The focus this week starts with the Husky basketball team who came out of LA with a split and a half game lead over Arizona State in the Pac 10 title race. ASU just happens to be their next opponent on Thursday back home at Hec Edmundson.
Washington is trying to win its first outright Pac 10 basketball championship since 1953. That particular squad featured a senior by the name of Bob Houbregs who was named NCAA Player of the Year, was a Consensus All-America selection, helped lead the University of Washington to the Final Four, and was named to the All-Tournament team after averaging 34.8 points per game in the post-season.
Washington doesn't have a player of quite the magnitude on the roster this season but they do have a very solid rotation of nine players that have helped them achieve a 20-7 record and an almost certain berth in the NCAA playoffs.
The Huskies have been tough at home this season only falling to California in triple overtime earlier this season. With three conference home games left the Huskies are the odds on favorite to win it all.
Now before we get too excited they need to beat Arizona State and Arizona who just may be playing the best brand of basketball in the league right now. UW had no trouble with the Sun Devils on the road earlier this season but they fell out of rhythm against Arizona and dropped that one on the Tucson.
As we have seen this season in the Pac 10 any team is capable of beating any other team on any given night. As we enter crunch time with all the marbles on the table expect two very tough games this week.
If the Huskies can navigate that gauntlet they still have WSU who surprised UCLA on their home court this weekend. The Coug's seem to be rounding into shape as the season is about to end and even though they won't make the big dance a victory over the Huskies to finish the season is very much in the realm of possibility.
I personally feel pretty good about UW's chances for a Pac 10 title. I think the home court advantage and a deep rotation will allow them to sweep the last three games. One thing that is particularly encouraging has been the emergence of Quincy Pondexter. The junior is finally beginning to reach his potential which bodes well going in to the last two weeks of the season.
We had an interesting debate with the Cougar blog last week concerning the potential of state funding to rebuild Husky Stadium. Cougar fans are very lukewarm to say the least about UW receiving tax payer support even though they would run a deficit of close to $5 million per years without that kind of support.
Washington on the other hand has been self supporting for over 100 years and is looking for state help with the remodel because after all the state actually owns the stadium.
Word from Olympia last week is there isn't a lot of support in the legislature for the proposal but chances are good they will let King County make up their own mind on the subject because the taxes raised come from a hotel and restaurant tax in King County and are intended to fund sports stadiums.
The Coug fans argument was that it wasn't UW vs WSU thing. The argument was that as the country enters a possible depression and the state budget needs to be trimmed by $5 billion that it isn't good move from a tax payers point of view to build a new stadium when Qwest would do. They feel taxes should be cut...not raised or extended as it would be in this case.
On the other side of the coin I feel going ahead with the expansion would be a great investment for the future and it would provide construction jobs during a time when they are really needed. Since the construction could start as soon as December it fits the model of being a shovel ready project that would provide much needed stimulus for the local economy.
Expect the legislature to act soon one way or another and I think they will bounce the decision over to King County to deflect controversy. Where it exactly goes from there is uncertain but the residents of the area where the taxes are raised should have the first say in how they are spent.
Coach Sarkisian took his coaching staff on a retreat last week that featured motivational expert Lou Tice. Lou who founded the Pacific Institute is an old coach himself who once walked the sidelines of Kennedy HS in Burien. Husky great and ex head man Jim Lambright is also currently employed by the Pacific Institute.
Sarkisian commented in press conference that the current players on the roster have been responding well to winter conditioning under the guidance of Coach Lewis. One thing he is encouraged by is his big guys are losing weight which he hopes will result in a better conditioned team going into spring ball.
I think we can all agree on two things. Sark has the team pointed in the right direction and he believes in communicating with the fan base. The coach is even using Twitter every day to give us a glimpse of what is going on inside the program.
I don't know how many games we are going to win next year but this guy is definitely a breath of much needed fresh air.