Thanks to all of you for taking a look at the first installment of Three-Point Play in 2010. A lot of basketball has taken place since our last column, so let’s take a look at some of the more notable developments.

1. The Pac-10 is pathetic.

Not a single team in the Pac-10 is ranked. Every team has at least five losses. In conference play, every team has either two or three losses already. Storied UCLA, which made three straight Final Fours from 2006-2008, is 7-10 with losses to Cal State-Fullerton, Portland and Long Beach State. Oregon State, which was hyped in this column as a pre-season sleeper, turned in one of the poorest displays of basketball this year with a 51-point loss at home to Seattle (yes, they have a university there, and no, their basketball team is not at all good). This is the same Oregon State team that lost its season opener by 24 points to Texas A&M . Corpus Christi. And yet the Beavers probably have as good a shot as any team in the Pac-10 to win the conference title.

Some basketball pundits are speculating that the Pac-10 may not receive a single at-large bid in the NCAA tournament this year. If that happens, as Sports Illustrated’s Andy Glockner notes, the Pac-10 would become the first BCS conference in the 65-team era to achieve this dubious distinction.

If any team from this atrocious conference is going to make some noise, it will likely have to be Washington. Despite a very poor defense and a lack of balance on offense, the Huskies feature two stars in Quincy Pondexter and Isaiah Thomas. Not surprisingly, no other team in the disappointing league can match that.

2. Jamie Dixon is one heck of a coach.

While Syracuse has shocked many people by playing at a national championship-caliber level throughout the season, Pittsburgh’s success has arguably been even more surprising. Much of the credit surely must go to the Panthers’ coach, Jamie Dixon. Despite the fact that elite recruits more often choose Connecticut, Louisville, Georgetown or Syracuse, Dixon has consistently kept the Panthers at or near the top of the Big East since his tenure began in 2003. In the last six seasons, Pittsburgh has made the NCAA tournament each time and has won at least 25 games five times.

This season may be Dixon’s most impressive accomplishment yet, as Pittsburgh has started 15-3 despite losing its three star players – DeJuan Blair, Sam Young and Levance Fields – last off-season. Pitt’s defense has yet to allow 80 points in a game, and it held the explosive Syracuse offense to 72 points at the Carrier Dome. While the Panthers may not have a player on the level of a Young or a Blair, they do feature a balanced scoring attack led by sharpshooter Ashton Gibbs and hard-nosed guard Brad Wanamaker.

Pittsburgh’s emergence gives the Big East five elite teams (the others being Villanova, Syracuse, West Virginia and Georgetown) that are all capable of making a deep run in March. And no coach in the league has done more with less than Dixon has.

3. For Georgetown, it’s the guards, stupid.

Since the disappointing loss to Old Dominion at McDonough Arena, Georgetown has rebounded nicely and won six of its last eight games, including wins at Pittsburgh and at home against Connecticut. In addition, the two Hoyas’ losses during this span came in games that went down to the wire at Villanova and at Marquette, both very tough places to play. The most notable development of this stretch has been the explosion of junior guards Chris Wright and Austin Freeman.

Both have begun to play like elite scorers, with Freeman averaging 19.6 points per game in the last eight games and Wright putting up a healthy 18.8 points per contest. Freeman’s emergence has been particularly unexpected, as in his first 73 career games at Georgetown, only once did he score more than 20 points in a game. In his last eight games, he has done it four times. His situation is very similar to that of Wright, who had scored 20 points or more in a game twice in his first 56 career games, but has also achieved the feat four times in the last eight games.

If these two can continue playing at this level, there will only be a handful of teams in the country who can match the trio of Wright, Freeman and Greg Monroe – an advantage that would bode well for Georgetown come tourney time.

Parimal Garg is a junior in the College. Three-Point Play typically appears in every other Tuesday edition of Hoya Sports.”

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