It's cold out there in Pullman these days. - James Snook-US PRESSWIRE
Unfortunately, the focus in the Pac-12 this week is on off-field issues rather than an undefeated week in basketball or the ascension of the Ducks to #1 in the country.
By now I'm guessing that most of you have read Marquess Wilson's open letter regarding his experiences under Mike Leach.:
My teammates and I have endured this treatment all season long. It is not 'tough love.' It is abuse. This abuse cannot be allowed to continue. I feel it is my duty to stand up and shed light on this situation by sacrificing my dreams, my education and my pride. I resign from this team.
You can listen to Mike Leach respond directly to the issue in his typically gruff (if I'm being kind) manner below (Fast forward to the 4:15 mark):
Leach's refusal to answer questions about the issue (and his rudeness in refusing to do so) really bothers me. I can hardly think of a more important, relevant issue for a reporter to ask about, and Leach implying that reporters will be removed or denied access for continuing to ask questions is just another depressing example of coaches who seem to think they don't need to be held accountable by anybody for anything.
As for Marquess Wilson's actual allegations . . . that's more complicated. Wilson is making serious, serious allegations, and without providing proof of those allegations he has had his motivations questioned. I'm always very reluctant to 'blame the victim,' but it's also true that Leach should be presumed innocent until proven guilty. As always, Jeff Nusser has a sober, well written take that accurately sums up the main issue: Leach will be permanently harmed by these allegations, no matter how true they are.
To be honest, I have a hard time drumming up sympathy for Leach, because his own words do little to engender it. Publicly, throughout the season, he's been rude, dismissive and curt seemingly with the press and with his own players. Frankly, he seems like a jerk. It never made sense that Texas Tech administrators would be so eager to get rid of a coach who was so wildly successful at such an nontraditional location . . . which is me making potentially unfair inferences. The simple matter is that Leach is doing nothing to make himself remotely sympathetic.
All I hope is that Washington State's athletic department investigates Wilson's statements as seriously as possible, and that Leach is made to answer some pointed questions to his bosses, if not the media. And I hope, in the end, Leach never abused his players by any definition of the word.
Shabazz Declared Ineligible
Last year, UCLA was done in because they just didn't get solid production from their backcourt. Jerime Anderson, Lazeric Jones, Tyler Lamb . . . UCLA's guards and wings just weren't up to the task on either end of the court. So naturally the additions of Tyler Anderson and Shabazz Muhammad (and Larry Drew and Jordan Adams) was supposed to fix some glaring holes on the roster.
If you remove perhaps the best recruit in the entire country things immediately get much much murkier. Adding to the confusion is that nobody can be sure exactly how long he'll be out, although the L.A. Times reports that he could be back in 10 games:
A prospective student-athlete who is ruled to have received more than $1,000 in impermissible benefits must repay those benefits and would be punished by being declared ineligible for 30% of a season, according to NCAA reinstatement guidelines. UCLA has a 32-game schedule, meaning the punishment would last 10 games. The Bruins' 11th game is against Prairie View A&M — about two weeks before the start of the Pac-12 Conference season.
If he is out for those 10 games he would miss some of UCLA's biggest non-conference games against Georgetown, Georgia or Indiana, and Texas. Then he would come back just in time to punish the Pac-12's computer numbers. Great.
This Week In Football
Only one football game was remotely competitive this week - and that was Oregon State/Stanford, which saw the Beavers waste 4 Stanford turnovers and a late 9 point lead, which isn't really something I'm interested in talking about. Frankly, this entire week is just a prelude to the climax of the conference season. Over the next few weeks huge matchups between ranked teams and rivalry games with major implications will fill the schedule.
And Cal won't be involved in any way, both because the Bears have long been eliminated from contention and because the schedule screwed them over so badly. For Cal fans, football season functionally ended on October 20th, and I can only hope that this confluence of bad football and bad schedules never happens again.
Next Week In Football
Washington at Colorado, 10:30 am, FX
Washington St. at Arizona St., 12:00 pm, Pac-12 Network
USC at UCLA, 12:00 pm, FOX
Stanford at Oregon, 5:00 pm, ABC
Arizona at Utah, 7:00 pm, ESPNU
Cal at Oregon State, 7:30, Pac-12 Network
I am so excited about the USC/UCLA game. at 4:00 on Saturday one fanbase will enter absolute thermonuclear meltdown, and the spectacle will be the most entertainment Cal fans will have had since Memorial's re-dedication. And then after that we get to watch Oregon run circles around Stanford! Right, Oregon? RIGHT?!?!
To be honest, I'm legitimately interested to see how Oregon's offense does against Stanford's top ranked run defense. The fact that an Oregon win would knock the Cardinal down while increasing the chance of a non-SEC title game is just gravy.
Oh yeah, and Cal's season ends blahblahsomethingsomething.
This Week In Basketball
Every single team in the Pac-12 is currently undefeated. That isn't really very impressive, but it's certainly much better than the alternative, which would have meant an embarrassing home loss for somebody. As it turned out, nobody even really came close to losing, as every game was won by at least 9 points.
Meanwhile, the NCAA appears to be running compliance the same way I took care of my vocabulary homework in high school. They issued a Shabazz decision just hours before UCLA's opening game, finally cleared USC's Omar Oraby, but will only receive partial credit on their still-outstanding assignment to decide on Oregon's Arsalan Kazemi. I'm thinking of applying for a job with the NCAA, since evidently you get paid for not actually making decisions. Sounds nice.
Next Week In Basketball
Portland State at Oregon, 6:30 pm, Pac-12 Network
CSU Fullerton at Stanford, 8:30 pm, Pac-12 Network
Pepperdine at California, 6:30 pm, Pac-12 Network
Long Beach State at USC, 6:30 pm, Pac-12 Network
Albany at Washington, 6:30 pm, Pac-12 Network
UC Irvine at UCLA, 8:30 pm, Pac-12 Network
Utah Valley at Washington St., 8:00 pm, Pac-12 Network
Alabama vs. Oregon State, 4:00 pm, ESPN2
Alcorn State at Stanford, 6:00 pm, Pac-12 Network
UTEP at Arizona, 7:00 pm, FSN
James Madison at UCLA, 8:00, Pac-12 Network
Dayton vs. Colorado, 9:30, ESPN3
California at Denver, 5:00 pm, ROOT
Sacramento State at Utah, 6:00 pm, Pac-12 Network
Washington State at Pepperdine, 7:00 pm
Vanderbilt at Oregon, 8:00 pm, Pac-12 Network
Seton Hall vs. Washington, 4:30, ESPN3
Florida A&M at Arizona State, 12:00 pm, Pac-12 Network
Belmont at Stanford, 6:00 pm, Pac-12 Network
The schedule doesn't get much stiffer, but there are a couple road games, neutral sites, and major conference competition sprinkled in amongst the cupcakes. Long Beach State is a decent early test to see if USC has recovered from last year's disaster, and Cal faces a potentially tricky trip to Denver. But if you're looking for the best games, here's what you don't want to miss:
Alabama vs. Oregon State
Dayton vs. Colorado
Vanderbilt at Oregon
Seton Hall vs. Washington
Belmont at Stanford
These five games match Pac-12 teams up against opponents that all made the NIT or better last year, and it wouldn't be a surprise to see either team win any of these five games. If our Pac-12 mates could at least go 3-2 in these games (and not suffer any truly bizarro upsets through the rest of the week) it would be another step forward as the conference gets closer to holiday invitational tournaments that will begin to shape reputations.