Nov. 28, 2009
What do Loyola Marymount, Cal-State Fullerton, Montana, Texas A&M Corpus Christi, Cal-State Sacramento, Oral Roberts, San Diego and Portland (twice) have in common? All are non-traditional college basketball powers that have wins over Pac-10 teams in the early season.
"I don't think the Pac-10 has played that well at this point in non-conference," said Husky head coach Lorenzo Romar on Tuesday, a day after Oregon lost to Montana and Arizona lost to Wisconsin. "I still think you can't throw the Pac-10 under the bus yet, because as teams get healthier and players become eligible, I think we'll see some different performances."
Until that happens, it may be up to the two Pac-10 teams furthest north to salvage the conference's early-season reputation. As the non-conference losses pile up for the Pac-10, both Washington and Washington State remain undefeated. It will not be an easy task ahead for either team if they want to stay that way. For both the Cougars and Huskies, there are many speed bumps and pot holes they will need to navigate through to remain unscathed.
The Huskies begin a stretch of seven games over the next 30 days that will challenge their mettle to the core. First up is Montana, who is 4-1, including that aforementioned victory over Oregon. Washington will back that up with its first road trip of the new season, taking on a 6-0 Texas Tech that has a win over Oregon State.
Cal-State Northridge (2-4 record) is next, followed by a neutral site game against perennial national power Georgetown in the Wooden Classic in Anaheim, Calif. Georgetown is undefeated to this point of the season at 4-0.
A week after taking on the Hoyas, Washington will play the current national flavor-of-the-month Portland Pilots, who sport impressive wins over Oregon, UCLA and nationally-ranked Minnesota. In addition, the Pilots dealt the Huskies an opening-season loss in 2008-09. By Monday, the Pilots have a strong chance of being ranked in the national polls.
The Huskies will take on the Big-12's Texas A&M Aggies on Dec. 22 and finish up the pre-Pac-10 non-conference slate against San Francisco (2-3). Texas A&M (4-1) beat nationally-ranked Clemson, before losing by seven to 8th-ranked West Virginia.
Throw in a mid-season game against Seattle U, who has beat Fresno State and Utah, and the rest of the Huskies' non-conference slate looks rather formidable.
It won't be easy by any stretch of the imagination for Washington to save the national perception of the Pac-10 Conference, but winning a few key ballgames will go a long way in helping restore some of the prestige to the league. But the Huskies can't do it alone. They will need some help from their Pac-10 brethren.