With the Pacific-10 Conference season only about one-third over, it's hard to cast Arizona's visit to Washington on Thursday as an elimination match for the conference championship.
But in about 22 percent of Pac-10 seasons, that’s what it would be.
Washington and Arizona already have one league loss, and in seven of the Pac-10’s 32 seasons, the champion was crowned with only one conference defeat.
However, two champions have lost as many as five league games – including California last season. And although UW coach Lorenzo Romar wouldn’t speculate on how many defeats might be survivable this season, he didn’t deny the importance of this pairing – especially with a return visit to Arizona looming next month.
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“Knowing our team, I think we understand that it is an important game,” he said. “I think our guys do understand Arizona’s only lost one, we’re playing at home – I think our guys do understand the importance.”
Three weeks into Pac-10 play, Washington is 13-4 overall, 5-1 in the conference and ranked 20th in both The Associated Press poll and the ESPN/USA Today coaches’ poll. Arizona is 15-3 and 4-1, and this week moved into the coaches’ poll at No. 25.
Every other Pac-10 team already has at least two league losses, meaning the UA-UW winner will stand alone atop the conference.
And a couple of coaches who have a combined 27 Pac-10 seasons behind them see Washington as the solid favorite in this Pac-10 race:
• California coach Mike Montgomery, whose Golden Bears lost to the Huskies, 92-71, on Sunday: “Just based on what Washington was able to do here, they looked awfully good. I would be surprised if they lost four or five in the conference, to be honest with you. For the rest of everybody, a lot of things could happen. It’s hard to say. It could be everybody with several losses. I don’t know if anybody else stands out as yet.”
• UCLA coach Ben Howland, whose Bruins lost at home to UW, 74-63, on the opening Pac-10 weekend: “I think clearly Washington is out front. This week coming up, when Arizona plays at Washington on Thursday, looks to be a huge game. Washington, I watched them play Sunday night (at California). They looked really good. They’re the ones that everybody’s chasing right now.”
Before practice Tuesday, several Huskies said they are looking forward to the challenge of a big game, especially in what they expect to be the electric atmosphere of Hec Edmundson Pavilion.
“It’s going to be crazy, man,” said junior guard Isaiah Thomas of Tacoma. “ I can’t wait. It’s going to be a big game. We haven’t really had a huge game like this at home this year. I’m waiting for what the fans got, waiting for what we’re going to bring out. It should be a good one.”
Oregon’s colorful “Tall Firs” court in the new Matthew Knight Arena drew a mixed reaction from the three Pac-10 coaches whose teams have played there.
Ducks coach Dana Altman sounded happy about his team’s new home.
But USC coach Kevin O’Neill complained that the opening ceremonies caused enough delay and distraction for his team that he believes the arena should have opened with a non-conference game. He also said a more distinct midcourt line should be painted.
However, Howland said he had no trouble with the design, and said that in person the court has an “interesting and cool look.”
UW sophomore guard Abdul Gaddy of Tacoma went through what Romar called successful surgery to repair an anterior cruciate ligament tear in his left knee. Gaddy started the first 13 games this season before suffering the injury in practice. Romar said Gaddy is expected to begin jogging in three or four months and should be ready for full work by the time classes start in September. ... Romar said Scott Suggs “probably” will remain in the starting five Thursday after making his first career start Sunday at Cal.
Don Ruiz, 253-597-8808 firstname.lastname@example.org blog.thenewstribune.com/uwsports