The Pac-10 is still trying to figure it out. The conference has a disproportionate number of the nation's Young Turk coaches, had four of the first 16 players chosen in last spring's NBA draft and has all the fandom and facilities that a power conference takes for granted—and it's still sniffed at by the college basketball cognoscenti. Indeed, mindful of the maxim that advises us not to say anything unless it is something nice, we're tempted to say " Central Michigan" and leave it at that. Central Michigan is the only school that this conference's representatives have beaten in NCAA play since 1984. The Pac-10 is 1-9 in that time.
Even this season's prohibitive favorite, Arizona, lost its NCAA game last spring, at home. Coach Lute Olson's front line of Sean Elliott, Anthony Cook and Tom Tolbert figures to make amends in 1987-88, helped by the return of Steve Kerr and his reconstructed right knee. Two seasons ago Kerr had a better than four-to-one assist-to-turn-over ratio in conference play, just the kind of stat that could turn one-point defeats (the Wildcats' fate four times in 1986-87) into W's. In fact, Arizona's most significant loss was radio play-by-play man Ray Scott.
UCLA has the talent, and with feisty Reggie Miller gone, the Bruins may even have the sense to walk away from fights—they duked it out with Louisville, Oregon and Cal last season—and simply play the game. Freshman guard Gerald Madkins can play, as can floor leader Pooh Richardson and running mate Dave Immel. Though still essentially centerless, the Bruins duel endline-to-endline better than anyone in the league.
Sixteen different players have suited up in the one season that coach George Raveling has been at Southern Cal. Now he's picking from among assorted juco, Bylaw 5-1-(j), transfer and military refugees, plus high-schoolers plucked from Ohio and Florida. Such fresh talent as Anthony Pendleton, among the top 10 schoolboys two years ago, is the reason only one of last season's three returning starters, former Disneyland float driver Bob Erbst, is likely to start again.
If 6'8", 250-pound Eric Reveno, who began throwing his weight around at the end of last season, hadn't been knocked out by a spinal injury, Stanford would be picked for third. As it is, another 6'8" body, Howard Wright, will do the work up front while 6'4" Todd Lichti (see box) moves to the backcourt to make room for Andrew Vlahov, a 6'7" Aussie who's expected to contribute right away.
Steve Patterson is the answer to a trivia question: Who played center at UCLA between the reigns of Lew Alcindor and Bill Walton? Now he's the answer to another one: Who's the only Arizona State hoops coach ever to receive a multiyear contract? Now that the Sun Devils may have made sure Patterson won't jump ship, Patterson will enjoy just watching his Sun Devils jump: Arthur Thomas, 5'9", has a 46-inch vertical leap, while 6'4" juco transfer Joey Johnson does him four inches better.
Oregon State started out 18-4 last season, then fell to pieces after losing Puerto Rican center Jose Ortiz, who left to play pro ball in Spain. Coach Ralph Miller penciled in a Dutchman, Peter Centen, as Ortiz's replacement. Now that Centen has chosen to return to The Netherlands to finish school, Miller has simply plugged in another Dutchman, Johan Reinalda. Down the coast in Eugene, Oregon has Anthony Taylor, one of the league's top seniors, but after him, the Ducks' most potent weapon might be their cheerleaders. When they called Oregon State's belligerent guard Gary Payton "Hookhead" last season, he lost his cool and flung a wad of bubble gum at them.
A graduated backcourt isn't the only reason California may have to play walk-it-up. Just when forward Leonard Taylor seemed recovered from spinal stenosis, he broke his left foot. He'll most likely redshirt this season, so the rest of the Bears will be looking for rebounds from Matt Beeuwsaert, a Notre Dame transfer and former McDonald's high-school All-America.
While Washington coach Andy Russo has been busy sorting out administrative problems—a scheduled team trip to Italy over the summer had to be canceled when it ran afoul of NCAA rules—his Huskies have slipped into the second division. A player revolt sent coach Len Stevens packing for Nevada-Reno from Washington State. Brian Quinnett is the best of what's left for successor Kelvin Sampson.
" Lute Olson has been telling everyone that with Steve Kerr he'd have been 17-1," says UCLA coach Walt Hazzard. "Now he has him, and we'll see." That's a fairly charitable remark, considering the woofing that Hazzard, Olson, Russo and Cal coach Lou Campanelli, among others, have engaged in, a problem so acute that the coaches have agreed to call a truce. "Of course," says Raveling, "that doesn't mean we're going to start double-dating or anything like that."