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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Winning the only antidote to Pac-10

    Arizona forward Jordan Hill shoots the ball over Stanford forward Brook Lopez in the Wildcats 67-66 loss to the Cardinal. The Wildcats are tied for fifth in a jumbled-up Pac-10 race.
    Arizona forward Jordan Hill shoots the ball over Stanford forward Brook Lopez in the Wildcats’ 67-66 loss to the Cardinal. The Wildcats are tied for fifth in a jumbled-up Pac-10 race.

    Schwartz on Sports

    It’s not difficult to make an argument that the Pacific 10 Conference is packed with quality teams from Nos. 3-9 in the league, but this stat may say it best: With two weeks left in the regular season a scenario still exists in which seven teams tie for third.

    And with the way this unpredictable season has gone, who would bet against it?

    A mere three games separate third-place Washington State and Oregon and Washington, who are tied for eighth and ninth place.

    The Arizona men’s basketball team finds itself smack dab in the middle of all the madness as it is tied for fifth with ASU with a 7-7 conference mark, 1 1/2 games behind the Cougars and 1 1/2 games ahead of the Ducks and Huskies.

    “”The Pac-10 is just ridiculous,”” said UA forward Chase Budinger. “”Anybody can beat anybody. I’ve never seen this before from one of the power conferences.””

    It may have surprised fans that the Wildcats laid an egg against a Washington squad that entered Thursday’s matchup 5-8 in the conference before taking care of then-No. 17 Washington State, who entered Saturday’s contest 9-5.

    But if the Wildcats have been consistent at anything this year it’s splitting homestands and road trips, as the team has not been swept during a weekend and has only swept the Washington homestand, while losing both games on separate weeks to the Sun Devils.

    That could make fans confident Arizona will at least do that over the next two weeks to secure a 9-9 league record, which most experts expect would assure the Wildcats of an NCAA Tournament berth.

    But nothing’s certain in a year in which the Wildcats have followed a Devils loss with a win the next time out against that team and vice versa in eight of the teams’ last nine conference games with the only similar result being blowout losses at No. 4 UCLA , a rare model for consistent winning in the league along with No. 8 Stanford “”It’s a crazy year in the Pac-10,”” said UA guard Jawann McClellan.

    Last week McClellan said he thought Arizona would make the NCAA Tournament with 18 wins based on its Rating Percentage Iidex (currently No. 16) and its schedule (No. 1), but he said Saturday’s win at the Cougars – who rank No. 22 in the RPI – should pay big dividends because you never know when East Coast Bias could rear its ugly head.

    McClellan said “”of course you get nervous a little bit”” after a stinker like the Husky game, the same feeling as the rest of the Wildcat nation, adding he doesn’t want to think about the possibility of his squad ending the program’s streaks of 23 NCAA Tournament appearances and twenty 20-win seasons, although it’s in the back of his head.

    “”We’ve still got to like our chances,”” McClellan said, “”but you never know about the committee.””

    Arizona would feel even more comfortable with a split this weekend, something that likely would put the team in the big dance considering there’s a game at 0-15 Oregon State yet to be played, which should be an easy win with the Beavers having lost their last three by an average of 33.7 points per game.

    The McKale Center crowd should be rocking this weekend with both Thursday’s game against USC and Sunday’s against UCLA already sold out, according to Zona Zoo director David Roost.

    A win over USC would be critical because that would give the Wildcats the tiebreaker over the Trojans, as well as the Cougars, while tying them with USC for at least fourth for the time being.

    On the other hand, ninth place isn’t out of the realm of possibility if Arizona chokes down the stretch.

    With scenarios so abundant in the final two weeks, the Wildcats know they can only worry about one thing: Just win, baby.

    – Michael Schwartz is a journalism senior. He can be reached at sports@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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