Pac-10 Basketball: A Season of Surprises

Lew WrightSenior Writer IMarch 15, 2009

This afternoon the NCAA will formally issue invitations to universities across the nation for their basketball teams to participate in the crowning jewel of all college sports.

The 2009 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament is the pinnacle of collegiate sports competitions.

At least half of the Pac-10 conference teams will receive an invitation to The Big Dance.  And do I dare say that the Pac-10 could have more than five teams in the tournament?

On the heels of a tremendous season of Pac-10 basketball, here’s a fair warning:

Expect the unexpected.


Way back in November, stretching the boundaries of anyone’s memory, few visionaries issued expectations that accounted for the Pac-10's recent success.

Here’s just a few of the surprises in the Pac-10 regular season and tournament play:

For the first time in over two generations, Washington Husky fans were cheering about an outright Pac-10 conference basketball championship.

Oregon State went from a doormat by losing every conference game last season to a very respectable 7-11 with an unheralded head man in coach Craig Robinson.

UCLA and USC were replacing last season’s freshmen stars, Kevin Love and OJ Mayo, with a pair of highly-touted young men who were expected to fill those shoes.

But it was the freshman for the Huskies, Isaiah Thomas, who earned the honor of Top First-Year Player.

The Pac-10 Tournament Finals featured two teams that had yet to win the tournament title.

No team had ever made it through the Pac-10 Tournament as a No. 6 seed to win it all. The USC Trojans earned that place in history yesterday.

WSU was 1-51 against UCLA in Pauley Pavilion. A few years back, coach Dick Bennett caught the Bruins napping on a Saturday afternoon and established their first win at UCLA.

This season his son, coach Tony Bennett, led the Cougars to a second win in the most unlikely way. WSU yielded 81 points to UCLA and still came away with a win.

Despite the surprise retirement of the dean of Pac-10 coaches, Lute Olsen, Arizona rallied for a solid season of play under interim coach Russ Pennell.

Despite an outstanding record of accomplishment at the University of Oregon, many voices across Duck Nation are crying for the ousting of coach Ernie Kent.

Have they forgotten that just a few years back Kent was Pac-10 Coach of the Year? Have Duck fans noticed that Oregon had the second youngest roster in the conference?

Coach Mike Montgomery returned to the coaching ranks of the Pac-10 by taking over the California basketball program.

With last season’s best player heading off to the NBA, few expected the Bears to finish tied for third ahead of Arizona, USC, and WSU. Seems that many forgot just how great a college coach Montgomery was and still is.

This has been an outstanding season of men’s basketball for the universities that make up the Pac-10 conference.

There’s more to come as well.

Postseason tournament play is just around the corner.

What might you expect from the Pac-10 teams heading off to tournament competition?

Expect the unexpected.


Follow Lew Wright on Twitter: cougarlew