TV analyst Bill Walton can be funny in person, but his commentary during games can also be perplexing.
Postcards from the Pac-12, with Bracketville looming in the distance:
• A couple of weeks ago, I stopped in for Bill Walton’s 80-minute talk on the Washington campus, when he was funny (if rambling), engaging and uplifting. But as a TV analyst, he’s overly critical, and hardly a possession goes by when he’s not genuflecting to John Wooden, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar or Wooden’s Pyramid of Success.
• If Walton is constantly going to walk us down memory lane, how about some recollections of Sam Gilbert? He’s the booster from the Wooden era and beyond, who, as The Los Angeles Times once summarized after its own investigation, “helped players get cars, clothes, airline tickets and scalper’s prices for UCLA season tickets.”
• Most years, Washington fans would be cheering the idea of three Pac-12 road wins over teams with 90-or-better RPIs. But most years, the Huskies wouldn’t have a 9-6 home record, including three losses to 150-or-worse teams. No matter what happens the rest of the way, it has been a strange season.
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• It’s possible the Pac-12’s three coaches on the hottest seats — Oregon State’s Craig Robinson, Washington State’s Ken Bone and Stanford’s Johnny Dawkins — might all survive, Robinson and Bone because of long-term contracts, Dawkins because Stanford’s athletic director, Bernard Muir, has been on the job only seven months.
• If USC interim coach Bob Cantu had a chance to win the job, it might have evaporated in Sunday’s insipid performance against UCLA. Meanwhile, CBSSports.com‘s Doug Gottlieb throws out a scenario where USC attracts Pitt’s Jamie Dixon, and the possibility that three different coaches with ties to Pittsburgh — Arizona’s Sean Miller, UCLA’s Ben Howland and Arizona State’s Herb Sendek — might be interested in the Pitt opening.
• The only Oregon State fact more head-scratching than its absence from the NCAA tournament since 1990 is that OSU hasn’t reached the .500 mark in league games in 20 years. Lately, it’s not hard to understand why; Robinson’s last three teams have been 10th, 11th and 11th in field-goal percentage defense.
• Home teams are winning league games at a much less steady rate (.557) in the Pac-12 than other BCS conferences. Elsewhere: Big East, .586; Big Ten, .628; Big 12, .629; SEC .677; ACC, .679.
• If there’s a common thread in opinion of Pac-12 coaches for the epidemic of low scoring nationally, it’s rugged play in the lane. Or, as Oregon’s Dana Altman says, “I think our game’s more physical than even the NBA game.” Basketball Times notes that if the same dip in scoring over conference games takes place as it did last season after nonleague play, the average per team of about 67-plus points will be the lowest since 1951-52.
• No player in the Pac-12 gets less notice than Colorado guard Spencer Dinwiddie, the top-scoring sophomore (15.3). Dinwiddie has made more free throws (149) than all but two players in the league have attempted.
• Howland on Star Times pick Zach LaVine of Bothell, a UCLA signee: “I look at his athleticism, just how explosive and quick and long he is. He shoots it really well. His upside is really high.”
• It’s the 25th anniversary of the backboard-shattering dunk by Pitt’s Jerome Lane (“Send it in, Jerome!”). “Big Monday, national television,” said Arizona’s Miller, “it was probably one of the great plays that’s ever happened (live) on national television.” Of course, it was Miller who gave Lane the pass.
• KeyArena should be a great place for the Pac-12 women’s tournament. It’s one of the few off-campus sites on the West Coast that will have appreciable interest in more than the local team.
• Meanwhile, 80 percent of semifinal and final tickets are sold for the men’s tournament, and some 70 percent for the first- and second-day games. The Pac-12 has established a seating capacity of 13,000 for the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, where the atmosphere should be far better than at the former venue, L.A.’s Staples Center. But then, a warehouse in El Monte would have a better atmosphere than Staples Center.
Bud Withers: 206-464-8281 or firstname.lastname@example.org