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Huskies and Seattle U resume rivarly

Congratulations to the University of Washington Huskies who have clinched a share of their first Pac 10 championship since 1985 and have a shot at winning their first outright championship since 1953 if they beat WSU on Saturday or UCLA loses one more game.

This is a special moment as PI columnist Art Thiel related in his column.

After the UW followed a 2007-08 season of 16-17 with an opening loss to little Portland, as well as a blowout loss to national power Kansas, the Huskies looked to be merely the latest in a dispiriting string of mediocrities trudging through the Seattle moonscape.

But after beating Arizona State on Thursday and Arizona on Saturday with more guts and energy than talent, the Huskies are 22-7 and assured of a berth in the NCAA Tournament. With a home win Saturday over Washington State, they would earn Washington's first outright conference title since we all liked Ike as the new president.

Another big part of this week that Art took the time to reflect on is the resumption of the cross city rivalry between Seattle U and the University of Washington on the basketball court.

For the first half of the previous century, Washington would have nothing hoopswise to do with Seattle U. But in 1953, the second-ranked Huskies, led by Bob Houbregs, were forced to engage the 14th-ranked Chieftains in the NCAA West regionals in Corvallis, Ore. The UW won 92-70.

That year was the last time Washington won the conference championship outright. Until perhaps Saturday.

So if you're a fan of local hoops history, as Romar is, you have to be intrigued by the fates at work that would have Washington play Washington State, Seattle U, Eastern Washington and Gonzaga in the same season.

Washington ignored Seattle U as much as it could in the 50's and 60's when the Chieftain program was at it's former zenith. It wasn't until the 1970's when Seattle U's star began to fade did the two squads play an annual matchup each year.

You may not be a Seattle U fan or even be old enough to remember when the First Hill school had more players in the NBA than any other school and was second to only UCLA on the West coast as far as basketball prestige was concerned.

I had the opportunity this weekend to interview Seattle U coach Joe Callero while he was taking his team through the Dakota's on a very snowy road trip. That interview will run on Tuesday as we kick off the celebration of the revival of the series. I found the discussion very interesting because the process of re-establishing a division one basketball program in this day in age is very challenging.

Hats off to Lorenzo Romar for extending a hand to what are now called the Redhawks as they try to re-establish their program in the big time.