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Husky Men's Basketball

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February 20, 2009 at 11:42 PM

Saturday’s picks

So I know I may be starting to sound like a broken record — for you under 30 or so, those were little black things that played music when you put them on a turntable and under a needle and they were called “broken” when they would stick and play the same part of the song over and over and over — but I can’t stop marveling at what a tight race this is for the Pac-10 regular season title.
With four or five games left, depending on the team, there are six teams within two-and-a-half games of the lead. The only recent year that really compares is 2002, when six teams finished the season within three games of the lead — all six qualifying for the NCAA Tournament. Oregon won the title that year, and about the only thing I’m sure of right now is that the Ducks won’t win it this season.
Every gameday left now will go a long way toward determining who will, however. So without further delay, here are the picks:
WASHINGTON STATE AT UCLA (Bruins by 13): Cougars kept it close last month in Pullman, losing 61-59. But they always keep it close in Pullman and lose, and then usually get blown out in Pauley. Bruins look back on track after beating the Huskies Thursday night and should roll. Cougs, meanwhile, could fall under .500 for the first time in the Tony Bennett. They are 13-13 right now. UCLA 77, WSU 62.
STANFORD AT OREGON (Cardinal by five): This may be Oregon’s best chance to win a game this season — Stanford is reeling and also 0-6 on the roaad in Pac-10 play, the only Pac-10 team not to win a road game other than the Ducks. So can the Ducks pull it off? I was just about to say yes when I looked again at the conference stats for three-point FG percentage. I thought maybe Oregon could hit enough threes to get it done. But the Ducks are actually ninth in the league in three-point percentage ahead of only Arizona State. Also, Stanford pretty much just blew out Oregon the first time, winning 77-55. Home court means something, and as I said, this seems like a game the Ducks can win. But Stanford’s simply better, so I’m going with talent over home court and desperation. STANFORD 81, OREGON 74.
CAL AT OREGON STATE (Bears by 4.5): This could be the game that just about sews up a tourney bid for the Bears, who are 20-6 overall and 9-4 in Pac-10 play. OSU, meanwhile, is 12-13 overall and hoping just to get into any tournament — and there are a lot more of them than there used to be. Beavers staged a huge rally to beat the Bears in Berkeley. But Cal seems to be on a roll again, having won four in a row, and the specter of an NCAA bid should be enough to inspire a winning effort. CAL 63, OSU 54.
WASHINGTON AT USC: (Trojans by 1.5): I’ve gone back and forth on this game, waffling like Griffey trying to decide between Braves and Mariners. On the one hand, USC is 13-1 at home this season, 5-1 in Pac-10 play, usually saving its best for the, uh, devoted fans in the Galen Center. On the other hand, the Huskies are undefeated this year on the back end of a road conference trip, all three counting as three of their best performances of the season. On the third hand (I did grow up within reach of the Hanford nuclear reactor) USC seems like a bad matchup in a lot of ways for the Huskies with all their size on the perimeter — they won’t start a player smaller than 6-5 Saturday. On the, well, fourth hand, the Huskies managed to beat USC in Seattle last month 78-73, overcoming that size with superior aggression and ability to get into the paint, shooting 40 free throws to USC’s 17 (Justin Dentmon and Isaiah Thomas combined for 25). But USC didn’t have Dwight Lewis for that game. He could create an additonal matchup problem hard for the Huskies to overcome. So another time to root for that reverse karma. USC 75, WASHINGTON 72.
SEASON RECORD: 49-17.

Comments | Topics: top 25, UCLA

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