The Washington Huskies were the preseason favorites to win the Pac-10, but they disappointed down the stretch, dropping six of their final ten games (including a pretty horrible sweep in Oregon). Despite their dropoff in production the past few weeks, they are still the most offensively efficient team in the conference, and are a dangerous threat to blow apart any other team whenever they get on the court.
Unfortunately, they have been handed a horrible card to try and avoid a first game upset.
First game, second round matchup: 8:30 PM PT/11:30 PM ET, FSN -- their in-state rivals, the Washington St. Cougars.
Analysis: The Cougars halfcourt defense is one of the best in the conference, and they gave Washington all sorts of trouble in their season sweep of the series. Honestly, the only thing Washington can hope for is regression to the mean, and live by the theory that it's incredibly hard for a team to win three straight games in a rivalry series.
Analysis: Fortunes dramatically reverse here if the Huskies can gut through their opening round matchup. Washington has had UCLA's number, although both of their games have been relatively close until the final minutes. Washington would also be comfortable with either Arizona St. or Oregon, despite their ugly loss in Eugene--a neutral court should be more than enough for the Huskies and their talented team to overcome either of these bottom-dwellers.
Third game, finals: Saturday, 3:10 PM PT/6:10 PM ET on CBS -- Five teams to pick from
Analysis: If there's any team Washington would love to see, it's Cal--the Huskies won their games against the Golden Bears by an average of 26.5 points. The grittiest opponent would be USC, as Washington had to win in overtime in LA and lost by two at home to them as the Trojan defense seemed to stymie their offense.
Conclusions: If Washington can somehow surmount their troubles with Wazzu, they're in as good a shape as anyone to win the Pac-10 tournament and seal their ticket to the Dance. Right now the Huskies are hovering on the bubble, but so are the Cougars. This game promises to be the biggest matchup of the second round, and could very well lift UW back up to early season form or seal their fate as a team that chokes on high expectations. Lorenzo Romar has a big test ahead of him.