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Basketball: Pac-10 reflections, Week 8

Greetings! I’m back from my one-week economy-prompted furlough, just in time for the ESPN “Game Day” crew’s stop in Berkeley on Saturday. Thanks to those who wrote, pretending to miss me.

Anyway, a few impressions from afar between getting the oil changed in my ’95 Odyssey van, pruning my backyard trees and balancing my checkbook:

   — Oregon State, again. Cal owns two wins over Pac-10 leader Washington, but has whiffed against the team that went 0-18 just a year ago. If the Bears doesn’t reach the NCAA tournament, blame it on 32.7-percent shooting in Corvallis.

   — No one in Berkeley is likely to say it this week, but Thursday’s game against USC at Haas Pavilion is the Bears’ biggest of the season. The rest of the regular-season schedule is even more daunting: vs. UCLA, at Arizona, at ASU. And it’s also huge for the fading Trojans, who probably must win out to have a shot at the NCAAs.

   — There was some good news for USC last weekend, amid reported player squabbles and other distractions: The Trojans got a commitment Sunday from Los Angeles-Fairfax HS star Renardo Sydney, a top-10 national prospect. He’s probably a one-and-done recruit at 6-foot-10, but that’s never bothered Tim Floyd.

   — It’s starting to look like there’s some hardwood destiny involved with the Huskies, who are seeking their first outright conference title since 1953. They lose at UCLA last Thursday, and still return home from L.A. alone in first place.

   — Too easy to suggest that Thursday’s Arizona State vs. Washington game in Seattle is winner-take-all. I still won’t be surprised if the eventual Pac-10 champion has five defeats. That hasn’t happened since 1984-85, when the Huskies and USC shared the crown at 13-5.

   — If the Sun Devils expect to win on Thursday, they’re going to have to do a little better job defensively against the UW backcourt duo of Justin Dentmon and Isaiah Thomas, who combined for 55 points when the teams met last month in Tempe. Yes, UW won.

   — What’s going on with UCLA’s once-mighty defense? Through 23 games, UCLA was 19-4 and allowing just 60.6 points per game. Over the past four, the Bruins are 1-3 and giving up 79 per.

   — But 82 points by a Washington State team that had failed to reach 60 in 15 of its previous 25 games? It was an orgy of offense, the most points the Cougars ever have scored in a regulation game at Pauley Pavilion.

   — Not entirely sure what this means, but it’s one of my favorite quotes of the year. “He’s gone from Bruce Wayne to Batman.” — Oregon State coach Craig Robinson on center Roeland Schaftenaar.

   — Is it possible that Stanford’s next victory won’t come until November 2009? The Cardinal, coming off a loss to previously helpless Oregon, will be a clearcut underdog in its final four regular-season games, then likely will open the Pac-10 tournament against Washington State. A 15-15 record (after a 10-0 start) sounds entirely possible.

Jeff Faraudo