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January 19, 2007

Pac 10 Breakdown: Traditional powers collide

Pac-10 Standings
Team Conf. Overall
UCLA 5-1 16-1
Oregon 5-1 16-1
Washington State 4-2 15-3
USC 4-2 14-5
California 4-2 12-6
Arizona 4-3 13-4
Stanford 3-3 11-5
Washington 1-5 11-6
Oregon State 1-5 9-10
Arizona State 0-7 6-12
Standings as of 1/18

Best matchup: Arizona at UCLA. The Pac-10 has had its share of surprises this season. The success of Washington State and Oregon and the struggles of Washington were not expected. However, traditional powers UCLA and Arizona were expected to have good seasons. In a year where so many freshmen are making a difference, the top two teams in the league are being led by veterans Arizona's Mustafa Shakur, Marcus Williams and UCLA's Arron Afflalo.

Worst matchup: Arizona State and Washington on the road against anyone. Both have lost five road games in a row going into rough league matchups this week. The Huskies face Washington State in Pullman and the Sun Devils face USC in the new Galen Center on Saturday.

The pressure is on: Ivan Radenovic and Arizona. Going into Thursday night's action, the Wildcats have lost two of three games prior to an important two-game road swing to USC and UCLA. The senior forward Radenovic has turned the ball over 20 times in the last five games.

Upset alert: Washington goes on the road to Washington State on Saturday in a must-win situation. The Cougars beat Gonzaga earlier this year, giving Washington State a chance to beat both Gonzaga and Washington in the same season for the first time since 1996-97.

Who's hot: Arizona State forward Jeff Pendergraph made 31 of 38 (81.6 percent) shots from the field in the four games leading into Thursday's game against UCLA. He averaged 17.8 points and 8.3 rebounds during that span. Stanford guard Anthony Goods scored 19 points against Washington and followed that with 30 points against Washington State last week. Oregon has defeated two top-10 teams (UCLA and Arizona) in a season for the first time since 1976-77.

Who's not: Prior to Thursday night's action, Arizona forward Chase Budinger was averaging just 9.3 points in his last three games. He averaged 17.3 points in his first 13 games. Going into Thursday, UCLA's Lorenzo Mata was 15 of 36 (32.6 percent) from the free-throw line.

Must see TV: No. 11 Arizona (13-3, 4-2) at No. 3 UCLA (15-1, 4-1), 1 p.m. on Saturday, Fox Sports Net

Key stat: 14-13-10. Washington State guard Kyle Weaver had the first triple-double in school history with 14 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists in the 71-68 loss to Stanford on Saturday.

Bench bonus: For Arizona, there's not much of a bench bonus at all. The Wildcats used the same five starters for the first 16 games with all averaging more than 31 minutes. Only one bench player Daniel Dillon averaged more than 10 minutes per game in the first 16 games. Nic Wise is the leading scorer outside of the starting five with 2.8 points per game.

They said it: "Down the stretch, we put the ball in the hands of Mr. Big Shot. We call him that because he makes the big shots just like Chauncey Billups (of the Detroit Pistons)." --Oregon guard Malik Hairston on teammate Aaron Brooks, who made the game-winning shots against UCLA and Arizona.

Injury update: Washington center Spencer Hawes has been battling a flu-like illness since the beginning of the month. Oregon guard Malik Hairston returned on Jan. 11 against Arizona State after missing five games with a heel injury. Washington freshman Quincy Pondexter sprained his left ankle in the loss to Cal on Saturday.

Worth noting: Washington State dropped out of the top 25 after a 71-68 loss at Stanford on Saturday. The Cougars have not spent consecutive weeks in the polls since 1950. After a 67-59 loss to Oregon State on Saturday, Arizona State is the only Pac-10 team without a win in conference. Oregon State guards Josh Tarver and Wesley Washington have 24 steals each this season. Jones led last year's team with 27 steals. Former Arizona guard J.P. Prince will transfer to Tennessee. He averaged 2.2 points and 1.9 rebounds last season for the Wildcats. USC guard Kevin Galloway will transfer.

Freshman to watch: Cal's Ryan Anderson, who has moved to center in the absence of DeVon Hardin, scored 18 points and grabbed 14 rebounds against Washington on Saturday. He had 17 points on Jan. 11 in the loss to Washington State. Anderson has scored in double figures in all but one game this year.

Something you may have missed: The Pac-10 is enjoying its spot as possibly the best conference in the country with three teams in the top 11 in the AP poll. Washington, though, is 1-5 in conference play after losses last week to Stanford and Cal. With their next two games against Washington State and Oregon, Washington has a chance to start the conference season 1-7 before facing Oregon State at home on Jan. 27.

RPI watch: UCLA and Arizona remain first and second, respectively, in the RPI. The only Pac-10 teams outside of the top 75 are Washington (76th), Oregon State (176th) and Arizona State (249th).

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

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