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Hoops Update

AO has his review of USC vs. Cal below. I realize that we have a lot of talent on this team but it is raw talent and it will take some time to come together. I also realize that this is a very young team which also plays a part in the inconsistency we have seen this season but at some point Coach Floyd needs to find a way to get the players to overcome all of these "obstacles" and find a way to win. I certainly don't expect to play like the team across town, at least not yet, as they have wealth of depth and they have been paying together for the better part of three years so we should expect the results that we see from them. But if we are ever to get to that level we need to start playing a lot better on defense. With my limited interest/knowledge in hoops, even I can see that giving up 11 3-point shots shows that we are not making a solid effort on defense and until that changes we will have a very tough time being successful in the Pac-10 with all the high-powered offenses we have in this conference.

There has been a lot of talk about how tough the Pac-10 is as a conference and I would agree with that assessment. before last night Washington State and ucla are both in the top 5 nationally with USC, Stanford and Arizona also in the top 25. With all the talent in this conference it is going to be very tough for whoever wins the conference title to get through the NCAA Tournament unscathed because these teams are going to beat each other up.

"It's typical of most seasons that the team that can protect home court (will win the conference), and who's to say that five losses won't be enough to win the league this year?" USC coach Tim Floyd said. "The problem is, protecting home court is not going to be easy for teams because there is so much talent top to bottom and so much experience."

Washington State is 12-0. It's the first time the Cougars have gone through their nonconference schedule undefeated. But you'd be hard-pressed to find someone in the Pac-10 who feels the Cougars or any other team could remain undefeated through Pac-10 play.

UCLA (12-1) was picked as the preseason favorite, but Howland doesn't think the conference title will be decided until the first weekend in March. UCLA has won the Pac-10 the past two seasons, with three conference losses last season and four the year before.

Howland figured the Pac-10 would be this good.

"It's what I expected. I'm not surprised," Howland said. "The bottom line is that there are a lot of good players in this conference. There are a lot of veteran teams and a lot of well-coached teams. Our league did very well in the NCAA Tournament last year, and I expect it to do very well again this year. I think it will probably take 14 wins, maybe 13, to win the Pac-10 this year. I could be wrong. We won it two years ago with 14wins. It will be a conference race that will go down to the last weekend."

SC will be in the mix, though we won't be for very long if we continue to play the way did last night. I don't expect to get much respect from you know where, but what they have put together across town should set an example of where we want to be. I don't expect it to happen over night but the on again off again play needs to stop and we need to gradually get better as a team if we expect to compete in this league.

The DN has their Pac-10 preview up:

USC TROJANS

Non-conference record: 9-3.

AP ranking: 22.

Quality wins: 66-55 vs. Oklahoma.

Bad losses: 96-81 vs. Mercer.

Of note: Other defeats are to No. 3 Kansas (59-55) and No. 2 Memphis (62-58 in OT). ... Freshman G O.J. Mayo has scored in double-digits in all 12games. He's second in the Pac-10 in scoring (19.5 ppg). ... The Trojans lead the league in 3-point shooting (.411) and 3-point defense (.288).

SC played tough in the games against Kansas and Memphis and I applaud coach Floyd for taking a chance on scheduling those tough teams. It's good to cut your teeth on those sorts games but you have to come away with something that you can build on and I'm just not seeing that yet with this team.

Last season Taj Gibson was the surprise of this team, this season he has struggled to live up to his results from last season as he goes through a bit of a sophomore slump. It doesn't take much for our opponents to adjust to our play if there is no growth or consistency.

"It's a lot tougher because every team scouts very well," he said after practice on Wednesday. "No players are going to be able to do the same things they did in the early season, when they played one team one night, then another the next night.

"This league has time to scout teams and know players' skill level and which way he likes to go as far as hands, left or right. I learned that in my freshman year in the Pac-10. I got scouted real well; they always knew how to play and brought it every night. It's a real aggressive league."

Gibson (8.8 points per game, 8.2 rebounds) struggled through some rough patches in the Pac-10 last year, and this year has endured tough nights against the likes of Kansas and Memphis. But you know he's not a freshman anymore when the coach has cut you all the slack you may have had.

For all the hype surrounding Mayo and Jefferson it is key that both Hackett and Gibson use their experience of playing in the Pac-10 to help the other guys along. Right or wrong Mayo is the face of this team but Gibson and Hackett need to be the glue that brings the team together as the road gets tougher.

I don't expect to see the same type of results that we have seen lately across town but I expect us to get better and the last couple of games have shown me that we are a bit stagnant in our play. Hopefully Coach Floyd can right the ship before we get too far behind.