The Pac-10 was so sure that Arizona vs. Washington was going to be a great game that they insisted every fan within the conference's geographic footprint would have to watch it. Sure, there might be a few psychos who would spend their evening with two gametracker windows open while trying to simultaneously listen to Dave Lewis and Roxy Bernstein. But those poor souls are beyond help. Everybody else would tune in to a back-and-forth battle for first place in the conference.
Unfortunately, Isaiah Thomas and the Huskies didn't get the memo, gradually pulling away from Arizona and finishing with a clinical 85-68 win at home. If there was any doubt that Thomas couldn't reproduce the type of effort he had against Cal when he faced better teams, he silenced that with another virtuoso performance. I'll admit that I was a Thomas skeptic - his talent is undeniable, but I always felt that he played a little out of control and took too many shots. Not this year. 22 points on just 10 shots, 10 assists to just one turnover, and even 6 rebounds. That's just sick. If he plays anywhere near that level the rest of the way Washington will win the Pac-10 by multiple games.
UW had their statement game at home against the team most assumed had the best shot at knocking them off. Can anybody else make a run? I'm not holding my breath after a performance like that.
Around The Pac
In which we take a look at a few of the more interesting and/or important games that happened last week
Arizona 65, Washington St. 63
It flew under the radar after Arizona lost to UW, but this game was almost as important and significantly more entertaining. WSU was fighting to stay above the muddled middle of the Pac-10 and Arizona needed a rebound victory after really struggling to compete on Thursday. They then played a game in which nothing went as you would expect. DeAngelo Casto won his individual matchup with Derrick Williams. Klay Thompson couldn't hit shots. In the end Arizona held on with a barrage of 3 pointers and what I can only assume was great defense on the best pure scorer in the Pac-10. Arizona's win means there are three teams atop the conference with 2 losses or less, while Washington St. falls into a group of five 4 loss teams.
UCLA 86, Cal 84 ; UCLA 68, Stanford 57
Last week, after UCLA swept the Oregon schools, I said that, "If UCLA can build with winnable games at home against Cal and Stanford they could still have something to play for in March." Well, they pulled it off, just barely, and with a solid non-conference win over BYU and a top 50 RPI, UCLA has revived NCAA hopes that appeared rather bleak after losing to Montana for their 4th straight loss. Perhaps the most impressive aspect of the weekend sweep was that they did it despite Josh Smith missing 3/4ths of the weekend after injuring himself halfway through Thursday's game vs. Cal.
Most of UCLA's toughest games are on the horizon, including trips to Arizona, Washington, Washington St., Cal and Stanford, so there are plenty of chances to lose momentum. But they've turned around their season and clearly positioned themselves in the 2nd tier of the conference after Washington. Now if you'll excuse me, I'll be making my Reeves Nelson and Malcolm Lee voodoo dolls.
Oregon, Oregon St. at Cal, Stanford
UCLA, USC at Arizona, Arizona St.
Washington at Washington St.
UCLA at Arizona and Washington at Washington St. are the best match-ups of the week. UCLA and Arizona will get the ESPN treatment on Thursday night, while basketball's version of the Apple Cup gets a TV spot on Sunday night. Both games will go a long way towards deciding the conference pecking order as we reach the halfway point. Meanwhile, teams like Cal, Stanford, Oregon St. and USC will all be fighting to stay above .500 in the confusing cluster in the middle.