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UCLA Basketball: Reality and Washington History

It is time to start coming down from Cloud 9.  Saturday  was the best UCLA game in a number of years.  It was beautiful, it was perfect but now it is over. One last thought: again thank you to the fans who went. 

As someone who was at the "worst" home game of the season, Montana, where there were about 20 hungover students and the Den were out cheered by a relatively tepid alumni section which helped resulted in a loss, it was great to hear a crowd so loud from tip off to the end of the game.  Bleacher Report named UCLA fans the second best in the Pac-10 conference:

While UCLA is not the invincible powerhouse that it used to be under John Wooden, its fans are still some of the most zealous supporters in the nation.

"The Den" student fan section is known for its creative and zealous cheering.

Even though the layout of Pauley Pavilion places fans at a distance from the court, the Bruin backers still make an impact on the game.

Only Arizona had better fans according to Bleacher Report.  Speaking of Arizona, the Mildcats have it relatively easy in their bid for first place in Pac-10, closing out with the two Oregon schools at home.  In comparison, UCLA has to go on the road to Washington, a place where history would state the games are hardly worth playing, as the results are seemingly predetermined.

More break-down of this upcoming road trip after the jump.

  First on the Huskies:

While UCLA travels to play at Washington on Thursday and Washington State on Saturday, Arizona plays host to Oregon State on Thursday and Oregon on Saturday. The Bruins have not won in Seattle since January 2004, a span of six consecutive losses.

Even if UCLA (21-8 overall, 12-4 Pac-10) won both games and finished the regular season tied with Arizona (23-6, 12-4), the Wildcats would probably get the No. 1 seeding for the conference tournament based on tiebreakers.

Since the teams split their head-to-head meetings, the next tiebreaker is each team's record versus the team occupying the highest position in the final regular-season standings and then continuing down the standings until one team gains an advantage.

Arizona went 1-1 against third-place Washington, and UCLA lost to the Huskies in December, meaning the Bruins need to avenge that defeat Thursday to keep pace with the Wildcats. Both Arizona and UCLA went 1-1 against fourth-place USC.

Thus, the Bruins' 76-72 overtime loss to fifth-place California on Feb. 20 could come back to haunt them because Arizona swept both of its meetings with the Golden Bears.

Two thoughts come to mind.  Washington might be coming apart after their surprising home loss to Washington State last night.  In any case, there can be be little doubt that Romar's team has underachieved, having been expected to win the conference.  That being said, the Huskies are always tough at home, which generally which brings two things to my mind.  

First, Mike "300+ illegal Phone Calls" Montgomery may have had it right when he said how Washington at home uses their deep bench to take advantage and press the SPTRs:

"They don't care. They foul every time at every position and (the refs) aren't going to call it every time. So, ultimately you are going to get down after a while. They are very physical because they are able to play nine guys throughout the game. They just do not care if they foul. They are not going to let you get to the basket."

The Washington game is going to be really hard on Josh Smith.  The crowd will be obnoxious and I would put the over/under on bad foul calls at 3 on him.  He is not likely to finish that game.  The real question will any of our big guys finish it?  I am dreading watching the refs.  Hopefully, I am wrong.

The second point goes back to the Cal game, which ironically could cost UCLA the Pac-10 title.  UCLA has rarely played anything close to the 40 minutes they played Saturday.  They have gotten away with it because when they are on, they can be very good.  But this is not a game they can likely let up on.  They have to keep their lulls, especially on defense, very short or avoid them completely.  They have to keep their heads in the game and even then it will be tough, especially for Smith. 

But the other game is why we feel it is perfect reasonable to call for a split.  CBH has never lost at Pullman to Washington State.  You read that right: Howland is perfect in Pullman.  But moreover, we also match up well with the Cougars. 

Although UCLA is likely in the tournament now, one more win this week would seal the deal.  Plus no one wants to go into the Pac-10 tournament after losing two games.  We need to keep the momentum and more importantly limit or, better yet, not have any lulls, especially on defense, for the rest of the season. 

For almost ANY team in the tournament will pounce on UCLA for one of those. 

Go Bruins.