Continuing a rollercoaster 2010-11 season, coming back to beat the rival Washington State Cougars and then drawing the seventh-seeded Oregon Ducks had to seem like an almost jarring shift in fortunes for the the Washington Huskies.
At first glance, this not only seems like an opportunity for UW to avenge one a 81-76 road loss to the UO - easily one of this season's lowest points - but also like a much easier path to the 2011 Pac-10 Tournament championship game and a shot at redeeming themselves and the season with an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.
However, beating the Ducks isn't necessarily a given - SBN's Addicted To Quack claims that they're playing some of their best basketball of the season right now and that as much as the Huskies might be motivated to rebuild their confidence heading into the tournament the Ducks are motivated by a chance to be rewarded for their improvement over the course of the season with a trip to the CBI or a shot at the automatic bid themselves.
Ducks need to win tonight to ensure good news on Sunday - Addicted To Quack
I think the Ducks are an attractive team for the CBI. After starting out slow, they've played some stretches of very good basketball, are a fun team to watch, and are a team that is on the upswing after two seasons of terrible performances. Duck fans are excited about the direction of the team, and fan interest will be high. On top of that, the Oregon athletic department is willing to buy their way into the CBI, which is just as important as having a good record. Add the new arena on top of that, and you've got a team with a lot going for it. While the Ducks could sneak into the postseason without a win tonight, beating the Huskies would go a long ways towards continuing the season.
Even shorthanded, the Huskies should be considered the more talented of these two teams. But if we've learned anything from this season is that their lapses in focus that have chipped away at their confidence can lead them to drop games that they should win.
So UW coach Lorenzo Romar's quote that The News Tribune's Don Ruiz posted on his blog about the game isn't really just a empty coachspeak - it's really actually a substantive key to this game for the Huskies.
UW Huskies Insider - " Another rival awaits Huskies today: Oregon The News Tribune Blogs, Tacoma, WA
"They're a tough team to play against," Romar said. "That is a true team in every sense of the word. They play well together. They play hard. They play with a lot of intensity. It's going to be a tough ballgame for us. We need to come ready to play, because I know they will."
Just like the WSU game last night, this game isn't really about deep analysis or statistical advantages - as fluffy as it sounds, it really is about UW's mental approach and ability to maintain focus in their quest for the tournament.