Too much right in front of us to look back at this point . . .
– At 5-foot-8, Jerome Randle is the shortest Pac-10 Player of the Year since the league began giving the award in 1975-76. Just don’t tell him that. (Arizona’s Damon Stoudamire, the 1995 co-winner, was listed at 5-10, probably an inch shorter; Oregon’s Terrell Brandon, the ’91 winner, was 5-11).
– Could Landry Fields have won this award? Absolutely. Should he have won? Depends on how you define it: Best performance or most important player on best team? My guess is the coaches were split along those lines, with apparently more of them favoring the guy whose team won.
– My take: Fields was dynamite, but his team finished in a tie for eighth place. Not his fault, but . . . how much farther could they have dropped without him? Randle also was very good, and his team won a conference title for the first time since Ike was wrapping up his presidency.
– Congratulations to all the award winners. Don’t be surprised if Jorge Gutierrez leaps from all-defensive team to first-team all-Pac-10 a year from now.
– Finally, a Pac-10 tournament with some drama: Without much question, Cal is into the NCAA field. But everyone else has work to do. Should be intense games with very little coasting.
– Perhaps no game looms larger than potential Friday semifinal between Arizona State and Washington. The Huskies may need to win that game to get in, and ASU will at least be thinking that.
– How much can the Bears help their NCAA seeding at the Pac-10s? If they win it all, I’m guessing they climb to No. 5. Provided they win a game or two, they can be a No. 6 or 7. If they lose to the Oregon-WSU winner, figure they’re back in that dreaded 8-9 game with a No. 1 seed looming in the next round.
– Speaking of Oregon vs. WSU . . . how bad will the Wednesday night crowd for that one? A single-game session involving the league’s two worst teams, both far from home, and no L.A. team in the building. Pay no attention to the announced crowd, because that’s likely to include tickets sold in the four-day tournament package. The real live body count at Staples Center that night? How could it be more than 2,000?
– Who will Cal play on Thursday afternoon? I figure it will be the Ducks. They’ve won three of four (including the Cougars) and WSU has dropped six of seven. Plus, Oregon’s players seem bent on going as far as they can with embattled coach Ernie Kent. Good for them. The warm feeling lasts until about 4:45 p.m. on Thursday.
– Who will win it? I’m going with Washington, for two reasons: 1) They have the best depth, and that’s significant when you’re playing three days in a row, and 2) they are the most desperate of the teams with a legitimate chance to grab the title.