Wildcats entering home stretch

Arizona is entering a strecth of games this week in which it could lock up a conference championship.

The Arizona Wildcats (23-6, 12-4) enter the final week of the regular season tied for first place in the Pac-10 along with having the best overall record. Coming off a tough road trip to southern California, the Wildcats hope to rebound against the Oregon schools in order to secure the conference title for the first time since 2005.

Thursday brings the Oregon State Beavers to Tucson, where the Wildcats will be eager to earn a victory. In coach Miller's first two seasons at Arizona, he has yet to beat the Beavers, who run a Princeton-style offense in 3rd-year head coach, Craig Robinson's system.

The last meeting between these two teams ended with Oregon State squeaking out a one-point win, which has remained as Arizona's worst loss of the year in terms of RPI standing. Arizona shot 56% from the field in this game, but really struggled at the charity stripe, ending 13 of 24. The Wildcats have dramatically improved in free throw shooting since then and it will be important for that to continue this week.

The second match-up comes on Saturday night against the Oregon Ducks, who have arguably been the biggest surprise this season. Projected to finish last in the Pac-10, the Ducks have won seven conference games and are sitting at a record of 14-14 in head coach Dana Altman's first year.

The most impressive week for Oregon came in early February when they defeated both Washington and Washington State at Matt Court in Eugene. Even though the Wildcats won the first meeting between the Ducks, the game was during the first week of conference play. This Oregon team has improved its play since then, and the Wildcats need to come prepared in order to end the regular season on a high note.

Even with two wins this upcoming week, Arizona still requires help to secure an outright Pac-10 championship. With Washington's loss to Washington State on Sunday night, the Huskies have essentially made it a two-horse race for the conference crown between UCLA and Arizona.

UCLA has a very difficult road trip this week as it heads to the state of Washington to wrap up the regular season. UCLA lost at home to the Huskies by nine points earlier in the season, while beating the Cougars by the same margin. Arizona will be hoping that either the Huskies or Cougars can hand the Bruins another loss, which will effectively end UCLA's chance for a conference title.

However, if both the Bruins and Wildcats sweep this week, Arizona would hold the tiebreaker because of its two wins against California, who the Bruins split the series with. This would give the Wildcats the top seed in the Pac-10 tournament and delay the possibility of playing either Washington or UCLA until the championship game.

While last week did not go according to plan for Arizona, the Wildcats are still in the driver's seat for the 2010-11 Pac-10 championship. Arizona is playing at home in McKale Center where it is 16-0 this season, while its biggest competition, UCLA, goes on arguably the toughest road swing in the conference.

Everything is set for Arizona to have a special night come Saturday. It is now up to the coaches to develop a game plan and the players to execute it.

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