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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Coaches mixed on tourney

    Lute Olson hasn’t changed his opinion on the Pacific 10 Conference Tournament.

    “”I’m too old to change,”” he said when asked about the topic after the ASU game Feb. 25.

    Long an adversary of the notion of playing extra games against league opponents, head coach Olson believes players miss additional class time, and teams may wear down with the long Pac-10 schedule.

    “”I think it’s asinine that two teams are going to have to play 21 games against league opponents. I think it wears teams down going into the NCAA Tournament,”” he said Monday. “”I know all leagues have to face this other than the Ivy League. Maybe they are a little bit smarter than us.””

    If the tournament does continue, Olson would like to see two things:

    – The regular season schedule condensed to either 14 or 16 games, like the Big Ten Conference. The Big Ten has 11 teams that play 16 conference games to the Pac-10’s 18.

    “”We are going to continue the tournament, and I think it behooves our conference to go to a 16-game schedule so we don’t have to start in December,”” he said.

    – Move the tournament around to five different locations.

    But some Pac-10 head coaches don’t share the first sentiment.

    Oregon’s Ernie Kent, Stanford’s Trent Johnson and UCLA’s Ben Howland have no qualms about playing the extra games, while Washington’s Lorenzo Romar, California’s Ben Braun, Washington State’s Tony Bennett and USC’s Tim Floyd see both positives and negatives in the current Pac-10 format.

    The Pac-10 is in a league of its own, as it is the only “”Power Conference”” to have 10 teams.

    “”On one given year, let’s say a Washington State wins the Pac-10 Championship and that year they don’t have to play UCLA or only play them once. I’m very uncomfortable with that,”” said Kent, whose No. 4 seed Ducks play Arizona in the Pac-10 Tournament quarterfinals tomorrow.

    Bennett was a Big Ten assistant coach in the Big Ten for his father, Dick, and saw firsthand the lighter schedule. But the Big Ten has an extra team, and so would have to play 20 regular-season games to play a round-robin schedule.

    “”Having 18 games and the tournament is a little more than most conferences, but that’s the beauty of the Pac-10 is that you play every team twice,”” said Bennett, who admitted he liked the tournament concept. “”If you go to a 16, a lot of it has to do with the draw that you get.””

    Olson said some of his players will miss half of their 1-2 p.m. classes today to make the flight to Los Angeles, as well as classes tomorrow and Friday.

    “”I’m sure there are other schools, probably based on their travel, that are going to have to miss three days,”” he said. “”I think we’re talking out of both sides of our mouth when we say we should not have our players miss any more school.””

    Aside from the Ivy League, every conference has a postseason tournament, the winner of which gets an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. When the Pac-10 Tournament was brought back in 2002 by an 8-2 vote of athletic directors (the tournament was on a trial basis from 1987-1990), Arizona and Stanford were the only foes.

    Braun, who’s in his 11th year at Cal, said he goes back and forth on his opinion of the Pac-10 Tournament every year. This year, he likes it because it gives his team a chance to sneak into the NCAAs, but when teams are seeded No. 1 or No. 2 in conference, their coaches tend to dislike it, he said.

    “”I think that the league schedule is OK, but when you have to have a tournament on top it, it becomes a little taxing,”” he said.

    Howland, whose Bruins own the No. 1 seed this year and were a No. 1 last season, favors the tournament but has been a proponent of the 16-game schedule.

    “”There’s a lot of excitement surrounding the Pac-10 Tournament this year because the league is so good,”” he said.

    “”I think that the tradition and history of this tournament will build and really become something special over the course of time as you’re starting to see it already here in the last couple years,”” he added, “”and that’s really largely due to the fact that there’s so many good teams and good players in this tournament, and that makes it really exciting.””

    But Howland said the coaches have tried to fight the battle to shorten the schedule and lost to the athletic directors.

    USC will also play close to home, and Floyd, who likes the tournament because it provides memories for the players and gives teams a chance to play into the NCAA Tournament, is not a fan of the lighter regular-season schedule.

    “”I think it waters it down,”” he said. “”I can’t imagine not having some of the rivalry games that we have in this league.””

    Howland said he would like to see the tournament stay in Los Angeles, but the majority of coaches would like to see the tournament move around. Olson’s proposal involves five sites: Phoenix, Los Angeles, Portland, Ore., Seattle and the Bay Area.

    For now, the Pac-10 Tournament, which is broadcast on L.A.-based Fox Sports Net (CBS does the championship game), isn’t going anywhere.

    “”These are 18- to 20-year-old guys. My goodness, they got a tough life now,”” Johnson said sarcastically. “”Playing in one of the premier conferences in the country, going to some of the neatest cities in the country and playing basketball, so I don’t know about a schedule wearing them down.””

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