ben Braun. As the story details, Braun has three years left on his contract, but is also now looking at possibly his fourth year out of five without an NCAA tourney bid, and maybe no post-season at all.

--- The San Francisco Chronicle looks at the last game for seniors DeVon Hardin and Eric Vierneisel.

--- Here's another story on Hardin, who turned away thoughts of the NBA for a final season at Cal, a decision that hasn't turned out like he'd hoped.

--- Jon Wilner of the San Jose Mercury News takes Cal today (and he's admittedly a lot braver than I am to attempt to pick all these games against the spread. Maybe next year).

THE PICKS. ...

Speaking of which, here are my picks today:

WASHINGTON AT CAL: The Bears are 2-6 at home in Pac-10 play while the Huskies are a better road team this year than they were last season. Thursday's game indicated UW hasn't packed it in (but that Cal may have), though Husky fans have sadly seen it happen all too often this season that Washington plays well one game and like, uh, heck, the next. Still, we'll jump on the limb and assume they can put two in a row together and beat a Cal team that will be hampered by a less-than-100-percent Patrick Christopher. Also, UW coach Lorenzo Romar promises some different strategies on Ryan Anderson. The Huskies had some success with a different way of defending Brook Lopez the other night, so maybe they'll have some better luck today with Anderson, as well. WASHINGTON 73, CAL 67.

WASHINGTON STATE AT STANFORD: Cougs played one of their best games on Thursday while the Cardinal struggled more than expected against the Huskies. But maybe that was the wakeup call the Cardinal needs to get up for this one, a game Stanford has to win to set up having a chance to move into at least a tie for first place at UCLA Thursday. WSU's defense has been much better of late, but key may be on the other end. Stanford is best in the conference defending the three (32 percent in Pac-10 play) while WSU is second in hitting threes (39.6 percent). Winner of that battle wins this game. STANFORD 67, WSU 61.

USC AT ARIZONA STATE; This looks like a must-win for ASU, which is 7-8 in Pac-10 play and will finish next week on the road at the Oregon schools. USC has won three in a row and coming off a surprisingly easy win at Arizona. This one figures to be closer, but guess here is that the talented Trojans, with Daniel Hackett back in the fold, are hitting their stride and will be too much for ASU today. USC 65, ASU 59.

SEASON RECORD: 58-18.

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