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January 12, 2007

Pac 10 Breakdown: Ducks and Wildcats square off

Pac-10 Standings
Team Conf. Overall
Washington State 4-1 15-2
Arizona 4-1 13-2
UCLA 3-1 14-1
USC 3-1 13-4
Oregon 3-1 15-1
California 2-2 10-6
Stanford 2-2 10-4
Washington 1-4 11-5
Oregon State 0-4 8-9
Arizona State 0-5 6-10
Standings as of 1/11

Best matchup: Oregon's Aaron Brooks vs. Arizona's Mustafa Shakur. The Ducks' 6-foot point guard takes on the Wildcats' 6-foot-3 point guard on Sunday. Both seniors have struggled to reach expectations in recent years. However, they led their teams to a combined record of 26-3 record. Brooks leads the Pac-10 in scoring with 18.1 points per game. Shakur leads the league in assists with 7.93 per game.

Worst matchup: Oregon State at Arizona State. The bottom two teams in the Pac-10 face off on Saturday night. Going into Thursday's games, the Beavers and Sun Devils were a combined 0-7 in conference play.

The pressure is on: Stanford. After knocking off Washington on Thursday, the Cardinal play host to Washington State on Saturday. Prior to the win over the Huskies, The Cardinal shot only 31.25 percent from the floor in losses to Santa Clara and Cal. It's time to find out if they are back on track or if the win over Washington was an abberration.

Upset alert: USC welcomes its crosstown rival UCLA for the first time in the new Galen Center. The Bruins are coming off their first loss of the season, 68-66 to Oregon, a team the Trojans defeated on Jan. 4. USC also has Gabe Pruitt (16.9 points per game in 2005-06) back after missing the first 11 games of the season due to ineligibility.

Who's hot: Oregon guard Aaron Brooks scored 31 points against USC on Jan. 4 and 25 points against UCLA on Saturday. He shot 64.5 percent from the floor over that two-game span. Arizona State forward Jeff Pendergraph is averaging 14.1 points and 10.2 rebounds in his last nine games.

Who's not: On Saturday, Southern Cal shot 66 percent from the floor in a 91-46 win over Oregon State which shot 31.6 percent. USC outrebounded the Beavers 36 to 18. Arizona State has lost five in a row. Washington has not swept the Cal-Stanford road swing since 1985.

Must see TV: UCLA at USC, Saturday 2:30 p.m. ET, Fox Sports Net; Oregon at Arizona, Sunday 8 p.m. ET, Fox Sports Net

Key stat: -38. Cal is minus-38 in rebounding margin in the first four games since center DeVon Hardin was sidelined with a stress fracture in his left foot.

Bench bonus: Cal forward Eric Vierneisel has averaged 10.3 points per game in the last four games, helping to make up for the missing DeVon Hardin. Vierneisel has also converted 10 of 19 from 3-point range.

They said it: "I truly thought this team couldn't be beat. The way we played and the type of heart we play with, and the type of leadership we have on this team I wouldn't say we're invincible (but) I didn't think we could be beat. This is probably my worst loss ever." --UCLA guard Arron Afflalo, after Oregon's 68-66 win over top-ranked and unbeaten UCLA on Saturday.

Injury update: UCLA guard Josh Shipp will not play Saturday against USC because of a small tear in his right hamstring. Oregon guard Malik Hairston (heel) was expected to return Thursday against Arizona State after missing five games. Arizona center Bret Brielmaier is out for three to six weeks with knee surgery. The status of Cal guard Omar Wilkes (tailbone) is uncertain for this week.

Worth noting: No. 22 Washington State is ranked for the first time since 1983. The Cougars have not spent consecutive weeks in the poll since 1950. The top three shot blockers in the Pac-10 are freshmen Stanford's Robin Lopez, Washington's Spencer Hawes and USC's Taj Gibson. Oregon State added center C.J. Giles, a transfer from Kansas. The Pac-10 and Big 12 announce an agreement to play 12 games between the two conferences in each of the next four years starting in 2007-08. Among highlights for next season: Texas at UCLA and Texas A&M at Arizona on Dec. 2, and Arizona at Kansas on Nov. 25. Freshman brothers Robin Lopez and Brook Lopez started for Stanford on Sunday against Virginia. The two seven-footers combined for 27 points and nine rebounds.

Freshman to watch: Arizona's Chase Budinger and Washington's Spencer Hawes arrived in the Pac-10 with more fanfare, but Cal's Ryan Anderson has been just as valuable. Anderson is second in the Pac-10 in scoring with 17.2 points per game. The 6-foot-9 forward has also converted 31 shot from 3-point range.

Something you may have missed: USC is not one of the Pac-10's four ranked teams, but could move in the rankings sooner rather than later. The Trojans beat Oregon, who was previously undefeated, and Oregon State on the road last week. Gabe Pruitt has returned from academically ineligibility, freshman Taj Gibson has 32 blocks and is nearly averaging a double-double per game, and the Trojans are holding teams to 35 percent shooting.

RPI watch: The Pac-10 is the top-ranked conference in the RPI. UCLA and Arizona are first and second, respectively. The next-ranked Pac-10 team is Washington State at No. 26.

More Conference Breakdowns: ACC | Big 12 | Big Ten | Big East | SEC

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