Washington Huskies Must Defend Spot

Michael BuchananContributor IFebruary 24, 2009

The University of Washington Huskies (20-7, 11-4) are in unfamiliar territory, alone at the top of the Pac-10 Conference standings with four games (including three in the Pac-10) left on the schedule.

This is a big deal for the 'Dawgs because they have not won an outright conference title since the Final Four team of 1953 did so. Washington teams led by Detlef Schrempf won shares of the title in 1984 and '85.

Thursday brings Arizona State (21-5, 10-4) to Bank of America Arena. This is the second meeting of the Huskies and Sun Devils, the first being played on Jan. 31. Washington won that matchup against then-No. 14-ranked ASU.

Four of the top players in the conference will share the court in this showdown.

First, there's the mainstay in the middle for U-Dub, Jon Brockman. This big man leads the Pac-10 in individual rebounding and is the top boarder for the No. 5 rebounding team in the nation.

Next, there's Huskies guard Justin Dentmon. He's fifth in the conference in scoring and would certainly receive my vote for Pac-10 Player of the Year.

Edging out Dentmon for the fourth spot among leading scorers in the conference is teammate Isaiah Thomas. This Fabulous Freshman (or "Diaper Dandy," according to Dicky V.) is a virtual lock for Pac-10 Freshman of the Year.

For Arizona State, James Harden, future lottery pick and 21 PPG scorer, is the star. He leads the conference in scoring, is 11th in rebounding, ninth in field goal percentage, eighth in assists, and third in steals.  UW did a remarkable job holding him to only four field goals in the last bout; his first bucket came with 3:22 left in the first half.

If Washington holds on and wins this contest, these two nationally-ranked teams will be No.s 1 and 2 in the conference.

It would be a big step for the Huskies, who have to face the Wildcats of Arizona on Saturday in another rematch. In the first meeting, the 'Cats pulled it out in the desert.

With the 'Dawgs having won 15 of 16 home games this year, I am sure they have a solid advantage over all teams that enter the BOA.

With some solid play, the University of Washington should win their first outright title in 56 years.