There are three games left for most Pac-10 teams – only Cal and Stanford have two. As the regular season dwindles, the top of the conference standings is becoming clearer. Saturday's Arizona State at Cal game pretty much will decide who wins the title. But the bottom, the part that matters to Washington State right now, is still muddled. Thursday's games did a good job of muddling them up even more. Read on.
• Washington State: Last night's Pac-10 games – I watched Cal toy with Arizona and UCLA keep Oregon State in a game the Bruins should have won easily – couldn't have worked out much better for the Cougars. Oh, sure, if USC had defeated the Ducks, then there would have been one less question mark – if Oregon wins out, it could still avoid the 8-9 game, which is weird but true – but otherwise, Stanford, Oregon State and Arizona losing helps WSU in its quest to avoid playing Wednesday. Now the Cougars have to do their part, starting Saturday night with Washington. ... Practice Thursday, at least the parts of it emphasizing offense, was devoted to handling pressure, something WSU did well in the first half at Washington. One thing I've learned this year about a Ken Bone-coached team, it will have the offensive tools it needs to succeed. What do I mean by that? Say you have a leak in a faucet. You go to fix it and you discover you need a certain tool. If you have it, you can get the job done. If not, the job is that much more difficult. It doesn't need to be the best-made tool in the world, just the right one for the job. That's what Bone gives his guys. They might not be the world's best shooters or passers or penetrators or post players, but he gives them tools to use to attack whatever defense or defensive challenge that confronts them. With those in hand, it's up to them to get the job done. ... Most of practice was devoted to the defensive side of the ball, handling penetration, getting physical on the boards, giving help. Basic elements WSU will need to control Washington – and anyone else it plays. With such an emphasis on defense, and meeting physical play with physical play, the scrimmage elements of practice were ragged at times. But they served their purpose, which is to get the Cougars ready for a UW team that wants to force your game to be ragged all the time. ... Speaking of the Huskies, their Pac-10 fate will be decided on the road, as they're finished with the Hec Ed part of the their schedule.
• Around the Pac-10: So there will be a winner-take-all showdown in Haas Pavilion on Saturday – well, sort of. If Cal wins, that's true. All that will be left is a game at Stanford and the Bears will have assured themselves of part of their first conference crown in most of our lifetimes (not mine, of course; it's you I'm talking about). ... The Bears made sure of that by toying with Arizona, building a big lead, letting the Cats close for a while, then rebuilding the big lead and winning, 95-71. ... The Wildcats played the same way they did during non-conference, which wasn't what coach Sean Miller wanted. ... Arizona State did its part, with Eric Boateng attacking the doughnut that is the Stanford defense (nothing in the middle), hitting all 11 of his shots en route to a career-high 24 points in the Sun Devils' 68-60 victory. ... ASU received offensive help from an unlikely source: Stanford's Landry Fields. ... Want more proof matchups are more important than any other factor in this year's Pac-10? I give you Oregon's 54-44 win over USC, the Ducks second this season over the Trojans. ... Coach Kevin O'Neill's Trojans scored 12 points in the second half. ... Short-handed UCLA handed Oregon State another loss at Pauley Pavilion. ... The Beavers made it close, but fell apart down the stretch in a 65-56 defeat.
• That's all for this morning. We'll be back this afternoon with our feature on Nik Koprivica – the Cougars' lone senior player. Until then ...