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Losses look bad on Pac-12 resume

Anthony Brown, center, and Stanford conceded more than 100 points in a loss to BYU. (Associated Press)
Anthony Brown, center, and Stanford conceded more than 100 points in a loss to BYU. (Associated Press)

Friday: This was supposed to be the year the Pac-12 returned to national basketball prominence. Thus far, it hasn’t worked out that way.

Yes, I know how good the University of Arizona is. The sixth-ranked Wildcats defeated San Diego State last night and that’s a good thing for a rejuvenated Pac-12. But conferences are defined by their losses as much as their wins and the Pac-12 has suffered a couple of resume-killers already this season.

Case in point, Oregon State losing to a MEAC team, Coppin State. At home. Case in point, Stanford giving up more than 100 points and losing to BYU. At home. And, final case in point, Washington playing like it had never seen size or dribble penetration before, losing to UC Irvine last night. At home.

OK, BYU is a good team that is probably underrated nationally. But the Cardinal played as if they thought defense wasn’t important. It is.

As the Huskies found out last night. Remember, this is a UC Irvine team that was winless in two games. Again, a game a top conference shouldn’t lose. Which makes me believe the Pac-12’s depth is just too shallow as of yet. If it is, then it is too soon to proclaim the conference has returned to the heights of five or six years ago.

Wednesday: I spent the entire day watching college basketball and I came to a couple conclusions.

These new rules are going to be good for the game. But for now, they are a bit disconcerting. The rough start, and the cacophony of complaints about them, will take some patience getting through. If the powers-that-be and their officials stand their ground, keep enforcing them the way they are written, the long-term effect will be good for the game.

However, there has to be a couple of adjustments made. One thing I’ve already noticed is the players have adjusted on the offensive end. In fact, they are taking advantage of them, and there is one adjustment that needs to be outlawed quickly. I can’t remember how many times yesterday I saw a player drive with his off-hand (the one not dribbling the ball) extended, warding off the defender like a football stiff-arm. If the defensive player cannot put a hand on a driver, then the driver should not be allowed to use his hands either. More than once I saw an offensive player drive, put his hand out to control the defender, the defender make contact with it and the defender whistled for a foul. That has to change.

And while we are talking about contact, I’m still not convinced arm bars (putting your forearm on the opponent) need to be off limits in post play. We were taught back in the day to use our legs to control the post, keeping our hands up but trying to move the player with our thighs. Then someone realized if that contact was OK, what’s the difference between a knee in a leg and an arm bar in a back? Contact is contact, right?

Well now we seem to be back to using the legs again. An arm bar is a way for the defender to keep contact, but not actually control (to the extent grabbing with the hands controls someone) the post player. Good offensive post players welcomed arm bars and used them to their advantage, especially if the defender began to lean and lose balance. Hands are one thing. Arm bars are different. They should be allowed in the post.

Tuesday: The optimism of what- hasn’t-happened-yet always trumps the pessimism of another losing season. So when college basketball season begins around here, do people lose interest in football?

If by “college basketball season,” you mean “Gonzaga Bulldogs” and, if by “football,” you mean “WSU Cougars,” then I guess the answer is yes.

Now, I’m only speaking from a Spokane perspective, but September and October around here are dominated by Cougars football. The signs are everywhere. You can’t walk into a gas station and not see a Cougars schedule. But more importantly just check out the folks around town. The kids are wearing WSU T-shirts, their parents’ golf shirts sport Cougars logos.

But as the weather cools (and the losses mount), so does the ardor for Wazzu. The Zags signs start popping up. The sweatshirts are more likely to have Gonzaga across the front than Washington State.

If the Cougars should fail to win a couple more games and spend another bowl season at home, Spokanites won’t freeze. They always have their GU gear to keep them warm.


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