Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Howland Wants Pac-10 To Raise Expectations

By Bruin Basketball Report

If members of the NCAA tournament selection committee were to make their decision based upon RPI ratings released today, the Pac-10 conference would likely be represented by UCLA (11), Arizona (20), Washington (39), and California (54).

The prevailing belief with two weeks left in the regular season is the Pac-10 conference deserves, at most, four berths in the NCAA men's basketball tournament this year.

Some college basketball observers have noted the Pac-10 conference is having a down year, based primarily on the number of non-conference losses suffered by Pac-10 teams during the preseason.

However, UCLA basketball coach Ben Howland feels the Pac-10 should not only have more than four teams in the tournament this year - but every year.

"My attitude is, we should be raising our expectations," Howland said, in regards to the Pac-10 and the NCAA tournament.

"As a league, we look at it and say five teams," Howland said. "Five teams should be normal for the Pac-10. We have to raise the level of expectations for our league.”

“We should be expecting to get six a year.”, Howland continued, “I foresee our league in the next few years getting six and sometimes seven teams in the Big Dance. I believe that's real. Five should be our average. Four is a disappointment."

Yet, the best opportunity for the Pac-10 to make a case for a fifth team in this year’s tournament may have passed last week.

The Trojans were still in contention for the Pac-10 title prior to last week’s games against the Washington schools; but with star Gabe Pruitt out with a knee injury, the Trojans lost both games. USC’s sub par RPI of 105 does not help either.

Stanford had a chance to catch the eye of the NCAA selection committee when it traveled to Spokane to face No.5 Gonzaga last week. However, the Zag’s Adam Morrison hurt the Cardinal’s chances with an incredible late game shooting display. Stanford’s 76 RPI is respectable but their 12-9 overall record is not.

The last opportunity for the Pac-10 conference to send a fifth team to the NCAA tournament resides in the Pac-10 Tournament at Staples Center beginning on March 9. The winner of the Pac-10 conference tournament receives an automatic bid to the Big Dance.



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