Winner of the Pac has to avoid 'bad losses'

Okay, there is no easy way to say it. The Cats blew it. Arizona had a chance to get the upper hand in the Pac-10, but now have less of a margin for error thanks to a loss to Oregon State.

Before I get too deep into the column, I realize that we are just five games into the Pac-10 season and there is A LOT of basketball left to play. The Cats are not out of it, nor would a win over the Beavers have made a huge difference in the long run. What the loss did is make things just a little tougher.

Coming into this weekend the Cats had realistic expectations for a sweep. The Cats were, and frankly are, better than both Oregon schools. Had the Cats taken care of business, they would have swept their first two road trips, with just two left. Even if they had split the two California trips, they would have had a 7-2 (assuming a win over ASU) Pac-10 road record. 7-2, with reasonably solid play at home, would certainly go a long way in putting the Cats at the top of the Pac-10.

Now, assuming they beat Oregon, the Cats will need a sweep at one of the California trips to amass that same record. Both California trips appear to be more difficult than the Oregon swing. Considering the Bruins are 2-0 on the road, with a tough road win over Arizona, they have a slight advantage. Of course they still have to play at Washington, and the Huskies are coming to Westwood this weekend, so nothing is guaranteed.

Where the Bruins have the real advantage is in the fact they have not suffered a "bad loss". In my mind a bad loss is any loss to a team not in the top-four of the conference. Even though the season is still very young, it is obvious that the Wildcats, Bruins, Huskies and Cal are the four best teams in the league. A loss to any of these teams, while not preferred, is not disastrous. They are all quality teams.

A loss to the bottom six teams, that is another story. To win this league you need to take care of business against teams that you are clearly better than. To date only the Bruins have avoided the upset. UCLA's lone loss came to Cal. They have had two scares with last second wins over Washington State and ASU, but to date have taken care of business.

Both Arizona and Cal lost to Oregon State, and although the Beavers are playing much better, they don't look to be a title contender. Washington not only had the home loss to Arizona, but dropped a game to Washington State.

The winner of the Pac-10 may not be the most talented team, but may be the team that gets upset the least. Taking care of business against the good teams is important, but avoiding upsets could be the key. You have to assume that all of the good teams will lose to each other, in fact other than Cal, they have. My guess is that most of the good teams will split with each other. A sweep over one would be a huge advantage, but taking care of business against lesser teams seems to me to be the key to the regular season crown.

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