Friday, February 12, 2010 at 8:36 a.m.
At the moment, most pundits predict that the once-powerful Pac-10 men's basketball conference will win only one bid to next month's NCAA tournament -- the automatic spot that goes to the winner of the postseason tourney in Los Angeles.
That's because the league happens to be in one of those down cycles -- it's lost many of its best players to the professional ranks (ASU's James Harden, having a nice rookie season with an up-and-coming Oklahoma City Thunder team, comes to mind) and has a less-than-spectacular freshman class.
Let's put it this way: You will see no one approaching the greatness of the man to the left, Julius Erving (you may remember him as "Dr. J") emanating from the current crop.
Then again, few players have.
But enough time does remain -- six league games for Arizona State and Arizona. Each could put up enough wins to at least merit consideration as one of the 65 teams selected for March Madness, if neither takes the Pac-10 tourney.
Last night's games in Tempe and Tucson against the Oregon schools were must-wins for the locals, and both came through in fine fashion.
ASU beat Oregon State 56-46 in a game that Sun Devils fans who stayed at home (a vast majority) apparently should be happy wasn't televised. Radio ace Tim Healey used the adjective "ugly" more than once to describe the funky play.
Arizona followed by pulling away from Oregon in the second half to win by 70-57. The Wildcats' several freshman players looked awfully good down the stretch, which may bode well for the rest of the season.
The wins allowed the Arizona schools to keep pace with league-leading Cal, which beat Washington at home last night.
Both ASU and Arizona currently are tied with UCLA and USC with five league losses. Cal has four.
But, again, lots and lots of b-ball remains to be played.
Mark down the date, Sunday, February 21, at 5:30 p.m.
The Cats will host the Devils in Tucson in a game that will probably have large implications on what's to come for the postseason.