But, what we saw yesterday was the final nail in what I think is the first real change and improvement marker from this year's bunch compared to last year's 26-8 squad: the bombers don't beat us anymore.
I know, I know, you all can point to the slash, dash, crash, and smash that Zona put on us, but I would contend to all of you that last year, Oregon beat us twice (and would've done it thrice if given the opp) in the EXACT same type of game. This year, we beat them in all three. Last year, we lost to Vandy in the NCAA because we couldn't contain and/or withstand the barrage from never-never land. This year we would win that same type of game.
So as we look forward to the NCAA's, this much we know: the small teams ain't gonna beat us. What will beat us, however, are teams that can crowd us. Solid and fierce ball pressure is the key to beating us. And unfortunately, Stanford has the trees on the front line to back that pressure up in spades.
A couple of weeks ago, I told you all that we would lose at home to Stanford and then bounce back and get em in the conference tournament. And part of me still feels like Baynes and Cowgill are going to play well tonight and we are going to get them much in the same way that USC finally got us despite losing two close contests.
At the same time, its also important for you all to know that, at that time, I really thought that Stanford was a major, major pretender. But, after seeing parts of the game last night, as well as last week's tilt against UCLA, I have a different perspective. I honestly think that they might be the best in the conference.
While destined for a 3 seed unless they win the conference tournament, Stanford is really a SOLID #2 seed and, in my book, are a more than legit contender for the Final Four (and if Hill shot like he did last year, I'd put em in there). And, the Lopez kids are really something to behold. Where the killer B is concerned, I honestly haven't seen a better one handed jumper at the college level since, dare I say, Tim Duncan?
So, we REALLY, REALLY have our hands full tonight, folks.
I also wonder about what a win tonight really gets us. On one hand, win tonight, and I think that we grab a #3 seed on Selection Sunday which would obviously position us for an Elite Eight run. Lose tonight and I think we get a 4 if its close, and a 5 if its not.
And in my book, there's NO WAY we're beating UCLA on Saturday.
So, I ask you, is it more important to gain a signature win before the tourney starts, or are we better suited to play one less game and be that much more fresh for next week and that oh-so-precious second game????
I'm torn about how to answer that, I really am (e.g. what do YOU think?)
In terms of the game prediction, well, Weaver is going to have to bring his A+ game, Cowgill will have to play as well as he has in the last two (he's really coming on!), Baynes is going to have to stay out of foul trouble (a tall order) but will be fresh, and Harmeling is going to have to buy a vowel, if not a clue.
IF all of those things happen, we'll win.
But they won't and so we won't.
Brinkhater locks up a 41-2 pre-NCAA record and the number one seed in the West as the Trees cruise 68-57.
We'll be a #5 seed on selection Sunday...And that, dear Cougar nation, ain't a bad thing.
Also, please Remember: there is a REAL chance that including tonight, there are only two more times to watch this fantastic group of kids.