Saturday, January 31, 2009

Decision Saturday Looming in Pac-10

Welcome to the most important Saturday of the Pac-10 season.

By the end of today, all 10 teams in the conference will have played, and around 11:30 PM, we're all going to have a much clearer picture of what's going to happen through the rest of the conference season.

It's very rare that every single game on a conference schedule on any given day carries some sort of actual meaning, and as I perused game previews and trends this morning, it's pretty clear to me that Saturday, January 31 is going to be a pivotal one in the Pacific-10.

The day starts in the Old Pueblo 40 minutes from now as Washington State takes on Arizona on CBS at 11. Both of these teams are coming off upset wins on Thursday; WSU obviously taking down the Sun Devils while the UofA hung 106 on frontrunning Washington. With each team under .500 in conference play and hovering in the bottom half of the standings, this will prove to be a bubble buster for each team's fledgling chances of getting into the NCAA Tournament. A loss for each could prove to be disastrous in the long run. 

At 1:30, the Bruins hope for a home court sweep of the Bay Area as Stanford faces UCLA at Pauley Pavilion on ABC. After heartrending losses at home to Arizona State and on the road in Seattle (where the Bruins are as successful as the kid with braces on prom night). UCLA grabbed a convincing win on Thursday over streaking Cal. Combined with Washington and ASU's losses on Thursday, a win here for the Bruins throw them right back in the race for 1st in the Pac-10. As for Stanford, they've lost four of six since their 11-2 start and desperately need a win on the road today to try and right the ship before the season is lost.

Of course, then we have the big one. Washington visits Arizona State in a battle of 1st and 2nd in the conference. We all know what the stakes are for ASU...there's a huge difference at the halfway point between 6-3 and 5-4. A win also puts them at least into a tie with UCLA for 1st in the conference as well. There's also the necessity to get up off the mat after getting flattened and stomped on by Wazzou on Thursday. For Washington, today is another chance for them to prove they actually do belong in the upper echelon of the conference. It's certain that no one expected the Huskies to be this much of a contender at this point in the season and for that matter, still have their doubters. A win over the Sun Devils on the road will go a long way to cementing them as a serious threat.

In the game with the least bearing yet is still interesting for some reason, Oregon goes to Oregon State at 5:30. Oregon is dreadful and a loss today drops them to 0-9 to start Pac-10 play for the first time since 1992-93 (Fun Fact: Antoine Stoudamire, a cousin ofperennial dumbass Damon Stoudamire, started for Oregon in that miserable year). However, they've won four straight in the Civil War series, so they've got that going for them, which is nice. For the Beavers, they've already surprised everyone by actually winning basketball games this year against teams that arent Cal State Bakersfield and have a chance in finishing the first half of their schedule with a respectable 4-5 record. Nice job, Barack's half-brother!

Finally, the nightcap sees two bubble teams duke it out as California plays USC at the Galen Center. USC barely eked out a win over tenacious Stanford on Thursday night and a win would convince me (if no one else) that they're a legit tournament bid contender. They could also certainly use the win for their record as well; the second half of their schedule includes road games at UCLA, Arizona, ASU, Washington and Washington State. California has been a great story so far this year and a win today puts them certainly in the top four of the conference for the rest of the season.

As for me, I'm pulling doubleheader duty today, as I'll be taking in Washington/ASU at Wells Fargo Arena and then gunning Herbie halfway to Los Angeles to catch America's sweetheart Jochen Hecht and the Buffalo Sabres take on the Phoenix Coyotes. If I'm not too tired tonight, I'll have a recap of today's action tonight.

If I'm deleriously tired, you might end up with a Sabres/Coyotes recap. Either way, prepare yourself for both.

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