Is Stoudamire Pac-10's second best?

By Monty Phan

Arizona Daily Wildcat

It's been a strange season in college basketball.

Two of last year's Final Four teams Florida and Duke aren't even ranked, which in all likelihood means they won't even make the NCAA Tournament. One of them, Arizona, has lost two games at home for the first time since the 1985-86 season.

And should he keep the current pace, Damon Stoudamire could become the first player in Pacific 10 Conference history to lead the league in both scoring and assists.

So what's so strange about that? Not only will he probably not get the Wooden Award as the country's top player, but he may not even be voted the best player in the conference.

After a weekend in which Stoudamire completed a 16-0 career record against the schools from Oregon his home state and recorded his first career triple-double, the senior guard may be peaking at just the right time, and in the process, making things tough for voters. Trouble is, so is UCLA's Ed O'Bannon.

"I would be disappointed with (leading the Pac-10 in points and assists but not getting player of the year)," Stoudamire said. "It's not really about individual things. I will be somewhat disappointed if I kept leading the conference in both of those categories and didn't win player of the year."

Besides Stoudamire, other leading contenders for national player of the year are O'Bannon, Maryland's Joe Smith, Michigan State's Shawn Respert and Massachusetts' Lou Roe.

The Departing of Marty: The Wildcats' 12th man, junior Marty Barmentloo, recently had a meeting with UA coach Lute Olson and announced his departure from the team. The transfer from Littlehampton, South Australia, came to Arizona to work on his engineering degree, and went to Olson three weeks ago to inform him he will be heading back Down Under.

"He's going to go back after the spring semester," Olson said. "He's made arrangements with the Adelaide 76ers. We were initially going to wait, but word leaked out and we don't want any confusion."

Olson said Barmentloo will be honored with the seniors at the Arizona State game March 11, the Wildcats' last home game of the season.

Three Plus Seven Equals Four?: With three games left, Olson said it's time to narrow the rotation down to a regular seven if Arizona hopes to repeat last year's Final Four season.

"We're trying to get down to a fairly solid seven," Olson said. "It's crunch time now, so it's not experimentation time. With three games left and the playoffs, this is not the experimental time of the year."

Those seven include starting guards Stoudamire and Reggie Geary, centers Joseph Blair and Ben Davis, starting forward Ray Owes and swingmen Miles Simon and Corey Williams.

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