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January 11, 2008

Another test for Washington State at UCLA

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

UPCOMING PAC-10 GAMES
Saturday
Washington State at UCLA
California at Oregon State
Arizona at Houston
Washington at USC
Sunday
Stanford at Oregon
Thursday
Oregon at Washington
Oregon State at Washington State
Arizona State at California
Arizona at Stanford

Best matchup: Washington State (14-0, 2-0) at UCLA (15-1, 3-0). Could the Cougars be as good as they were last season, when they shocked everyone by winning 26 games and landing a No. 3 seed in the NCAA Tournament? Could they be better? We should find out in Pauley Pavilion. It will be the sixth time in league history that two Pac-10 teams ranked in the top five have met. The Bruins will be the first ranked team the Cougars have faced. Keeping bruising center Kevin Love, who is averaging a team-high 16.1 points and 10.1 rebounds, from getting offensive boards will be the Cougars' top priority.

The pressure is on: USC. Go ahead and call the Trojans' home game with Washington on Saturday a must-win. Picked by some as the league dark horse, the Trojans would fall to 0-4 in the Pac-10 if they lose to the Huskies, who have won six of their past seven meetings with the Trojans. That would make it extremely difficult to make the NCAA Tournament, especially with a three-game road trip to UCLA, Oregon State and Oregon coming up next. The Huskies are a far deeper team, so look for coach Lorenzo Romar to substitute frequently in an effort to wear down the Trojans, who normally use a rotation of just seven players.

Upset alert: Arizona (10-5, 1-2) at Houston (11-2). The Wildcats rolled to an easy 87-62 win over Houston a year ago. Don't expect anything similar in the rematch. The Cougars are much improved and were off to an 11-1 start before falling to a talented Massachusetts team on the road last week. Guard Rob McKiver has gone from a streaky shooter to a go-to offensive weapon, leading Conference USA at 20.8 points per game. The Wildcats may be without injured star Jerryd Bayless again; Bayless has missed the past four games with a sprained knee ligament and the Wildcats have won once in that stretch.

RPI watch: The conference RPI moved up from fourth to third this past week, thanks largely to UCLA jumping from 46th to 11th after road wins at Stanford and California. Washington State is next at 28th, followed by Stanford (38th) and Oregon (40th). Surprising Arizona State has risen to 61st. USC has dipped to 72nd and Washington has fallen to 110th.

Key stat: Four Pac-10 teams are ranked among the 10 in scoring defense entering this week: No. 1 Washington State (49.8 ppg), No. 6 UCLA (54.9 ppg), No. 8 Arizona State (56.5 ppg) and No. 10 Stanford (56.8 ppg).

Freshman to watch: Oregon coaches moved point guard Kamyron Brown, a former three-star recruit who was ranked the No. 128 prospect in the 2007 class by Rivals.com, into the starting lineup three games ago. A true point guard who excels at distributing the ball, Brown should be a good fit for an offense filled with good outside shooters and scoring weapons. He is averaging 4.7 assists in 24.6 minutes per game.

Who's hot: Arizona State has won nine consecutive games for the first time since the 2004-05 season. Sophomore big man Jeff Pendegraph is averaging 19.4 points and 8.4 rebounds in the past five victories and is shooting 31-of-39 (69.5 percent) during that period. UCLA's Russell Westbrook has made 17 of his last 27 (62.9 percent) field goals over his last three games. Cal's Ryan Anderson has made 34 of his past 36 free throws (94.4 percent).

Who's not: Oregon sophomore guard Tajuan Porter has fallen into a deep shooting slump, going 0-of-7 from 3-point range in a loss to Arizona State last week. Porter has made just 10-of-43 field- goal attempts (23.2 percent) in his past five games. In Arizona's past three losses, point guard Nic Wise has made just 3-of-14 3-pointers (21.4 percent).

Worth noting: The Pac-10 ranks first among conferences in the Sagarin Ratings. USC's O.J. Mayo tied the eighth-highest mark for points by a Pac-10 freshman in a game when he scored a career-high 34 against Cal last week. Oregon boasts the Pac-10's leading active scorer (senior guard Malik Hairston has 1,396 points) and the leading active rebounder (senior power forward Maarty Leunen has 764 rebounds). Washington State reserve guard Stephen Sauls was given mouth-to-mouth resuscitation after collapsing during a team scrimmage last week and was sent to a hospital for tests. Sauls suffered a concussion and may have stopped breathing briefly after taking an elbow to the face. Washington State freshman Fabian Boeke, who is from Germany, has been reinstated by the NCAA but must sit out this season, then will have three years of eligibility remaining starting next season.

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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