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January 26, 2007
Pac-10 Breakdown: Big test for Arizona
Best matchup: North Carolina at Arizona. It's a January non-conference game rich with juicy matchups. Few games will have this much talent in the starting lineups. On the bench, Lute Olson is already in the Hall of Fame and Roy Williams should end up there. For Arizona, the Wildcats ended a three-game losing streak with a rout of Arizona State, but Arizona still needs to improve before the tournament begins.
Worst matchup: USC swingman Nick Young vs. Cal's defense. Young has been on a tear lately and it could spell trouble for Cal, which will likely have trouble with Young on the perimeter. Without center DeVon Hardin, Cal also lacks an inside presence that might keep Young from driving to the hoop.
The pressure is on: Stanford. The Cardinal is on the cusp of breaking out in the deep Pac-10. Stanford has a crucial homestand for its tournament hopes after defeating USC 65-50 on Thursday and UCLA on Saturday.
Upset alert: Washington State over Oregon. Oregon was tied for first place in the Pac-10 going into Thursday's game at Washington. The Huskies beat the Ducks without leading scorer Aaron Brooks, who sat out due to a suspension. Brooks will be back Saturday for Washington State, but the Cougars could have another upset in them after beating Gonzaga and Arizona at home. Washington State, 9-0 in Pullman, Wash., also beat rival Washington by 28 in its last home game.
Who's hot: Oregon. The Ducks have won 12 in row going into Saturday's matchup in Pullman. Cal guard Ayinde Ubaka has averaged 18.8 points per game in his last five games going into Thursday. USC swingman Nick Young scored 18 points against Arizona State and 30 points against Arizona last week while shooting 60.7 percent from the field.
Who's not: In conference games, Washington is allowing a league-high 80.1 points per game while allowing teams to shoot nearly 50 percent from the field. Arizona guard Jawann McClellan was 0-for-15 from 3-point range in the five games before he went 4-for-7 against Arizona State on Wednesday.
Must see TV: North Carolina at Arizona, 1 p.m. Saturday, CBS
Key stat: 78.4 percent. Cal is leading the nation in free-throw shooting for the second year in a row. The Bears have made 251 of 320 free throws.
Bench bonus: Arizona freshman forward Jordan Hill scored a career-high 12 points with nine rebounds coming off the Wildcats' seldom-used bench against Arizona State. Hill was thrust into the starting lineup for Marcus Williams, who was suspended for the game because of an undisclosed violation of team policy. UCLA sophomore Alfred Aboya had a career-high 11 rebounds - six on offense - in a 73-69 win over Arizona on Saturday. Aboya added six points stepping into the lineup in place of an injured Luc Richard Mbah a Moute.
They said it: "We got hit between the eyes." - Arizona State coach Herb Sendek on Arizona's 71-47 victory over the Sun Devils on Wednesday.
Injury update: UCLA forward Luc Richard Mbah a Moute was expected to return from a sprained knee that kept him out of Saturday's win over Arizona. Washington center Spencer Hawes returned Thursday against Oregon after missing one game last week with a sprained left ankle. Oregon State forward Sasa Cuic (elbow) returned for the Beavers' game Thursday against Washington State. Arizona reserve center Mohamed Tangara is out indefinitely with a sinus fracture after he was elbowed in the head by teammate Jordan Hill during a win over Arizona State.
Worth noting: Oregon guard Aaron Brooks missed Thursday's game against Washington because of a suspension dating back to an intentional elbow thrown at Huskies guard Ryan Appleby during the Pac-10 tournament. Oregon will be in the field for the 2008 Maui Invitational with North Carolina, Indiana, Alabama, Notre Dame, Texas, St. Joseph's and Chaminade.
Freshman to watch: In addition to Arizona's Jordan Hill, fellow freshman Chase Budinger also made big contributions in a 71-47 win over Arizona State on Wednesday. Budinger broke out of a slump with 21 points and 10 rebounds for his third double-double of the season and his first 20-point game since Jan. 4.
Something you may have missed: Stanford is joining Washington State as one of the surprise teams of the Pac-10. The Cardinal won four of five games going into Thursday's home game against USC. That streak included two wins over then-ranked Washington and Washington State and a road game against Oregon State. Stanford received votes in the coaches' poll on Jan. 22.
RPI watch: USC entered the poll at No. 25 but is ranked as low as No. 56 in the RPI behind Stanford and Cal, who are not in the top 25.