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February 22, 2008

Anderson, Lopez set to clash in the post

MORE BREAKDOWNS: ACC | Big 12 | Big East | Big Ten | SEC

Arizona at Washington State
Arizona State at Washington
Oregon at UCLA
Oregon State at USC
California at Stanford
USC at Arizona
UCLA at Arizona State
Washington State at California
Washington at Stanford

Best matchup: California at Stanford. Two of the nation's best power forwards will square off in this rematch. Cal's Ryan Anderson and Stanford's Brook Lopez - who rank No. 4 and No. 7, respectively, in Rivals.com's Power Rankings - are set to tussle again. Ninth-ranked Stanford (21-4 overall, 10-3 in the Pac-10) managed to slow down Anderson, the Pac-10's leading scorer at 22 points per game, in the last meeting. The Cardinal held Anderson to a season-low 11 points on 4-for-10 shooting in Stanford's 82-77 win. The 7-foot Lopez, also a sophomore, scored a game-high 23 points while attempting a career-high 15 free throws. The Bears (15-9, 6-7), who can ill-afford to fall two games below .500 in league play, also must be wary of Brook's 7-foot twin brother, Robin Lopez. Known more for his defensive prowess, Robin appears to be developing into a steady offensive threat. He has scored at least 14 points in three of his past four games.

The pressure is on: Arizona State. The Sun Devils can't seem to raise their RPI. Even after an upset of Stanford last week, they remain dangerously low at 75th. UCLA has risen to seventh in the RPI, and just facing the Bruins will help the Sun Devils' weak strength of schedule - which is the main source of ASU's RPI problems. But the Sun Devils must win at Washington (110th) on Saturday. A loss in Seattle where the Bruins were upset earlier this season would be a crushing blow to the Sun Devils' NCAA Tournament hopes.

Upset alert: Arizona over Washington State. If Arizona star freshman guard Jerryd Bayless plays anything like he has the past two weeks, the Wildcats will have a chance to win in the final minutes in Pullman. Bayless is averaging 31.2 points over his past four games. If the rest of Bayless' teammates - who have shot 36 percent (45 of 124) from the field in that span - can play to their normal levels, the Wildcats will pull off the upset.

RPI watch: The Pac-10 slipped to third in the conference ratings, falling .0002 points behind the second-place Big 12. Arizona's fall to 17th is one of the main reasons. The Wildcats were ranked first four weeks ago. UCLA remains the league's highest-rated team, moving up to seventh. Stanford, which suffered an overtime loss at Arizona State last week, fell two spots, to 21st. Washington State is next at 22nd. USC, despite back-to-back losses to Washington State and UCLA, remains well inside the top 50 at 35th.

Key stat: Four Pac-10 players (Cal's Anderson, Oregon's Maarty Leunen, UCLA's Kevin Love and Washington's Jon Brockman) have at least 12 double-doubles this season. Only two league players had at least 10 double-doubles last year.

Freshman to watch: USC freshman point guard Angelo Johnson will play a critical role in determining the Trojans' postseason future. Leading assist man Daniel Hackett is sidelined indefinitely with a stress fracture in his lower back and an oblique injury, leaving the Trojans with just three scholarship guards. Most of the ball-handling duties will fall to the speedy 5-11 Johnson, who must show he can take care of the ball while running the offense.

Who's hot: Arizona's Bayless became the first player in school history to score 30 points in three consecutive games after his 31-point performance in a loss to Stanford last week. . Cal guard Patrick Christopher is coming off back-to-back 20-point games on the road, having scored 21 at Arizona and 20 at Arizona State. ... Washington State's Taylor Rochestie raised his scoring average (10.3 ppg) into double figures with back-to-back 20-point games on the road, scoring 24 at Oregon State and 21 at Oregon.

Who's not: UCLA shot 16 percent (7-for-44) from 3-point range over a four-game stretch before facing lowly Oregon State. Arizona's Chase Budinger has shot 23 percent (6-for-26) from 3-point range over his past five games.

Worth noting: Arizona State guard Ty Abbott became the third freshman in the league to reach the 30-point barrier when he scored 30 points against Cal last week (Arizona's Bayless and USC's Mayo are the others). UCLA forward Luc Richard Mbah a Moute returned after missing two games with a sprained ankle by scoring 10 points and grabbing 10 rebounds in the Bruins' win over USC. Arizona State's win over then-No. 7 Stanford was their first over a top-10 team since 1982. Washington guard Ryan Appleby has become the school's all-time leader with 213 3-pointers made, surpassing Deon Luton's old mark of 212 3-pointers.

MORE BREAKDOWNS: ACC | Big 12 | Big East | Big Ten | SEC

Andrew Skwara is a national writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at askwara@rivals.com.

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