The Washington State Cougars are 3-3 in the Pac-10 and their next three games are in Pullman, two against Arizona and Washington, the top two teams in the conference and both in the Top 25.
At halftime of the Cougars most recent game this past Saturday at Stanford, the Cougars were down 32-23 and looking like they were about to drop their fourth straight conference road game.
But thanks to 13 second-half points by Klay Thompson, the Cougars were able to steal a win from the Cardinal and stay within two games of the Huskies and Wildcats heading into the meat of their schedule.
The Cougars are 6-1 in Pullman at Friel Court and play Arizona State Thursday night.
On paper, that should be a victory for the Cougs as statistically Washington State finds themselves superior to the Sun Devils in almost every category.
Last year, Arizona State swept the Cougars including a 25-point blowout in Tempe, where the Cougars scored just 46 points, the lowest scoring output in Ken Bone's short time as head coach.
On Saturday night, the Cougars will host the Arizona Wildcats who will be coming off a hard battle with Washington. If the Cougars want to hold on to any chance of competing for a Pac-10 title, they must win this game.
This game will feature who I think are the top two players in the conference in Arizona's Derrick Williams and Washington State's Klay Thompson, the top two scorers in the conference and both account for over 25 percent of their team's scoring average.
A big factor will be the eligibility of Reggie Moore. The sophomore point guard has been suspended indefinitely and missed the game at Stanford but was seen on the bench in street clothes. This suspension comes from an arrest back in December on charges of marijuana possession. No timetable has been made for his return.
Due to his absence against Stanford, junior transfer Faisal Aden was inserted into the starting lineup and dropped 20 points, a number he hasn't produced since back on December 22nd against Mississippi State.
After a blazing start, Aden has cooled off and prior to the Stanford game, he had been limited to six points or less in three of the previous four games. The second leading scorer on the Cougar roster is averaging 14.6 points a game and will need to find his stroke once more to make up for Moore's absence.
Aden is averaging just nine points in the Cougars five losses this season proving that he needs to be that complimentary scorer to Thompson for the Cougars to have any success.
Reggie Moore was finally beginning to play like the Reggie Moore of old before the suspension kicked in. Prior to him sitting out, Moore had scored in double figures in three straight games and averaged almost six assists per contest.
Arizona's Derrick Williams is coming off his second Player of the Week honor after dropping 31 points and 10 rebounds on the Sun Devils last Saturday.
However, last year the Cougars held Williams in check as the then-freshman scored just 13 points in their first meeting, and 16 points in their second, both resulting in Cougar victories.
The Cougars have won five of the past eight meeting against the Wildcats and three of the past four in Pullman and currently three in a row. But they have a long ways to go if they want to match Arizona's longest win streak against the Cougars when they won 38 consecutive games dating from 1986 to 2005.
Junior forward DeAngelo Casto last year averaged 17.5 points and 9.5 rebounds against Arizona and will need to put up similar numbers for the Cougars to hang around.
Both teams shoot the ball extremely well but at the same time both hold their opponents to low percentages from the field so it'll be interesting to see who comes out on top.
I believe two factors will be beneficial to the Cougars. The home court and Arizona will spend a lot of energy on Thursday night against Washington.
Whether that really makes a difference, we'll just have to see.