There was a point late in the Huskies second round NIT game against Northwestern where Tony Wroten confidently crossover dribbled between his legs about eight times with the crowd going nuts and everything felt right in the Husky basketball universe. The Huskies had a big time conference opponent on its back, the team was playing with a loose confidence, having fun and generally looking like the team that everyone thought they should be. For an instant, Huskies fans may have been able to get lost in the moment and forget that NCAA Tournament games were going on at that very moment.
Just when it looked like the Huskies might mail it in for the rest of the season, they played maybe their best game of the season and put themselves one step closer to a legitimate consolation prize. Everything was clicking, Wroten was unselfishly distributing the ball, Ross and Wilcox were knocking down jumpshots, N'Diaye was blocking shots and staying out of foul trouble and Gaddy was stepping up whenever they needed him. Just a few days before, the team was sleepwalking against UT Arlington and credit should be given to Romar and the players for turning it on and blowing out one of the best teams that they played all season.
Now things will get very interesting. Outside of losing to Oregon State in the conference tournament, the beating that the Huskies took in Eugene may have been the low point of the season. The Huskies entered on a roll and left totally outclassed by the Ducks in every facet of the game. Now they will have the chance to play arguably their most hated rival at home with the chance to head back to Madison Square Garden where the avenging can continue after having dropped two tough games in the Garden earlier in the season.
The matchup here truly raises the stakes though. A loss to UT Arlington or Northwestern could be easily shrugged off, but having the hated Ducks put an end to the season in Alaska Airlines Arena would be a bitter pill. With all of this at stake, this can be looked at almost as a bowl game for both teams and could be the most interesting Pac-12 game in a relatively boring season. With the NCAA Tournament on its four day hiatus that always feels like an eternity, Pac-12 fans and basketball fans in general have no excuse for not tuning into a bonus conference/rivalry/elimination game between what could be argued as the two best teams in the Pac-12.
Both regular season contests were lopsided in favor of the home team but I expect this one to be a close, hard fought battle against two teams that matchup very well against each other. While the Ducks have more seniors who will be fighting to extend their careers, the Huskies have more talent, including underclassmen who may be looking to add a little legacy to their likely short lived college careers and I think that will make the difference in the Bonus Border Battle.