SEATTLE (AP) - A couple years ago, former Arizona coach Lute Olson walked into Hec Edmundson Pavilion the day before a game. He looked up and scoffed that Washington was hanging a banner proclaiming the 2005 Pac-10 champions - for merely winning the conference tournament.
Olson found it petty that UW would claim a title in a largely anticlimactic, made-for-TV, weekend event as trumping the 18-game grind of the conference's regular season.
Well, on Saturday the Huskies can finally seize the real thing all for themselves.
A win over Washington State inside sold-out Hec Ed would give the No. 16 Huskies (23-7, 13-4) their first outright Pac-10 title - and first outright championship of any league since 1953, when they won the Pacific Coast Conference.
``There's going to be a lot of juice in that building,'' Cougars coach Tony Bennett said.
Juicy, indeed. Washington has played 2,632 regular-season games in its men's basketball history, but none like Saturday's.
nson and Brandon Roy revitalized Washington's program earlier this decade, but the Huskies have never done what these Dawgs are on the verge of doing.
Even Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire will be there, a UW spokesman said Friday. No one can remember Gregoire attending a Huskies game.
``I'm not downplaying this. We have a chance to play for a championship. We're playing to do something no one has ever done (here),'' coach Lorenzo Romar said.
``We are always telling our guys stories about, 'Well, this is how Nate and Brandon, this is how their teams did it. This is why they were successful.' I'm sure they get sick of hearing that sometimes. Now, they get to create their own legacy. They get to do something that even those guys didn't have a chance to do.''
Plus, it's Senior Day, the home farewell for Jon Brockman, the rugged hero from the Seattle suburb of Snohomish, and for guard Justin Dentmon, who has gone from benched to a dynamo in one, memorable season. Seldom-used senior center Artem Wallace will start for freshman Darnell Gant.
``This group is very special to me,'' Romar said, noting this is the first senior class his staff began recruiting years before it started playing at UW.
``We have a longer investment with these guys than any other group we've had,'' said Romar, who arrived in 2002.
Cougars (16-13, 8-9) have beaten the Huskies seven of the last eight in a series that began in 1910, when UW won 13-9 in Pullman. They've played 265 times since.
Washington ended a seven-game losing streak to Washington State on Jan. 3. The startling, 20-point victory in Pullman to begin the conference schedule signaled these Huskies were no longer the pups who cowered on the road the last two seasons.
Now, Washington State may be the conference's hottest team. The miraculous shooting of senior guard Taylor Rochestie has led to consecutive wins over UCLA, Arizona and Arizona State, and has the Cougars dreaming of a late push into the postseason.
``We've still got a lot of season left - hopefully,'' senior forward Caleb Forrest said.
A loss to Washington could drop the Cougars to the seventh seed in next weekend's Pac-10 tournament, an event they likely have to win to make the NCAA tournament. Since the Pac-10 expanded its event to 10 teams in 2005, no team seeded seventh or lower has won it.
``I'm not worrying about so much even the wins and losses, or postseason play,'' Bennett said. ``Let's just get as good as we can. And if that qualifies us for something, so be it.''
Two of Washington State's three wins over ranked teams this season have come on the road, at Arizona State and UCLA. But this will be different.
Much different.
playing against the most athletic team one through five in the Pac-10. In their place. In that environment. In this kind of game. On a senior night. All of those things,'' Bennett said. ``It will take your breath away if you're not ready for it.''
---
Associated Press Writer Nicholas K. Geranios in Spokane, Wash., contributed to this report.

NCAAB Headlines

Advertisement

NCAAB Top Stories

Thumbnail Xavier vs. Colorado Prediction The Colorado Buffaloes have been a tough home team but can they hang with No. 13 Xavier tonight at 8:00PM ET in Boulder?
Thumbnail Creighton vs. Nebraska Prediction Will Nebraska give No. 10 Creighton a game tonight when the two non-conference teams clash at 8:00PM ET?
Thumbnail Valparaiso vs. Kentucky Pick Will No. 6 Kentucky be able to cover at home as a 20-point favorite against Valparaiso tonight?
Thumbnail East Carolina vs. Virginia Prediction Is Virginia a good bounce-back candidate to win and roll against East Carolina at 7:00PM ET tonight?
Thumbnail Gators chomping through competition Florida has dropped five straight clashes with non-SEC opponents ranked in the top five. But can Mike White’s team rise to the occasion...

NCAAB Team Pages