Having already fallen out of the rankings after their three-game losing streak, there is little question that the Washington Huskies return home against Cal is sort of a big deal.
Perhaps you can find a way to excuse the losing streak given that all three of those losses were on the road and all three were in reach down the stretch.
But to put things in historical perspective, Steve Rudman of Sportspress Northwest describes the rather ominous fact that no Huskies team has ever won a tournament game after dropping four in a row.
And even if you refuse to think so deterministically about history, taking their first loss of the season at home against a Cal team they already beat on the road would be rather disappointing on its own given that a loss to Cal (6-5 in the Pac-10) would send them from third to fifth in the conference standings and at risk of falling into the bottom half of the standings on Saturday against a Stanford team that has already proven that they can beat them.
While fully acknowledging that saying that something is a "must-win" game is an overused label, a loss to Cal at this moment would be a disastrous statement about the state of this team.
Meanwhile, Cal's confidence is only rising as they find themselves right on the heels of UW after their blowout loss at home six games ago, as described by John Crumpacker of the San Francisco Chronicle.
Cal men prepare for rematch with Washington
From that point on, the Bears have won four of six Pac-10 games, bracketed by a last-second loss at UCLA and a triple-overtime defeat by then-No. 21 Arizona on Saturday.
"It gave us more confidence," Cal center Markhuri Sanders-Frison said. "We already knew we could play with anybody we face up and play against. ... I'm not surprised at all. Everybody is molding into their own roles. Coaches are doing a good job of letting us know what our roles are."
In other words, while the redeeming qualities of Washington's losses have been rather scant, Cal comes in playing rather well even in their losses.
As Crumpacker describes, something has to give.