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Its the Cardinal womens tournament to lose

Ducks have best shot at upset if they face Stanford in the final

The Stanford Invitational, otherwise known as the Pac-10 women's basketball tournament, will start today and end Monday night at McArthur Court in Eugene.

Bring your Trib to the event and watch the following:

The Cardinal (28-1), paced by forwards Nicole Powell and Lindsey Yamasaki, have won 20 consecutive games. Stanford has been the only team, men's or women's, to cruise through the conference season 18-0 Ñ this year, and in 1989, 1996 and 1997.

However, the playing field has been leveled somewhat. Yamasaki, the former Oregon City star, will miss the Pacific-10 Conference Tournament after undergoing an appendectomy Ñ by scope Ñ on Tuesday. She's expected to play in the NCAA Tournament, starting either March 15 or 16.

Yamasaki led the Cardinal with 17.4 points per game, and Powell averaged 15.9 points, 9.3 rebounds and 6.1 assists.

A recipe to beat Stanford? Tennessee won 68-62 on Dec. 16, forcing the Cardinal into 3-for-7 shooting and four turnovers in the final six minutes, 38 percent shooting overall (Yamasaki 5 of 16) and 18 turnovers. Stanford also missed nine of 20 free throws. Then again, it was Tennessee.

The odds-on favorite to give No. 2-ranked Stanford its best game: Oregon, if they meet in the Pac-10 final. The Cardinal beat the Ducks 77-72 at Mac Court earlier this season. Add some playoff intensity, another packed Mac Court crowd, and who knows? Maybe the Ducks could get as close as one or two points.

Seventh-seeded Oregon must beat Washington State and then Washington to get to the semis against either Arizona or Arizona State Ñ who swept the Ducks in the regular season. Fifth-seed Oregon State has a tougher road, facing fourth-seeded USC first and probably Stanford next. Ouch. Good luck, ladies.

Oregon's Shaquala Williams, who averaged a Pac-10 high 18.4 points per league game, has to shoot well, and the Ducks have to get some scoring from the frontcourt.

OSU's Felicia Ragland was the top overall scorer in the Pac-10 at 20 points per game. However, she shot 40 percent from the field. Fellow guard Leilani Estavan ranks second behind Powell in Pac-10 assists (5.6) and leads the league in assist/turnover ratio (2.4/1).

Take away lopsided losses to Stanford, and one to Washington, and the Beavers haven't lost a Pac-10 game by more than six points.

The semis are scheduled for 12:30 p.m. and 3 p.m. Sunday, the final at 7:30 p.m. Monday.

Richardson reaction

Three of Oregon's four major college men's coaches are black. What do they think of Arkansas coach Nolan Richardson's outburst against media and fans, hinting that they were racist against him?

'I've never experienced anything like that, firsthand or seen it,' says the University of Portland's Michael Holton. 'Not to say it doesn't exist. It was obviously uncomfortable (watching Richardson), not for racial reasons, but because a distinguished coach felt pressure to elicit that kind of response.'

Holton says he disagreed with the thinking behind Richardson's comment that he had 'earned the right' to have an off season.

'In this business, we all understand the bottom line occurs every night in the form of a stat sheet,' Holton says. 'We accept that. When you don't have a successful season, you're subject to criticism.'

Richardson was reacting to criticism about his recruiting Ñ he has often been at the forefront of arguing against what the Black Coaches Association calls discriminatory NCAA academic standards Ñ and he has limited the media's access to him.

Oregon State coach Ritchie McKay says he avoids dwelling on criticism by reading newspapers 'very little. It was advice I got as a young coach, and it's worked well for me.'

Oregon coach Ernie Kent opted not to talk about the Richardson situation.

Pilots' plans

Holton's 6-23 Pilots take on 20-7 Pepperdine in the West Coast Conference tournament on Saturday. UP was 0-2 against the Waves in the regular season.

