Greetings Cougar Nation! Hope you are having a great start to your week.
Well, right before the UCLA game, we posted right here on this blog that, in order for us to sniff the NCAA tourney, we would have to go 3-3 over our next six.
Today, we stand four games into that stretch with a record of 1-3. So, what do we have to do?
We have to win the next two games.
But, of course, there's more to it than that.
With the Oregon schools coming into town the following week, we absolutely, POSITIVELY need to sweep them as well. So, in order for us to make the Big Dance, we need to win the next four in a row.
If we start the second half 4-0, then we'll need to grab two W's from either our trip to LA-LA land, our home contests with the AZ schools, and/or our trip to Seattle. If we do that, then we have a 6-3 second half, a 10-8 conference mark, and a ticket to the Dance.
Can we do it? Absolutely.
Will we do it? Well, we'll find out Thursday night.
But, the good news is that there are SEVERAL things working in our favor:
1) Washington, Washington, Washington, Washington. As much as we love to hate em, the Puppies' strength works tremendously in our favor. Not only do they run teams up and down, they also are bruising inside with Brockman down low. I think they are hands down the best in the Pac-10, meaning that in most cases, teams are going to be playing us needing to split. That will help us tremendously, because desperate teams don't do well playing against our grind-out style.
2) Problem Teams Come First. The teams that pose the biggest problems for us match-up wise tend to come first in the second half. That means that we get to spend those first four practice days really preparing for the things that have bothered us. For instance, the two small ball teams Stanford and Oregon come first. USC and their box and one and triangle and two stuff comes first. As does Arizona and that menacing press. Then, we get the (arguably) more talented teams after they've been pushed around by the Huskies. As a consequence, we can expect CAL to be spent and pressing on Saturday. Ditto UCLA. Ditto Arizona State.
3) We're ONE GAME back from where we were last year. Its hard to fathom, but its true. Last year, we went 5-4 in the first half. This year, with as bad as we were playing the first two games of the conference, we're sitting at 4-5. This team has gotten much, much better folks, and I think you'll see us get even better in the second half. Think about it: Klay Thompson is now starting to break through. Rochestie was in a major slump at the start of the conference season, and now we have two other freshman who are contributing. We are much, much better than five weeks ago.
4) The Bay Area teams are slumping. Say what you want about how great they might still look on paper, but CAL has now lost 4 of 6. Stanford, despite being a nose hair close to being really good, is now squarely in ninth place. Granted, this could be a SLEEPER weekend for both of those schools, but it also seems to me like they are really ripe for the picking.
The key for me is that first contest against the Trees where Hill and Goods seem poised to make Maples come alive. Win Thursday and I think we run the next three.
Will we do it? Stay tuned.