A week ago I made the mistake of downplaying the magnitude of UCLA's visit to Arizona. I overlooked the chase for a Pac-12 title and the unquestionable talents of a determined Shabazz Muhammad.
The Bruins missed this memo and controlled from tip-to-horn en route to a convincing win. And while it now appears they've left every shred of whatever they had inside the McKale Cneter, the point stands that this eighteen-game stretch we're on is not short any big games.
So what if the Washington Huskies are reeling a bit. Indeed they've fallen victim to both Utah and Oregon State as their respective first conference wins and the Dawgs run about six players deep? And they've struggled inside HecEd - four home losses matches the total across the previous two seasons - and that Albany loss is becoming one of the most glaringly bad in the nation (201 in KenPom). They've lost three straight.
On paper, this one is quickly losing steam.
But this is still The Washington game. It's still the team in purple that's beaten the MillerCats in five-of-seven contests and in every Wildcat trip to Seattle. Miller discussed this rivalry at Pac-12 media day, "We have had some really great battles with Washington, whether it's been in the Pac-12 tournament, in McKale or there." He is also very aware that he has never won in HecEd, "Washington to me is the place that we respect the most. We're 0-3 there during our time... it's hostile - and in a very good way. And hopefully by me saying that, they will welcome me with open arms this year and maybe we can beat them by one point."
That competitive man understands that the tiny number that shows up next to his team's name on all documentation serves as a bullseye. That it doesn't matter what's happened in the immediate past, if you give a team a reason to win, they will. All it took for the Bruins was for Arizona to unfathomably go 1-13 to start the game with missed layups abound. UCLA believed and won. Ask Oregon about their trip to Maples.
Washington has every reason to believe they can win this basketball game.
So toss aside all the facts that say the Huskies will get steamrolled. It may be the case but I guarantee you they don't think so.
Because this is Arizona-Washington - my favorite rivalry - and just about anything can happen. From here on out, they're all big games.