Arizona coach Lute Olson ended this week’s conference call with a question for the media.
"I’d like to have the media’s opinion on this: Why do we not have the league stats based on conference play rather than on the entire season?" Olson asked.
"I think it’s very unfair to compare playing a less-than-good team and giving the guy credit for those stats as opposed to playing tough competition.
"We all have to play everybody in the league, home and away. It makes no sense to me that the scoring champ and league rebounding champ is not determined with an even playing field."
The query may have been a subtle dig at Pac-10 teams whose strength of schedule is not high according to collegerpi.com. Arizona State’s schedule ranks 160th. Oregon State (224), California (113) and Stanford (110) also are low while Arizona has played the third-toughest schedule in the nation.
Olson’s question seems logical because the current system appears to compare apples to oranges.
However, in checking, the past two scoring champions, Joe Shipp of Cal and Ike Diogu of ASU, both led the league in points per game in both overall games and Pac-10 games. Last year’s rebounding champion, Cal’s Leon Powe, did the same while Phillip Ricci of Oregon State would have finished second under Olson’s proposal in 2002-03.
If Olson’s comment was directed more at Diogu — or perhaps an early plug for All-Pac-10 — they don’t hold water. Diogu’s numbers have remained remarkably consistent from nonconference to conference play — even rising slightly his freshman season. He leads the league in points and rebounding this year and would do so if nonconference games were thrown out.
Besides, we thought statistics weren’t supposed to be that important, Lute.
PINING FOR OLD MAPLE
If the 2004-05 edition of the Stanford men’s basketball team looks like it’s missing that bounce in its step, there may be a good reason.
The club is 0-3 in Pac-10 play for the first time since 1985, 6-7 overall and had its 18-game winning streak at Maples Pavilion snapped Thursday by ASU in an 81-69 decision.
It just so happens that the Cardinal’s swoon coincides with the recently completed $30 million renovation of Maples. Included in the face-lift, which was funded entirely by private and alumni donations, was a new scoreboard with four-sided video monitor, a 29,000-foot covered concourse with concessions and a new playing court, which, coincidentally, is made of maple wood.
Gone is the infamous bounce in the floor that used to rattle reporters’ laptops on press row when they tried to write. Gone is the trampoline feel that used to drive opponents crazy during action or when the school’s pine tree mascot would dance nearby.
"I liked that bounce," Sun Devils guard Jason Braxton said. "That’s what you looked forward to, coming to play at Stanford. It was kind of like playing at Pauley Pavilion. It just gave this arena something different like a homecourt advantage."
MISSING THE MARK
Washington’s diminutive point guard, Nate Robinson, has had a huge hand in the program’s remarkable turnaround.
"I think he’s definitely brought some credibility to our program and also to our conference," Huskies coach Lorenzo Romar said of the 2004 All-Pac-10 selection. "There are a lot of people across the country that are now familiar with Nate because there’s a small guy out there doing athletic things that you don’t see very often."
Lately, Robinson hasn’t been doing much. After a 2-for-9 shooting night against USC Thursday, Robinson is 9-of-31 in Pac-10 play.
During Thursday’s game against Washington, USC’s cheerleaders wore white sweaters with oranges on the front, celebrating the Trojans’ Orange Bowl victory over Oklahoma on Tuesday for the national championship.
• "My son’s the son of a coach and he’s not a very good basketball player." — Stanford coach Trent Johnson, when asked if junior swingman Dan Grunfeld has benefited from being a coach’s son (Ernie Grunfeld was a New York Knicks assistant coach before becoming the Washington Wizards president of basketball operations).
• "I call them the Duke of the West. They just continue to attack you offensively and defensively." — USC coach Jim Saia on 12th-ranked Washington.
• "I think they’re just a whole lot better than a year ago. I’d be shocked if they’re not a first-division finisher." — Lute Olson projecting ASU’s Pac-10 finish.
• Will the Pac-10 get more than last year’s paltry three teams into this year’s NCAA field? There are still 15-16 conference games left and the Pac-10 tournament, but the league’s RPI would suggest it will. The conference is currently the topranked league on collegerpi.com. Since the RPI formula was changed to its current format before the 1993-94 season, the conference that has finished first in the rankings has qualified a minimum of five teams (twice) for the NCAAs while qualifying six teams seven times and seven teams twice. The secondplace conference has qualified at least four in every year but 1999 (three, ACC) and the thirdplace conference has qualified at least five in every year but 1995 (three, Metro) and 1999 (four, Pac-10).
DID YOU KNOW?
• Arizona guard Salim Stoudamire has made 19 of his past 25 (76 percent) shots from the field and 15 of his last 19 (79 percent) 3-pointers.
• Oregon State won its Pac-10 opener for the first time since 1994-95 and is 2-0 in conference play for the first time since 1992-93.
• Beavers guard Jason Fontenet, a New Mexico transfer who had 14 points in a win over USC, played with Arizona’s Channing Frye at Phoenix St. Mary’s High School where they won a 5A state championship. OSU teammate Nick DeWitz (11.1 ppg, 6 rpg) played at Dobson.