Sunday, January 25, 2009

Pay Attention To Washington In The Pac-10

Washington 86, #11 UCLA 75
This has got to be the highest confidence level for the Washington program since Brandon Roy left a few years ago. You could tell watching this game how long that the fans and players had been looking forward to this battle for Pac-10 supremacy. And remember, it was these two teams that entered the day tied for first in the conference at 5-1. Washington has developed a great inside-out combo of Jon Brockman and freshman Isaiah Thomas. They also have developed more of a bench than I thought they'd have when the season began. I still think UCLA and Arizona State are the two best teams in the conference, but Washington really legitimizes their start to the season with this huge win. The key now is not having a letdown, as they head on the road for four straight games (Arizona, Arizona State, California, Stanford). If they are going to make a run at winning the conference, they've got to win at least two of those four games. UCLA, meanwhile, needs to figure out what their starting lineup is, because they seem to have a different identity every night. Is the go-to player going to be Darren Collison or Josh Shipp? Is James Keefe ever going to get back the minutes he's been losing to Nikola Dragovic lately? And what role exactly is Michael Roll supposed to be playing? There are a lot of questions to be answered if UCLA is going to make a run at another 1 seed and yet another Final Four.

#5 Oklahoma 95, #23 Baylor 76
This game wasn't even as close as the final score might suggest. Oklahoma was up 58-31 at halftime, and just put it on cruise control in the second half. I've been very impressed with Oklahoma's play, and it's worth noting that they'd be undefeated if it weren't for a fluke loss to Arkansas. At this point, the only question with them seems to be whether a 1 seed or a 2 seed is in their future. There are more questions for a Baylor team that has been pretty inconsistent this season. They do have moments where they look like a 3 or a 4 seed, but they also have games (like this one) where they look like a 10-12 seed. I'd say they're more likely to be in the 5-9 seed range, but you never know with these guys. Life is always a rollercoaster when you root for Baylor basketball.

UNLV 75, Utah 65
This was a very important battle for Mountain West supremacy, as well as at-large positioning. Utah's resume will be a conundrum all season long because of that loss to Division II Southwest Baptist that doesn't show up on any of the popular computer rankings. They are still in the thick of things at 3-2 in the Mountain West, but they've got to find a way to finish in the top two in the conference standings if they're going to get an at-large. I just don't think that the out-of-conference resume is good enough. UNLV has a little bit more slack with the wins over Louisville and Arizona, and without that Division II loss complicating things. They need to get to 11-5 to have a strong Tournament resume, with a 12-4 record probably being enough to lock up a bid. They are currently 4-2. So they're in good shape for a Tournament bid at this point, but are far away from actually locking anything up.

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