The thought of Arizona State and Washington playing for first place in the Pac-10 with less than two weeks to go in the regular season is as preposterous as Rush Limbaugh liking something the Democrats do. While that will never happen, the Sun Devils and Huskies have a key contest in Seattle that will weigh heavily on the outcome of Pac-10 title. Memphis’ string of C-USA wins only seems like the Harlem Globetrotters winning streak, and they hope not to have water thrown on them by Alabama-Birmingham, who will be trying to end the streak.
Over the last several seasons, Memphis basketball has been known for ultra-talented athletes that can run and score points in bunches. This year’s team may lack the primordial skills of coach John Calipari’s previous teams, yet this squad is proving to be every bit a challenge to beat as his other clubs. The Tigers (24-3, 16-9-1 ATS) are holding opponents to under 38 percent shooting and have held nine different teams to 52 or fewer points this season, in spite of uptempo style. Memphis is 20-10 ATS after nine or more consecutive wins over the last two seasons (7-2 this year). The Tigers stupefying 54-game C-USA winning streak could again be tested at a place where they almost succumbed last year.
UAB (19-8, 12-13-1 ATS) is a dangerous team; they don’t make many mistakes and have known quantities that make winning plays. Robert Vaden has an all-round game, Paul Delaney III is among the conference leaders in shooting percentage from the guard spot and Lawrence Kinnard has been in the top three in C-USA all season in rebounding. The Blazers are 12-0 at home (6-5 ATS) and will want to finish what they started last year, blowing a late lead to lose to Memphis 79-78.
Bookmaker.com has Memphis as 4.5-point favorites and they are 7-1 ATS versus teams with winning records. UAB has lost six straight (1-4-1 ATS) to Memphis, however the home team 6-1 ATS in last seven meetings.
ESPN will have this C-USA conflict at 9 Eastern.
Arizona State at Washington
If the Sun Devils are in an important contest late in the season, most fans and alumni would assume it is baseball game. But coach Herb Sendik grew tired of being unappreciated in the ACC by his former employer and instead has taken over a sleepy basketball program that couldn’t draw many more than 200 students to come watch a game unless their rival Arizona was on the other bench. That has all changed with Arizona State (21-5, 14-8 ATS) nationally ranked and bidding for a Pac-10 title.
Since joining the conference 30 years ago, the Sun Devils have seldom contended for league honors, let alone win a Pac-10 basketball title. Yet seldom have they had a player of sophomore James Harden’s ability. The team is a classic Sendik assembly job, not appearing to work cohesively until they hit the floor. ASU is 7-2-1 ATS facing teams with winning home records.
Washington (20-7, 16-8-1 ATS) is just as unlikely to be in first place this late in the season with a chance to be outright Pac-10 champs. The Huskies were co-champs a couple of times in the mid-1980’s, otherwise the only basketball regular season championship was during the Eisenhower administration (1953), when the league was known as the Pacific Coast Conference.
Senior leadership or experienced upperclassmen is often why ordinary teams exceed expectations and Washington has a pair of hard to beat in bruising Jon Brockman and guard Justin Dentmon. These two warriors have been through it all in Seattle and are relishing their senior seasons with the help of a youngster, freshman Isaiah Thomas who added the extra dimension. The Huskies are 14-1 and 9-4 at home and will have raucous crowd at the venerable B.O.A. Arena, the old Hec Edmonson Pavilion.
Washington is 11-4 in the Pac-10 and is two-point favorite over Arizona State, who is 10-4 in conference and 6-2 SU and ATS in true road games. The Huskies won the earlier meeting in Tempe 84-71 as six point road dogs.
FSN has the tip at 8 Pacific, with the road team 6-1 against the spread.