In our attempt to bring you the most comprehensive Championship Week coverage anywhere, RTC is covering several of the conference tournaments from the sites. One of our RTC correspondents is at the Pac-10 Tournament. In addition to live-blogging select games throughout the tournament, he will post a nightly diary with his thoughts on each day’s action. Here is his submission for the championship game.
Washington 79, California 75
- Right before the game started, the Washington band got the fans going with a stirring rendition of the NCAA/CBS lead-in song… was that prescient or just lucky? I heard eight different pep bands this weekend, though, and none of the other ones did that song, so maybe they were on to something.
- This was my first experience at the Pac-10 Tournament, but as someone who has been to the ACC and SEC Tournaments before, I leave completely underwhelmed with the fan support. The Staples Center does a great job with their facilities and Los Angeles in general is an enticing destination (although not so much the downtown core), but where are all the fans? I can’t believe that there aren’t more than a couple thousand Washington and Cal fans in the SoCal metro area who can’t be bothered to buy a ticket for an afternoon of exciting basketball that may result in your team making the NCAA Tournament. I’m willing to give this year a slight pass because of the poor quality of the teams in this league, but I seriously question whether it was all that different in 2008, for example, when there were six or seven really good teams in the conference. This article written prior to the Tournament touches on some of the problems I too noticed with the choice of venue (downtown LA, not the Staples Center).
- I noticed about a half-hour before the game that Lorenzo Romar was standing alone in the tunnel area seemingly enjoying the quiet for a few moments. He was looking out onto the court, but it was clear that his mind was working to take in the moment. Coaches have a stressful job, and it was an interesting insight into how this particular one deals with the pressure.
- In the first half, Washington held Cal to 37% shooting and Jerome Randle to 4 pts. In the second half, it was 48% and 8 pts. Theo Robertson and Jamal Boykin were phenomenal (17-26 for 45 points), but the Cal starting backcourt was completely flummoxed today. Randle and Patrick Christopher combined for 6-22 shooting and 2-11 from behind the arc for a total of 23 points. The game really comes down to that. As Mike Montgomery said after the game, they didn’t hit shots they normally hit. When Cal has that kind of a night against a good team, they lose.
- Washington seemed more aggressive most of the day, as if they realized they were in a little more trouble with the Selection Committee. Quincy Pondexter (18 pts) and Isaiah Thomas (16 pts) both played under control and utilized good shot selection. It showed, as the Huskies hit 53% for the game and 94% from the line. I’m not predicting great things for this team as a #12 or #13 seed next week, but if they catch a break and play a relatively unathletic team that isn’t a gifted scoring team as well, they’ll have a chance to pull the upset.
- In the postgame presser with Mike Montgomery, I referred to Seth Davis’ comment that Cal is one of the more interesting bubble teams in some time, having won the regular season Pac-10 title with ease yet not having a single top-50 win all season long. Monty visibly bristled at the suggestion that Cal is even being talked about on the bubble. The word he used was that he would be “astounded” if Cal doesn’t make the NCAAs, and that people (Seth? me?) need to “do their homework” with respect to evaluating their losses with key players out of the lineup earlier in the year. He clearly thinks (as many Pac-10 folks do) that if you win the conference regular season title, that should be enough.
- The All-Tourney team actually had three Bears on it versus two for Washington. Jerome Randle, Theo Robertson and Jamal Boykin made it, while Quincy Pondexter and Isaiah Thomas (the MVP) were the two for UW. Michael Roll from UCLA was the other player voted on. Maybe it’s like this everywhere, but they took our sheets with two minutes remaining… what if Cal’s Randle produced a 15-point explosion in overtime? Seems like a bad way to handle that in a close game.
- So that’ll close out our trip to the Pac-10 Tournament. The championship tilt was the best game of the tournament (well, the play-in game was good too, but it was the play-in game so I don’t count it), and it probably ended up as a best-case for the league in that two teams will go dancing. The hope here is that the league improves the next couple of years so that the fans start coming back to this event and the quality of play will also end up better.