March 5, 2009
SEATTLE - There are so many storylines for Saturday's sold-out men's basketball game between the No. 13 Washington Huskies and rival Washington State that it's somewhat difficult to settle on which one is the most important.
Most observers would say there is no question that Washington's chance to win the school's first-ever outright Pac-10 championship and its first conference title since 1953 is one of biggest sports stories of the year.
Become a Facebook fan of Washington Husky Basketball by clicking here.
And, really, is it possible to forget about the fierce in-state rivalry between the two schools? Of course not. Bragging rights are on the line.
So, the eyes of the basketball world will be on Seattle for a variety of reasons this weekend when the Huskies and Cougars tipoff at 2:30 p.m. in Bank of America Arena. The game will be televised live nationally in high definition by FSN with Barry Tompkins and Dan Belluomini calling the action.
Every Husky game is broadcast live on the radio via the Washington ISP Sports Network, which includes Seattle-based flagship station 950 KJR AM, XM Satellite Radio and GoHuskies.com. Veteran analysts Bob Rondeau and Jason Hamilton provide the description of the games.
The Huskies currently sit in first-place in the league standings with a sparkling 13-4 record against Pac-10 opponents and a 23-7 overall mark. Washington is ranked 13th in the ESPN/USA Today coaches' poll and sits in 16th position in the Associated Press rankings. The Huskies have been ranked among the top-25 in each of the last six weeks and are the highest-ranked team in the Pac-10.
Washington clinched at least a share of the Pac-10 regular-season title with its sweep of the Arizona schools last weekend. The UW can finish no lower than tied for the league title - a feat it last achieved in 1984 and 1985 under coach Marv Harshman. A win would give Washington its first outright Pac-10 title ever and its first league title since winning the Pacific Coast Conference in 1953.
The UW has won 21 of its last 24 games and enters Saturday's game with a four-game win streak. The Huskies defeated Seattle University by a score of 87-60 on Tuesday in its final non-league game of the regular-season. Washington is 17-1 at home this season - the only loss was a triple-overtime contest to Cal on Jan. 10.
Brockman, the league's Player of the Week after averaging 20 points and 11 rebounds in the sweep of Arizona and Arizona State last weekend, is a mid-season finalist for both the John R. Wooden Award and James Naismith Trophy - both awarded to the national player of the year.
The Snohomish, Wash. native was honored as a first-team all-district selection earlier this week by the National Association of Basketball Coaches. He is the Pac-10 rebounding leader for the third-straight season and is the UW's all-time career leader. He is also the fourth-highest career scorer in UW history.
Fellow senior Justin Dentmon is the team's second-highest scorer and is enjoying a career season. The Carbondale, Ill. native was named second-team all-district by the NABC and is one of the Pac-10's top scoring guards. He is among the school's all-time leaders in assists and steals and moved into 14th on the UW's all-time scoring list.
Isaiah Thomas is the favorite to win Pac-10 Freshman of the Year honors and is the UW's scoring leader with a 15.8 per game average. He is one of four Huskies scoring in double-figures (for the league's highest-scoring offense) and is the league's top-scoring freshman. The Tacoma native has scored in double-figures in 26 of his 30 games as a Husky.
Washington State enters Saturday's game with a 16-13 overall record and an 8-9 mark in Pac-10 games. The senior-led Cougars (four projected starters are seniors) are currently riding a three-game win streak with consecutive victories over Arizona State (51-49, OT), Arizona (69-53) and UCLA (82-81).
WSU started the season with a five-game win streak, but then slid to just a 3-6 mark in the nine games afterward - which included a 68-48 home loss to Washington. WSU ranks last in the Pac-10 in scoring, averaging just 59.4 points per game. However, the Cougars lead the league in scoring defense by limiting opponents to just 54.8 points per game. WSU is also the league's best free throw shooting team and forces 11.3 turnovers per game - which also leads the Pac-10.
Guards Taylor Rochestie and Klay Thompson are tied for the team lead in scoring, both averaging 13.3 points per game. Rochestie averages a team-high 4.7 assists, while senior center Aron Baynes is rebounding a a team-best 7.2 per game. He is also the only other WSU player scoring in double-figures with his 11.8 per game average.
Following Saturday's game, Washington travels to Los Angeles for the annual Pac-10 Tournament. The tournament pairings will be announced following the conclusion of the weekend's league games. Tickets in the UW sections remain on sale through the Husky Ticket Office at (206) 543-2200.