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February 23, 2007

Pac 10 Breakdown: An unlikely showdown

Pac-10 Standings
Team Conf. Overall
UCLA 13-2 24-3
Washington State 11-4 22-5
USC 10-5 20-8
Stanford 9-6 17-9
Oregon 9-7 21-7
Arizona 8-7 17-9
Washington 6-9 16-11
California 6-9 14-13
Oregon State 2-13 10-18
Arizona State 1-14 7-19
Standings as of 2/22

Best matchup: UCLA at Washington State on Thursday.
Prior to the season, if you thought a game between UCLA and Washington State would help decide the Pac-10 title you're either Tony Bennett or you're lying. Going into the week, the Bruins and Cougars are separated by one game in the nation's most competitive conference. The second-to-last game for both teams could determine the regular-season championship. Washington State, a team that hasn't made the NCAA Tournament since 1994, at least gets the national runner-up at home.

Worst matchup: UCLA's guards vs. Stanford's guards on Saturday.
Bruins point guard Darren Collison is playing as well as anyone in the conference right now. Arron Afflalo averages 17.5 points per game. Stanford - without Anthony Goods (ankle) - allowed Oregon's starting guards to combine for 45 points. Collison and Afflalo combined for 39 points in their first game against the Cardinal this year and Goods played in that contest.

The pressure is on: Arizona.
The Wildcats' tournament hopes are intact with an RPI in the top 15, but Arizona has suffered the two worst home losses of the Lute Olson era in the last month. The Wildcats fell to North Carolina and UCLA by a combined score of 173-130. Now out of the top 25, Arizona finishes the regular season with three road trips to Arizona State, Cal and Stanford.

Upset alert: Washington over Oregon on Saturday.
Struggling Oregon suddenly finds itself in trouble after losing six of its last eight games. Stanford beat Oregon with its frontcourt last week, and Washington could do the same with Spencer Hawes and Jon Brockman who have played well in recent weeks.

Who's hot: UCLA point guard Darren Collison scored a career-high 18 points in a 67-61 win last Thursday before scoring 17 points and adding a career-high 15 assists in an 81-66 win over Arizona on Saturday. Stanford forward Brook Lopez was named Rivals.com Freshman of the Week after scoring 20 points against Oregon State and 26 points against Oregon last week. Lopez shot 18 of 34 from the floor in the two games.

Who's not: Once ranked as high as seventh in the polls, Oregon has taken a tumble with six losses in the last eight games heading into Thursday's game against Washington State. Going into Thursday's game, USC freshman forward Taj Gibson was 1-for-13 from the field in his last two games. He has fouled out twice in three games.

Must see TV: Stanford (17-8, 9-5) at No. 4 UCLA (23-3, 12-2), Saturday 6 p.m., Fox Sports Net

Key stat: 6. Turnovers by Stanford in its 88-69 win over Oregon on Saturday

Bench bonus: USC guard Lodrick Stewart scored 26 points on 11 of 15 shooting off the bench in the Trojans' 80-75 win at Arizona on Feb. 15. Oregon State guard Jack McGillis came off the bench to score 24 points in the 84-80 loss to Cal. He was 9-for-16 from the floor and 5-for-9 from 3-point range.

They said it: "A lot lesser group of fans could have been at home watching 'Desperate Housewives' tonight. And so it was heartening to see such a great crowd out here tonight to see us get this one."

- Arizona State coach Herb Sendek on the crowd reaction after the Sun Devils' first Pac-10 win of the season a 68-58 victory over USC on Sunday.

Injury update: Cal center DeVon Hardin, out since Dec. 19 with a stress fracture in his left foot, told The Contra Costa Times he hopes to return for the remainder of the Bears' season.

Worth noting: Arizona was swept at home by the Southern California (UCLA and USC) schools for the first time under Lute Olson and the first time since 1982-83. Oregon coach Ernie Kent partly blamed his team's skid on a four-game road stretch in which the Ducks went 1-3. Oregon State was the only other Pac-10 team to play four consecutive conference road games. UCLA guard Josh Shipp tied a season-high with 24 points in the win at Arizona. He hadn't scored more than 14 in a game since Jan. 4.

Freshman to watch: Oregon has put more on the shoulders of 5-foot-6 guard Tajuan Porter in recent games. He has averaged 17 points in the last five games and has attempted at least 12 shots from the floor in each game during that span.

Something you may have missed: Cal's Ryan Anderson wasn't the most productive Cal freshman last week. Swingman Patrick Christopher, who entered last week with only one career double-digit scoring game, scored 16 points against Oregon on Feb. 15. He recorded his first double-double with 24 points and 11 rebounds in an 84-80 win over Oregon State on Saturday.

RPI watch: The RPI has been kinder to Arizona than the polls. Even though the Wildcats dropped out of both polls this week, the RPI rankings at www.kenpom.com have Arizona at No. 12, ahead of teams such as Texas A&M and Kansas.

More Conference Breakdowns: ACC | Big 12 | Big Ten | SEC |Big East

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