This Week in Cougar Hoops

WASHINGTON STATE'S 61-58 win over Stanford on Saturday was the biggest win of the Cougs' season. Argue if you want, but you won't get far with me. The victory over Gonzaga was the most emphatic and emotional, and in the short-term, meaningful. And the 77-71 beating of No. 15 Baylor in Hawaii is WSU's only win over a Top 25 team.

But beating Stanford on the road keeps the dream alive. There's a heartbeat when it comes to the Pac-10 title. But most importantly, the Cougars now have a margin of error in their quest to land an NCAA tournament bid.

Moreover, the Cougs beat the Card without starting point guard Reggie Moore, who is on indefinite suspension due to his being charged with possession of marijuana a month ago.

Washington State could run the table at home, but it's unlikely. There's going to be some Thursday or Saturday when the Cougars just don't have it, and lose on Friel Court. When that happens, the Stanford win is WSU's get-out-of-jail free card.

It's not that winning a Pac-10 road game is a big milestone for Washington State. The last time the Cougars failed to win at least two league road games was 2005-06. But down the road, winning at Stanford this season is going to look like a real achievement. The Cardinal have the makings of a nice team. Maybe not an NCAA tourney team, but a squad that's tough to beat at home; among Stanford's home wins is Washington.

Now 3-3 in league and 13-5 overall, Washington State has a chance to make a move during its upcoming three-game home stand. With co-Pac 10 leader Arizona coming to the Evergreen State this week, and the Huskies traveling to Pullman on Jan. 30, the Cougars have an opportunity to grab a share of the Pac-10 lead at the season's midpoint.

And thanks to the momentum that a win at Stanford should bring, Washington State has a chance to go on an extended winning streak. The Cougars have a stretch of seven games – Arizona State, Arizona, Washington, at Oregon, at Oregon State, Stanford, California – where they might be the favorites.

Win all seven, and WSU will have a 20-win season in hand by Feb. 12.

LOOKING AT THIS WEEK, the Cougars return to Pullman to play Arizona State (9-8, 1-4) on Thursday, and Arizona (15-3, 4-1) on Saturday. The ASU game tips off at 7 p.m. with webcast TV coverage. The Arizona game starts at 7:30 p.m. and will be televised on FSN NW.

Most of us would agree Oregon is the worst team in the Pac-10. But No. 9? It might be Arizona State. The Sun Devils play Herb Sendek's typically gritty style, and they manage to stay in a lot of games. But what Arizona State lacks is a compelling player, like the James Hardens and Jeff Pendergraphs of the past.

Arizona State's leading scorer is Trent Lockett at 13.7 points a game. Lockett hardly moves the meter when it comes to excitability. I can't see Washington State losing to ASU. The Sun Devils are mostly a zone defense team, which the Cougars ought to bust with 3-point standouts like Klay Thompson and Faisal Aden. Regardless of Reggie Moore's status, as long as WSU isn't looking ahead to Arizona, this is win No. 14.

Arizona moved into the Top 25 this week, at No. 25 in the coaches poll. The Wildcats could be WSU's most formidable opponent of the season to date, or at least as challenging as Butler was in the Diamond Head Classic. Arizona has won seven of its past eight games, the only loss a one-pointer at Oregon State.

Arizona-Washington State features a showdown of Pac-10 player of the year candidates in Thompson and Derrick Williams, a sophomore forward who is averaging 19.7 points and 7.3 rebounds per game. Arizona shoots the ball extremely well, hitting at a 48.7 percent clip. But what is most impressive about the Wildcats is their defense. They rank No. 5 nationally in 3-point field goal defense, and yield a respectable 41.9 percentage on overall field goal attempts.

Read Nick Daschel's occasional Pac-10 ramblings at

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