Mike Montgomery was asked on today’s Pac-10 coaches teleconference how — after years of directing high-powered Stanford teams in much stronger Pac-10 seasons — it feels to have a first-place team that isn’t getting much love in the projected NCAA Tournament brackets.
“I’m not worried about mock (brackets). The Pac-10 has taken a pretty good beating. People got on the bandwagon pretty early that (the league) isn’t any good. That’s been the theme pretty consistently,” he said.
“If we can win the conference, which would be a tremendous accomplishment for us, whatever happens happens. I’m not going to worry too much about that. The NCAA talk obviously dominates, always has. We haven’t won a championship here in 50 years. I think that would be a worthy goal.”
He then was asked if the Pac-10 has gotten a bad rap for being so weak this season.
“I think we lost some games early. I think people generally look at the Pac-10 that are not knowledgeable,” he said. “We’re not on national television, per se. That is, not everybody can watch us everytime they turn on a game (on ESPN), so you have to kind of seek us out.
“I think a lot of people view the Pac-10 as Arizona or UCLA, the two teams that for most of the years dominanted. And you’ve got to throw in a plug for Stanford — we were in that mix for a numbner of years as well. But when UCLA’s not good, I think people then just tend to disregard the league because of their name and what they’ve been. They aren’t as good this year.
“A lot of the (league’s) losses early were to teams we probably shouldn’t have lost to. Some of those games, people had different sets of circumstances in terms of players available to them. It’s very competitive as far as I can see right now.I think it’s good basketball. I’m not going to sit here and concern myself too much as far as what other people’s perception is.”
Finally, he was asked if there are ways that demonstrate teams in the league have improved since the non-conference schedule.
“If you look at every team, ourselves included, you’ve got some additions to rosters and health issues. Everybody seems to have some kids who weren’t available to them early on. For us, we didn’t have our roster,” said Montgomery, referring to injuries that kept Theo Robertson, Jorge Gutierrez and Markhuri Sander-Frison out for multiple games. If you look at (Mike) Gerrity joining USC at a time when (Alex) Stepheson was down early . . . several teams had kids who had injury issues.
“The league’s not as deep as it has been — that’s for sure. When everybody started to get their rosters back intact, at least we became much more competitive. Does that mean we’re top-10 teams? No. It just means it’s much more competitive and better basketball.”