If any team is capable of beating UCLA on its home court in the final of the first Pacific 10 basketball tournament, it would seem that Washington would have the best chance.
The Huskies will get that opportunity today when they meet the Bruins at 1 p.m. at Pauley Pavilion.
Washington is the only team to sweep UCLA this season. The Huskies won, 90-80, Dec. 21 at Seattle and then repeated at Pauley Pavilion, 95-87, Jan. 29.
Washington qualified for the championship game by beating Oregon, 70-56, in a semifinal game Saturday after performing lethargically in the first half. Oregon led by as many as 12 points before halftime, but the Ducks were just worn down in the second half, according to Oregon Coach Don Monson.
Washington Coach Andy Russo concurred, saying that Oregon just "ran out of gas," but commended the Ducks for playing so hard for so long.
"I've never seen a team play that hard for three straight days," Russo said. "If we had played them yesterday, I don't know what would have happened."
As the seventh-seeded team, Oregon was required to play four straight days to reach the final. As the third-seeded team, Washington avoided a first-round game Thursday.
So now it's a matchup of Mr. Inside against Mr. Outside. The Huskies are strong inside with 7-foot center Chris Welp and 6-10 Phil Zevenbergen, while the Bruins' game revolves around the outside shooting of Reggie Miller and his teammates from three-point range.
"There is no question that the most important factor of tomorrow's game is controlling the tempo," Russo said. "If we do that, we have a great shot to win."
As for UCLA's fast-paced transition game, Russo said: "We buried their press the last time we played. They can't do that against us."
The winner of today's championship game gets an automatic bid into the NCAA tournament. It's academic, as far as UCLA is concerned. The Bruins, 23-6 overall and the regular-season Pac-10 champion, are virtually assured of a tournament invitation even if they lose today.
Washington (18-13) most likely will not be considered by the NCAA selection committee unless its gets the automatic bid.
Arizona (18-11), which was eliminated by Oregon on Friday night, is also hopeful of getting an invitation. The Wildcats played a demanding schedule against nationally ranked teams, and their athletic director, Cedric Dempsey, is a member of the NCAA selection committee.
The NCAA field will be announced at about the time today's Pac-10 championship game starts. So Washington, on a little bit of a roll now, may not have many options.
"The Pac-10 starting time presents a real problem if an underdog team not otherwise under consideration for a berth in the field of 64 makes it to the championship game," said Dick Shultz, chairman of the NCAA selection committee. "We can't wait for the outcome of that game to finish the bracketing."
Washington Athletic Director Mike Lude believes that Huskies must win today in order to get an NCAA bid, and he said he isn't going to do any lobbying with the selection committee.
"I don't think my talking to Dick Schultz, or any members of the committee, would be productive," Lude said. "If I were one of them, it wouldn't affect my judgment."
Lude seemed fairly confident, though, that Washington will be invited to the National Invitation Tournament.
As for Saturday's game, Zevenbergen had only four points and four rebounds at halftime as Washington trailed, 34-29.
He played at a higher level in the second half, though, as he scored 15 points and grabbed 8 rebounds.