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NIT 2012: Washington, Oregon Matchup Proves Pac-12 Basketball is Down, But Not Out

Tuesday's quarterfinal matchup between Washington and Oregon didn't feel like your typical NIT game.

Sure, it was only the NIT. And make no mistake, the championship game of the Not Invited Tournament is still just for a school to say it has the 69th best team in the country.

But when Oregon and Washington met at Hec Ed in Seattle there was an intensity and edge rarely present in an NIT quarterfinal.

UW's 90-86 victory over Oregon on Tuesday night was an emotion-filled affair that had all the trimmings of a rivalry game. There were big shots, there was contact, and there were more bad calls on both teams than you could shake a stick at.

The Dawg Pack had one of its best games of the season, but the Oregon fans that made the trip certainly made themselves heard.

In the end, C.J. Wilcox hit his free throws and the UW's second-half defense was just good enough to punch the Huskies tickets for their second trip to New York this season. But not before playing a classic game, which illustrated exactly why Oregon is becoming one of the UW's rivals in the mold of UCLA and Arizona.

The rivalry between the two schools on the gridiron is well documented, as is the fans' mutual hate. That rivalry has exposed itself on the hardwood as well, albeit in fits and starts.

Oregon fans taunted the UW's Nate Robinson in the early-2000's by holding up cardboard cutouts of Gary Coleman and chanting the minuscule actor's name to poke fun at Robinson's height.

Robinson famously retaliated by dunking at the end of a win at Oregon once the game had been decided.

The rivalry is gaining fervor and importance, indicated by the fact that there hasn't been a sweep in the series since the Huskies did it in 2008-09. Both teams know the game is important, and now that both teams are near the top of the conference - and will be for as long as they have their current head coaches - the two rivalry games per season will have strong March implications.

The Pac-12 may be down, but as long as Arizona, Washington and UCLA continue to beat each other year after year, there will always be interest in the conference. Well you can add Oregon to that mix now, because the Ducks have established themselves as one of the UW's main rivals in basketball, and have earned their place in the upper half of the conference.

Make sure you head over to our NIT StoryStream to follow the rest of the action, as UW heads to New York for the Semifinals.