Nine games down, nine games to go for the Pac-12.
Arizona has a two-game cushion in the standings but the entire college basketball nation – nay, Universe – wants to see what the Wildcats will look like without Brandon Ashley.
TWit-Pac knows you want to see this TV schedule (all times Arizona/Mountain):
|Wed Feb 5||Stanford||California||7 p.m.||ESPN2|
|Wed Feb 5||Wash. St.||Colorado||7:30 p.m.||Pac-12 Network|
|Thu Feb 6||Wash.||Utah||7 p.m.||Pac-12 Network|
|Thu Feb 6||Oregon||ARIZONA||7 p.m.||ESPN|
|Thu Feb 6||Oregon St.||Arizona St.||9 p.m.||Fox Sports 1|
|Sat Feb 8||Oregon||Arizona St.||3 p.m.||Fox Sports 1|
|Sat Feb 8||Wash. St.||Utah||6 p.m.||Pac-12 Network|
|Sat Feb 8||UCLA||USC||8:30 p.m.||Pac-12 Network|
|Sun Feb 9||Oregon St.||ARIZONA||5 p.m.||Pac-12 Network|
|Sun Feb 9||Wash.||Colorado||6 p.m.||ESPNU|
Wed. Feb. 5
Stanford (14-7 / 5-4) at California (15-7 / 6-3)
If Cal wants any chance at a conference championship it needs to go 7-2 on the back nine. If you budget a loss on the return trip to Tucson, the Bears would have to sweep the California and mountain schools at home, win at WSU and beat either Washington or ASU on the road. That seems doable until you remember Cal lost to USC.
Washington State (9-12 / 2-7) at Colorado (16-6 / 5-4)
Five games later and Spencer Dinwiddie still leads Colorado in assists.
Thu. Feb. 6
Washington (13-9 / 5-4) at Utah (14-7 / 3-6)
Washington is one of eight Pac-12 teams with a winning conference record and one of five that are exactly 5-4. Pac-12: The Conference of .556 Winning Percentages.
Oregon (15-6 / 3-6) at ARIZONA (21-1 / 8-1)
The Ducks are in ninth place and don’t have a win against any of the eight teams above them. Now would not be the time for that to change.
Oregon State (13-8 / 5-4) at Arizona State (16-6 / 5-4)
ASU had a chance for a big road sweep last week but lost to Stanford by six. If the Devils can take care of business at home this week it would set up a very interesting game against Arizona in Tempe on Valentine’s Day.
Sat. Feb. 8
Oregon at Arizona State
Oregon has the top three free-throw shooters in the conference: Joseph Young (.892), Johnathan Lloyd (.889) and Jason Calliste (.882). You don’t want to foul anyone whose first name starts with J.
Washington State at Utah
The Cougars are second in the Pac-12 in scoring defense, allowing just 67 points per game in conference play. And that’s 10 points a game worse than Arizona.
UCLA (17-5 / 6-3) at USC (10-12 / 1-8)
(Arizona loses to Cal.) The Bruins are back in the race! (UCLA loses to OSU.) The Bruins are back out of the race!
Sun. Feb. 9
Oregon State at ARIZONA
The Beavers have proven to be tough at home (4-1 Pac-12 record) but they haven’t beaten anyone but Wazzu on the road.
Washington at Colorado
The Huskies are in the same homer boat as OSU. Since winning at ASU to start conference play Washington has won every home game and lost every game on the road.
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I expected the poll voters to take a wait-and-see approach to the Bash-less Wildcats and drop the UA to sixth or seventh in the Top 25. But instead of waiting to see if the Cats are still good the writers are waiting to see if the injury affects the team at all.
A No. 2 ranking indicates all the biggest goals – No. 1 seed in the West, top overall seed – are still on the table if Arizona can immediately return to winning. The problem is, as we discussed, these next few weeks could look like the start of a new season.
One question has already been answered: Sean Miller declared Kansas transfer Zach Peters isn’t ready to contribute this year which means Matt Korcheck will be Arizona’s first (only?) big man off the bench. It’s a prime opportunity for the Sabino High School grad to add a couple “Local boy makes good” chapters to the season’s story.
I’ll admit I was pretty down over the weekend thinking about a big seven-man team suddenly becoming a small six-man team but I’ve come back around to being excited to see what these guys can do with a helping of adversity.
It’s really good for the Cats that these next two games are in Tucson and I expect the McKale Center crowd to give the team a heart-warming reception. Hopefully the positive energy translates into the ball going through the hoop early and often for the home team. The UA will remain a defense-first squad but the game is a lot easier when you make shots.
How will Arizona respond? We won’t have to wait-and-see for much longer.
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