Feb. 23, 2006
Look at the Pac-10, and you'll see a number of teams battling for NCAA Tournament berths.
Arizona has made the tournament 21 straight years. For a while this season, however, the Wildcats were a question mark to extend that streak to 22. Lute Olson should feel like a million bucks, knowing he's had that consistency. He finds a way to get his clubs to play well in big games, and last weekend's win at Stanford went a long way in helping Arizona get closer to a 22nd straight trip. The Wildcats have a solid RPI and my Vitale Bald Dome Index (VBDI) says Arizona will make it to the big dance again.
Olson deserves a salute if he can get that 22nd straight trip to the Big Dance, the longest active run in the sport.
Then there is California, and despite the stunning home loss to Arizona State last weekend, this team is a contender that will make some noise come tourney time. Currently tied for first in the Pac-10, the Golden Bears are led by forward Leon Powe. There is no doubt that without injuries, he would be a legitimate candidate for national player of the year honors.
I see UCLA, California, Arizona and Washington making the field of 65. The Bruins are coming off a loss to USC last Sunday. I told you a long time ago that Tim Floyd was going to build a winner with the Trojans. He will have USC back in the national spotlight when he gets his own players and a new facility opens. That will help recruiting. Wins over UCLA, North Carolina and Stanford help establish credibility for the future.
The Washington Huskies will be dangerous after stumbling with a three-game losing streak in late January and early February. Coach Lorenzo Romar's club features one of the league's best players in Brandon Roy.
I feel Stanford will need to make a magical late run to have a shot at the big dance. The home loss to Arizona was costly. There was an opportunity in the close loss at Gonzaga, and falling short on a national stage was a difference-maker. A win there could have helped the Cardinal move onto the tourney for a 12th straight year. Plus, early losses to UC-Davis, Montana and UC-Irvine were costly for coach Trent Johnson's squad.
Dick Vitale coached the Pistons and the University of Detroit before broadcasting ESPN's first college basketball game in 1979. Send a question for Vitale for possible use on ESPNEWS.