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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Solidification weekend

    Jawann McClellan stares down forward Quincy Pondexter in an 84-69 win over Washington in McKale Center on Jan. 26. McClellan will play professionally in Belgium next season.
    Jawann McClellan stares down forward Quincy Pondexter in an 84-69 win over Washington in McKale Center on Jan. 26. McClellan will play professionally in Belgium next season.

    Arizona at Washington

    The Arizona men’s basketball team enters play this week with a 16-9 overall record, 6-6 Pacific 10 Conference mark, the nation’s No. 17 Ratings Percentage Index ranking and the No. 1 strength of schedule rating.

    When the Wildcats take the court at Washington (14-12, 5-8 Pac-10) tonight at 9, they will also be playing for their 23 straight NCAA Tournament appearances and 20 straight 20-win seasons, both of which would be threatened if the team does not at least split this weekend.

    “”You do want to win 20 games and keep the record going and make the NCAA Tournament because you don’t want to be a part of the team that broke the streak of course,”” said UA guard Jawann McClellan. “”But we really can’t worry about that right now because to be honest with you 18 wins will get us in right now.””

    The Arizona program would likely rest a little easier if it knew for a fact that would be the case, but history dictates that no Pac-10 team has ever gotten in with even a 9-9 league record – something that is expected to happen this year – whereas just two more wins would put the Wildcats at 18-14 and 8-10 in the league, along with a loss in the Pac-10 Tournament.

    McClellan could be right when considering the plight of the 2001 Georgia squad that got in with a 16-14 record and the same No. 1 strength of schedule rating that the Wildcats possess.

    “”If we would have beaten Stanford, I think we would have been virtually assured,”” said UA interim head coach Kevin O’Neill.

    “”I feel if we

    We know that this is a big task for us, we know that this is a huge weekend for us, and I think all the guys are mentally prepared.

    – Chase Budinger,
    forward

    win two or three more games we have a great chance to be in the NCAA Tournament with our résumé, but I really don’t know.””

    McClellan has bigger plans in mind, pointing out Arizona has played the toughest schedule in arguably the nation’s toughest league. Last year Oregon entered the conference tournament as the No. 4 seed and ended up getting a No. 3 seed in the NCAA Tournament, where they advanced to the Elite Eight.

    “”We can be just like that, just get hot at the right time,”” McClellan said. “”I’m not really worried about us making the tournament or not, it’s just about getting enough wins to help our seed.””

    Winning against Washington would be a good place to start – the Wildcats have beaten the Huskies four of the last five times and twice in a row in Seattle.

    McClellan said the team can’t take much from last year’s success in Bank of America Arena, a game in which four Wildcats scored 20 points, the team shot 76.2 percent in the second half and McClellan tied what was then a career high with 22 points off six 3s.

    “”We all were just clicking,”” McClellan said. “”We’ve always played good up there. It’s going to be a tough place to play, but it’s a fun place to play.””

    UA forward Chase Budinger said his team can draw confidence from its outing against the Huskies on Jan. 26 in McKale Center, a game in which the Wildcats led by as much as 26.

    Arizona enjoyed its best scoring output in Pac-10 play in that contest and shot 62.2 percent, including 59.1 percent from long range. The Wildcats’ big three clicked on all cylinders in that game, with Budinger, guard Jerryd Bayless and forward Jordan Hill combining for 67 points on 64.7 percent shooting.

    “”Everybody played well, we played as a team, we had good chemistry against them,”” Budinger said. “”We know what these teams are all about, we’ve just got to approach the games like we did when they came here and try to just have the same game plan.””

    O’Neill said he knows things will be tougher for the Wildcats this time around than during the sweep in Tucson, but he doesn’t think the previous success has any bearing on this weekend.

    With five teams separated by one-half game between Nos. 4-8 in the league, the UA players know they just need to take advantage of any winnable games.

    “”Say that we win both games, we’ll be in third place in the Pac-10 (if No. 17 Washington State loses to ASU),”” Budinger said.

    “”So we know that this is a big task for us, we know that this is a huge weekend for us, and I think all the guys are mentally prepared and we’re going to have a lot of confidence.””

    And 1

    UA recruit Brandon Jennings has been named to the McDonald’s All-American team, making him the 16th future Wildcat to earn such a distinction, including the fifth in the last six years.

    ESPN.com ranks Jennings as the nation’s top player, while Rivals.com puts him at No. 8 overall and No. 3 at the point guard position.

    The McDonald’s All-American Game will take place March 26 at 6:30 p.m. on ESPN.


    BREAKDOWN

    Tale of the tape: Arizona at Washington

    Guards

    Although Ryan Appleby hit nine 3s in his last game, no Husky can come close to matching the kind of tear Jerryd Bayless has been on lately.

    Advantage: Arizona

    Forwards/Center

    Jon Brockman is dominating the Pac-10 at a clip of 16.8 points and 12 boards per game in conference play, providing the kind of consistency the Wildcats don’t always get from Jordan Hill.

    Advantage: Washington

    Intangibles

    With a brutal schedule the rest of the way, the Wildcats know how important it is take advantage of winnable games, especially in a place like Seattle where the team has enjoyed success the past two seasons.

    Advantage: Arizona

    Prediction

    UA interim head coach Kevin O’Neill made the fairly obvious point that Arizona’s offense depends on making shots. After shooting 62.2 percent in the first meeting against a defense that allows 45.0 percent shooting, the Wildcats’ offense will click well enough for a win.

    Arizona 78, Washington 71

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