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NCAAB: The Dean's List: Cooler than cool

NCAAB: The Dean's List: Cooler than cool

The Dean's List: Cooler than cool

Bordering on 30 years old is a scary and confusing place for a man to be.

You're not only teetering on the verge of full-blown adulthood but things that were cool just don't cut it anymore.

Your CD rack looks like the playlist for VH1 Classic, your jersey collection contains such ghosts as Glenn Robinson, Anfernee Hardaway and Harold Miner and any movie reference you make outside your circle of close friends gets raised eyebrows and pity chuckles.

I'll admit I'm starting to fall behind the times, but when did it become uncool to like the Pac-10?

Saying the Pacific-10 is a solid league is like listening to Styx.

Try it.

Roll down your car windows and blast "Too Much Time On My Hands" as you creep down the avenue. Now, write a column praising the Pac-10. Notice anything similar?

The college basketball pundits stamped the conference with the dreaded “down year” label at the beginning of the season, fueling magazines and posting forums to use such words as “soft”, “weak” and “SEC-like” when describing their disdain for the league.

Well, I like Styx and I like the Pac-10.

Being a night owl and last-chance-for-romance sports bettor, I've sat through numerous Pac-10 contests and marveled at the league's talent. With every sleepless evening, I've watched the conference evolve. Sure, at the start of the year the Pac-10 looked a little thin with most of its notables heading to the pros.

Washington State is back to rebuilding, Stanford lost its twin towers, Lute Olson is gone from Arizona and overall, there just isn't as many blue chippers filling those gaps. Hell, the Pac-10's best recruit opted for overseas instead.

But the conference has grown in leaps and bounds since league play began. The Pac-10 ranks fifth in the nation in strength with a non-conference winning percentage over 75 percent. It's stronger than both the Big 12 and Big Ten, both of which rank above it according to collective RPI.

The conference is also proving profitable with Arizona State, Stanford, Cal and Washington handing out money like the economic stimulus package. These Pac-10 schools have a combined 57-30 ATS mark.

The emergence of California and Washington as conference contenders has the Pac-10 looking like a six tournament-team league rather than the predicted four bids in the preseason. Arizona State and Arizona are playing the best basketball in the nation while UCLA, the Pac-10's sure thing, is tumbling down the standings. But the selection committee wouldn't dare omit the Bruins from the tournament, even if they lost all their remaining scheduled contests.

The Southern Cal Trojans are the league's bubble team after losing three straight games on the road. They have a promising closing slate but lack worthwhile wins in both conference and non-conference play.

Southern Cal has to win the Pac-10 tourney to have a shot at the field of 65 and, in all fairness, it could. The Trojans have a stellar lineup featuring freshman stud DeMar DeRozan and junior Dwight Lewis.

The rest of the Pac-10 also boasts quality performers.

The Bruins have lottery picks in Darren Collison and Josh Shipp, Cal has marquee talent four-players deep, the Wildcats rock Chase Budinger and Jordan Hill, freshman Isaiah Thomas and senior Justin Dentmon are deadly scorers for UW and Arizona State's James Harden is the best shooting guard in college basketball. So much for that lack of standout players everyone was bitching about.

If liking the Pac-10, especially around tourney time, isn't what all the cool college hoop heads are doing, then I guess I'm just one of the nerds.

One of the very rich and very smart nerds. Now crank up the Styx.

Falling short

Being the classic romantic that I am, I figured what better way to spend Valentine's Day with my sweetheart than take in one of college basketball's most hated rivalries? I surprised the Mrs. with a trip to upstate New York to watch Syracuse host Big East foe Georgetown Saturday afternoon.

While I expected to hear some jeers towards the visiting Hoyas and officiating crew, the majority of choice four-letter words spouting from the mouths of Orange faithful were saved for the boys in white. As Syracuse coughed up an 8-point lead in the final moments of regulation, you could sense a season's worth of frustration exuding from the stands as if it were holding up the roof of the Carrier Dome.

The fans were tired of falling short. The Orange were just outside of the Top 25 when the season began and expected to compete in the Big East. They got hopes up with big non-conference wins over Memphis, Kansas and Florida but fell on their face as the season played out.

As much as Cuse fans hate Cuse, there are other programs out there leaving a worst taste in the mouths of backers.

Tennessee Volunteers (10-11-1 ATS)

The Vols were supposed to tread water in the SEC with talents like Tyler Smith and J.P. Prince making up for the loss of key scorers. But it wasn't just scoring that walked out the door. Tennessee lost its poise on defense and as much as coach Bruce Pearl wants to press, the Vols don't have the attitude to do it. They're still the most talented SEC program – on paper – and with Pearl pushing them, they could come back from the dead in the SEC tournament and NCAA.

Texas Longhorns (9-12-0 ATS)

Just replace that bright orange with that familiar burnt orange and the Horns are in the same boat as the Vols. A so-called down year in the Big 12 left Texas vying with Oklahoma for the conference's top spot. Again, on paper the Horns look like an Elite Eight program but on the court they've been run over by underrated foes like Kansas State, Nebraska and Missouri. So much for a down year.

Georgetown Hoyas (6-12-1 ATS)

From the beginning of the season I warned anyone that would listen about the Hoyas. You can't take the 7-foot center piece of the Princeton offense out of the equation and expect the same results. Georgetown was supposed to super charge its offense with a quicker lineup. But the ball movement was terribly slow Saturday and it wasn't until the Hoyas went tiny in the final minutes that they started to produce.

Wake Forest Demon Deacons (11-8-0 ATS)

Wake Forest has come back to earth after an insane start to conference play. The Deacs took wins over Duke, Clemson and UNC but have had trouble winning in opposing gyms. They've dropped four of their last seven games, with three of those losses away from Winston-Salem. Wake Forest finishes with three of six games on the road including a trip to Cameron Indoor. It is just 4-4 ATS on the road and allows 10 points more per game as a visitor.

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