With the Pac-10 season only about one-third over, it’s hard to cast Arizona’s visit to Washington tomorrow as an elimination match for the league title.
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 while UW coach Lorenzo Romar wouldn’t speculate on how many defeats might be survivable this season, but he didn’t deny the importance of this pairing – especially with a return visit to Arizona looming next month.
"It’s too hard for me to predict," he said yesterday. "… There already have been some upsets in this league that people would not have guessed would have happened. I’m not good enough to predict what’s going to happen from here on out. We better take care of our business."
“Knowing our team, I think we understand that it is an important game,” he added. “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 conference, and ranked 20th in both the Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today coaches polls. 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, and) they looked really good. They’re the ones that everybody’s chasing right now.”
I have a little more on this in today's paper.