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Pac-12 Confidential

Bud Withers offers an inside look at the Pac-12 Conference and the national college scene.

January 16, 2013 at 11:28 AM

Huskies’ road start constitutes a broader bit of history . . .

You probably know already that the Washington men’s basketball team accomplished something it hadn’t since 1912: Win three games on the road to begin conference play.

Here’s a bit more perspective: The feat is so unusual, it’s only been done one other time in Pac-12/10 play in the past 25 years.

I pored through Pac-12 press guides (minus Colorado and Utah, the two newbies) for the past quarter-century. According to my research, UCLA’s 2008-09 team that went 26-9 is the only other one in that time-frame to begin league play with three straight road victories (the Bruins’ came over the Oregon schools and USC).

It’s a bit of a quirky stat, of course, in that few teams begin with three road games. You don’t qualify if your first three are peppered with any home games. So the very best teams of the last quarter-century are disqualified if they didn’t start on the road with three.

Those would include Stanford’s 2001 team (31-3) and Arizona’s ’03 squad (28-4), each of which ran the table on the road in the league. Both went all the way to the NCAA Elite Eight before losing.

More perspective on Washington’s road start: Only two other Husky teams in that quarter-century opened with three straight road wins broken by home dates – the 2009 team that went 26-9 and won an NCAA game before being eliminated by Purdue in Portland; and Bob Bender’s 1998 team that finished 20-10 and lost a heartbreaker to Connecticut in the NCAA Sweet 16 in Greensboro.

Have to think most Husky fans would take either of those fates. What it all means will shake out here soon. None of the three UW victims is acting like an NCAA team right now, but on the other hand, almost anytime you go on the road, a loss is a distinct possibility.

Asked about Washington on Tuesday’s Pac-12 coaches conference call, Cal coach Mike Montgomery sounded like he was taking a wait-and-see tack:

“They’re not bad,” he said. “They’ve got three road breakthroughs. It remains to be seen whether those are breakthroughs against the premier teams. I don’t know that they’re a top-three team, but they’ve got three road breakthroughs and that’s pretty good.”

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