It is no longer controversial to point out that first-rate basketball on the West Coast has all but ceased to exist.
The Pacific-10 does not have a single team worthy of mention among the top 40 in the country, and the only western team worth even mentioning among the elite -- and even that is questionable -- is Nevada-Las Vegas.
But now other questions are being asked: Was basketball on the West Coast ever any good and, more important, can it ever compete with the East?
One person who wonders is CBS commentator Billy Packer. "You look at UCLA during their dominant period and they were great, no doubt," Packer said. "But each year they would rip through their league and, in those days, only had to play two games to get to the Final Four. Usually the first one was a breather. That certainly helped them.
"Who out there was ever very good? Bob Boyd had a couple of teams at Southern California, and that was about it. Now, with the East so dominant, I wonder when or if the Pac-10 can become competitive."
Packer's points are well-taken. UCLA used to get a lot of the California talent when John Wooden was coach. Now, even though there are still a number of very good players there, many go east.
This year, 6-foot-10 Scott Williams, perhaps the best player in the West, already has committed to North Carolina. Chris Munk, a top 6-8 forward, wanted to go to Stanford, but academic troubles may keep him out of there and land him at Georgetown or Villanova. How much would John Williams, the best freshman in the country last year at Louisiana State, have helped either UCLA or USC if he had stayed home in Los Angeles?
Several excellent coaches have come into the league recently: Lute Olson at Arizona, Lou Campanelli at California and Tom Davis at Stanford. But in four years, Davis has become so frustrated he reportedly is looking to come back to the East. When the Arizona State job was open this summer, that school, with a gorgeous campus and lots of money available, couldn't find a top coach willing to move. Steve Patterson finally got the job on an interim basis.
It becomes a vicious cycle: the best players want to play for the best teams. Right now, the best teams are in the East and the star players want to play for North Carolina, Georgetown and other glamour teams there.
Former Maryland assistant George Raveling has his team playing excellent basketball at Iowa. The Hawkeyes are 6-3 in the Big Ten (16-5 overall) and tied for second place after blasting Indiana and Ohio State last week.
Raveling caught a lot of heat in 1984 when, in his first season, Iowa was 13-15 after being a preseason pick to win the Big Ten. Now, with Roy Marble one of the most underrated freshmen in the country, the Hawkeyes are a quick and improving team.
Raveling remains Raveling.
The sign on the glass doors of his office reveals that this is where "George Raveling, Educator," can be found. Underneath his title are the names of Raveling's three assistants. They are -- what else -- "assistant educators."
Raveling also is three books away from owning every book written on basketball registered with the Library of Congress.
One final note on former Charles G. Driesell assistants: Dave Pritchett, the man who helped bring such players as Mo Howard, Steve Sheppard and Brad Davis to College Park (not to mention Moses Malone for a couple of weeks) is back in the business after an eight-year absence.
Pritchett, who once rented seven cars in a single day on the recruiting trail, has joined former Kansas coach Ted Owens at Oral Roberts. The two, judging by the Titans' 70-48 loss to Butler in Indianapolis last Monday, have a massive job to do.
Oral Roberts (6-14) was burned for 28 points by a 5-foot-5 guard on a 5-11 team. But there are six transfers or redshirts ready to play next season, and don't be shocked if Oral Roberts rises from the bottom to the top of the Midwestern Cities Conference in a hurry.
The best rookie coaching jobs in the country (not counting head coaches who switched jobs) are being done by Mitch Buonaguro at Fairfield and Pete Gillen at Xavier. Buonaguro, Rollie Massimino's top assistant for eight years at Villanova, is 15-5 with a team that was 11-17 a year ago and Gillen is 16-3 with a team that was 16-13.
Both were left with veteran teams but have obviously taken them to new levels.
Surprise team of the year? It has to be Bradley. Dick Versace, reportedly in trouble a year ago after going 17-13, has his team at 22-1, including two victories on length-of-the-court passes that produced winning shots at the buzzer by 6-5 Hersey Hawkins.
The Upset Pick is reeling. In a week full of upsets, The Pick went for Richmond over Virginia Tech. The Gobblers won, 71-67, and the record is a real turkey: 4-7. It is now February. It is now time to get serious. Nevada-Las Vegas will strike a blow for the West (and The Pick) by beating Memphis State on Saturday.