Oregon State coach Jay John describes the best collegiate point guards this way: 'They get their teammates in the flow, and they create a tremendous amount of relaxation among the other four guys on the floor, and the coach, when that happens.'

John, who coached Damon Stoudamire and Jason Gardner at Arizona, had Oregon's Luke Ridnour in mind when he said that. Ridnour had 18 points, nine assists, six rebounds and one steal in Saturday's 80-63 win over OSU, but you never quite realized he had stuck the knife into the Beavers until the end.

It was one of those quiet performances that coaches rave about.

'He did it in such a rhythmic way. Took all his shots in rhythm,' Oregon's Ernie Kent says. 'A great teaching tape for young kids right there. It was totally by his feel for the game.'

Ridnour entered Saturday's game second in the Pacific-10 Conference in scoring (19.3 points per game), first in assists (6.4), second in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.79-to-1), fourth in free-throw percentage (.860), fifth in steals (1.86) and eighth in 3-pointers made (2.2).

The Pac-10 player of the year honor will come down to Ridnour, Arizona State's Ike Diogu and Arizona's Jason Gardner and Luke Walton, with some consideration given to each of Cal's Big Three and OSU's Philip Ricci.

Some coaches and writers will pick the best player on the best team (Gardner or Walton). Others will pick the player who made the most significant impact (Diogu) or the best double-double guy (Ricci). I've always adhered to the philosophy of, if you take the player out of the lineup, how much would the team plummet?

It's my guess that Oregon, 17-6 overall and 7-5 in the Pac-10, would struggle to be .500 without Ridnour.

'They've got a pro point guard,' John says, 'and you make a mistake, he makes you pay. Boom.'

Do the math

Just for fun, let's calculate how much the Ducks would be scoring if they only shot 3-pointers (which they shoot at will, anyway) or only 2-pointers, which often seems like the second option. After all, Saturday's game proved that the Ducks sometimes can get the job done both ways.

The facts: Oregon is shooting .466 overall, .394 from 3-point land and .510 on 2-pointers. And they average 63 shots per game.

If the Ducks shot only 3-pointers, they would average 74.5 points.

If the Ducks shot only 2-pointers, they would average 64.3 points.

So, there you have it. Shoot away, boys.

'We've got so many weapons, it's a good shot for us,' Ridnour says.

Then again, 'we can go to the Final Four by not shooting that many 'threes,' ' he says. You read it here first.

Doesn't conventional wisdom say that good teams defend, rebound and score inside in big games? Oregon hasn't proved anything yet.

NOTES: Lewis & Clark, 10-4 among Northwest Conference men, faces an uphill battle to make the league playoffs. Whitworth leads at 11-3, Willamette is 10-3 and Linfield is 7-6. Lewis & Clark needs to win one of its two road games, at Whitman or Whitworth this weekend, to clinch the NWC's third playoff spot. If Linfield wins its next three games Ñ against George Fox, Pacific and Pacific Lutheran, all winnable Ñ and L&C drops its two road games (the Pioneers beat Whitman and Whitworth at home in overtime earlier in the year), Linfield gets the No. 3 spot. The Wildcats and Pioneers split regular-season meetings, but Linfield won a nonleague game in December.

Men's standings in the Cascade Conference entering the week: Oregon Tech (24-4, 12-4), Cascade (22-7, 11-5), Concordia (18-8, 11-5), Albertson (17-12, 10-6) and Warner Pacific (20-10, 9-7). Cascade beat Concordia 74-68 last week, led by Matt Evers' 17 points and 11 rebounds and Tevis Jones' 21 points and seven boards. Concordia beat Warner Pacific 67-60, as Concordia's Keith Childs had 18 points and 11 rebounds to offset Demarcus Best's 23 points.

Say goodbye to UO's bid to get a medical hardship for junior center Cathrine Kraayeveld, who returned Saturday after missing 13 games because of a staph infection in her knee. She played 23 minutes in a 68-58 win over Oregon State, getting seven points, nine rebounds and two blocks.

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