'We gotta rebound better and guard them better,' Holton says. 'I thought their dribble penetration created a lot of problems for us. We've also got to make shots. The bad thing is what happens to us when we don't.'

Center Coky Rochin was named all-WCC, and wing Casey Frandsen made honorable mention. Holton has high hopes for the small-town Frandsen, a sophomore who averages 19 points per game.

'We will upgrade some positions, but he'll stay,' Holton says. 'He makes them from distance and gets his shots off quickly. A player with those dimensions plays.'

Holton has been combing the Los Angeles area for players and has come away with verbal commitments from Eugene 'Pooh' Jeter, a 5-8 point guard from Gardena's Serra High, and 6-5 wing Donald Wilson from L.A.'s Dorsey High. 'Right-away impact guys,' he says.

Make your plans

Here's some information to keep your hardworking travel agent busy. Until Sunday, March 10, the Duck men don't know their destination for the NCAA tourney. Take your pick from these regional sites: South Ñ Greenville, S.C., Dallas. East Ð Washington, D.C., Pittsburgh. Midwest Ñ Chicago, St. Louis. West Ñ Albuquerque, N.M., Sacramento, Calif.

Pray it'll be Sacramento. You can drive there and not be at the mercy of the airlines and airport security.

Latest RPI

The Ducks were leading the Pac-10 going into this week's games at USC and UCLA, but six other West Coast teams ranked above them in the Ratings Percentage Index (RPI), based on results and strength of schedule.

The 'power ratings' help determine the field of 65 for the NCAA Tournament. The latest, of note: Kansas (1), Duke (2), Arizona (8), UCLA (22), Gonzaga (24), Cal (25), USC (28), Stanford (40), Oregon (42), Pepperdine (52) and Arizona State (83).

The Pac-10 should get six teams into the NCAAs for the first time, and Arizona State may squeeze in as well. At least one reputable online source says the Ducks might get as high as a No. 3 seed, depending on their performance in the Pac-10 tournament.

All-league

Portland's Boomer Brazzle, a junior at Pepperdine, has been named one of 10 all-WCC players. He's averaging 11.2 points and 4.9 rebounds and shooting 49 percent. No surprise that Gonzaga's Dan Dickau was named player of the year, leading the league in scoring with 21 per game.

NOTES: When Dickau, of Brush Prairie, Wash., was deciding on colleges, he came closer to attending Portland than Gonzaga. His final choices were Washington, Portland and Pepperdine, and he chose the Huskies in order to play for Bob Bender and in the Pac-10. Then he bolted from UW and Bender after two seasons. Had Dickau chosen to stay home and play in front of family and friends, what could have been on the Bluff? É

Concordia has started its search for a full-time women's coach. Miriam Jenkins, a teacher and counselor at Beaumont Middle School, served as head coach on an interim basis last year, leading the Cavs to 20 wins. She would make less coaching at Concordia full time than she makes from Portland Public Schools. ... Warner Pacific had a tough year, but the Knights' Shawna Damon was named Cascade Conference women's freshman of the year. Damon, who is from Newberg, ranked third in the league with 15.3 points per game. É

A recent Trib shorted the Portland State men. The Vikings were 10-15 entering this week's games and are shooting for their third Big Sky Conference men's tournament berth in four years. The first two years after reinstituting basketball, PSU wasn't eligible for the Big Sky tourney. ... PSU's Jeb Ivey has made 47 of 48 free throws, including a school-record 33 in a row. He's shooting .559 on 3-pointers in conference play (38 of 68). É

The PSU women can improve to 10-3 at home by beating Northern Arizona and Sacramento State. I like their chances against Sac State (0-25). ... Oregon State coach Ritchie McKay wants to get his foot in the door at Jefferson High by recruiting Curtis Lincoln. But can he pry Thomas Gardner away from Kansas coach Roy Williams? ... The Warner Pacific men will play Walla Walla College at 7:30 p.m. Saturday for a berth in the National Christian College Athletic Association tournament, set for Boiling Springs, N.C.