Separation Saturday is coming in the Pac-12.
There are five contenders left for the conference’s regular season basketball title. Four of them are paired in two big games this weekend that could shape the race.
Two of the schools involved also happen to be bitter rivals.
Gaze upon the TWit-Pac TV schedule (all times Arizona/Mountain):
|Wed Jan 16||Utah||WSU||7:30 p.m.||P12N|
|Thu Jan 17||OSU||UCLA||7 p.m.||ESPNU|
|Sat Jan 19||ARIZONA||ASU||12:30 p.m.||FSN|
So the Pac-12 finally gets a couple marquee basketball games and of course they overlap. If the UA/ASU game doesn’t go five overtimes, however, we should be able to see the second half of UCLA/Oregon.
Wed. Jan. 16
Utah (8-8 / 0-4) at WSU (9-7 / 0-3)
Since a couple undefeated teams are squaring off it’s only fair that two of the remaining three fully defeated teams do battle with each other.
Colorado (11-5 / 1-3) at Washington (11-5 / 3-0)
If the top two games are Coke and Pepsi this one is RC Cola. Washington has a perfect league record and the Buffaloes still have a top-20 RPI.
Thu. Jan. 17
OSU (10-6 / 0-3) at UCLA (14-3 / 4-0)
Don’t Screw It Up game, part I. The Beavers have been the anti-Huskies, playing their first three Pac-12 games at home, and losing them all. OSU will be looking for a boost from the return of their leading rebounder and shot blocker, Eric Moreland, from suspension.
Oregon (14-2 / 3-0) at USC (7-10 / 2-2)
Don’t Screw It Up game, part II. The Trojans could play the “Win it for KO!” angle, but beating Utah by 17 didn’t help Kevin O’Neill much.
Sat. Jan. 19
ARIZONA (15-1 / 3-1) at ASU (14-3 / 3-1)
The Wildcats have the resume of a No. 1 seed. The Sun Devils have a bunch of empty cupcake wrappers. None of that will matter when the ball goes in the air at Wells Fargo Arena.
Oregon at UCLA
Two ranked teams! In the same game! In the Pac-12!! The last time it happened was March 13, 2009.
OSU at USC
USC interim coach Bob Cantu said he wants to pick up the tempo, introduce a zone and go deeper into his bench. He should have just said, “I’m going to do the exact opposite of the guy that just got fired.”
Colorado at WSU
Andre Roberson of Colorado leads the Pac-12 in rebounding, which is interesting because the Buffs have not rebounded from the loss at Arizona.
Utah at Washington
The Huskies have a few more days to fly under the radar and then they play a ranked team for five consecutive weeks.
* * *
“…this is the worst Devil team to beat Arizona since 1967…”
“Words like ‘unbelievable’ don’t seem strong enough.”
“After a month of dancing on the razor’s edge the Wildcats are now bleeding all over the floor.”
Is last year’s game in Tempe coming back to you yet?
When these two teams last met, Arizona had legitimate hopes of an NCAA tournament at-large bid. Then, on the final day of the regular season the Cats lost to a horrible – absolutely dreadful – Arizona State team. That led to scoring 51 points in the Pac-12 tournament championship game and 54 points against Bucknell in the NIT.
So the UA definitely has the revenge factor on its side.
For ASU it’s about earning respect. The Devils went 11-2 in non-conference play but their strength of schedule ranking is in triple digits. They’re 3-1 so far in the Pac-12 but the argument is they got Colorado immediately after the Sabatino Chen non-basket and they played Oregon State without Moreland.
Win this game and ASU fans won’t have to defend their team any longer. A head-to-head victory over Arizona would speak for itself.
I’m expecting a close game and here’s a stat to watch: Arizona leads the Pac-12 in team free throw shooting at 75.9%. ASU is dead last at 61.5%.
The Wildcats hope to win a conference championship but first they have to win the state championship.
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