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Posted: Monday January 11, 2010 12:32PM; Updated: Tuesday January 12, 2010 3:02PM
Seth Davis

Pac-10 may be down, but it offers fascinating conference title race

Story Highlights

No less than six teams have a legitimate chance to win the Pac-10

For Duke to be at its best, Singler, not Scheyer, needs to be its top player

My top 25 poll: Georgetown makes the biggest jump after the win over UConn

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Patrick Christopher
Many folks think Cal is the cream of the Pac-10 crop, but the Golden Bears just suffered an overtime loss to struggling UCLA.

Bashing the Pac-10 has been a sport within a sport this season, but I'm here to tell you something that may surprise you: This is going to be the most fascinating race inside any of the big six conferences.

The first reason I say this is that this thing could not be more wide open. It appears that no fewer than six of the league's 10 teams have a legitimate chance to win this thing -- and I'm not even including UCLA, which may have a little life in them yet.

Then there are the intriguing storylines to tickle our fancy. Can USC still contend for a title even though it is not eligible for the postseason? Will Arizona, which is off to a 2-2 start in the league, keep its nation's-best 25-year NCAA tournament streak alive? Inquiring minds want to know.

I realize calling a league race "wide open" is the same as calling it "mediocre," but you have to admit, the early results have been pretty wacky. Based on the first week of action, the only thing you can predict is unpredictability. Struggling UCLA clipped California in Berkeley by one point on Michael Roll's late jumper. Stanford got waxed on the road at Cal by 26 points and then swept the L.A. schools at home. Oregon, led by always-on-the-hot-seat coach Ernie Kent, sat atop the standings after the first week with a 2-0 record, but then the Ducks lost on Sunday night at home to Oregon State. That's the same Oregon State team that last week lost to Seattle by 51 points.

You can't make this stuff up.

But the main reason this league is going to be must-see TV is because everybody knows that NCAA tournament bids are going to be hard to come by. Personally, I think three bids (including the automatic) is the minimum, but it's not out of the realm of possibility that the Pac-10 only puts two teams into the tournament. That will put a much greater urgency on finishing in the top tier that you won't find in any of the other power conferences. And there's nothing more fun than watching teams play that are desperate.

So keep bashing the Pac-10 all you want. Skip their late-night games and get your sleep. I, for one, plan to drink lots of coffee and set my DVR to catch as much of the action as I can. Who would have guessed that a bunch of games between mediocre west coast teams could be so much fun to watch?

Other Hoop Thoughts

• Here's the YouTube special of the week. I dare say this has never happened in the history of basketball. And if you say I'm wrong, you better have video (hat tip to Ballin' Is A Habit):

• If everyone is saying John Wall is the runaway choice for national player of the year, why does the race for national freshman of the year feel so titillating? Texas guard Avery Bradley has to be in that mix after his best game of the season Saturday, a 29-point, nine-rebound, three-assist gem in the Longhorns' rout of Colorado.

• The best thing about Georgia guard Travis Leslie's dunk over DeMarcus Cousins is how coolly Leslie reacted. Dude looked like he had just tapped in for bogey.

• Three stats from last weekend that will raise your eyebrows: Georgetown guard Austin Freeman's 28 points in the second half against UConn alone would have topped his career high. Wisconsin guard Trevon Hughes only needed three shots to score 14 points against Purdue. Memphis scored just two field goals in the entire second half against Southern Miss but still won by two.

• Speaking of the Badgers, it's a great sign that sophomore guard Jordan Taylor had a career-high 23 points against a great defensive team like Purdue. I know Taylor can't produce like that every game, but if he can give Wisconsin a consistent scoring pop off the bench (especially while creating his own shots), it will be a game-changer for this team.

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