The first two are LSU and Georgia, both last in their respective SEC divisions, well below .500 and suffering through long-expected rebuilding seasons. Amazingly the other is Washington, a preseason top 25 team that entered Thursday's game at Cal with a 16-1 record in Seattle and an atrocious 0-6 mark outside of it.
Awarded yet another chance to right themselves on the road and claim a share of first place in the watered-down Pac-10, the Huskies, perhaps predictably, squandered it. They lost 93-81 to a Cal team they clobbered by 15 at home a few weeks ago, falling to 6-6 in conference play and slamming the door shut on their faint hopes of a late run at an at-large bid.
You probably can't call any Pac-10 match-up a truly big game this season, but this one at least carried high enough stakes to masquerade as one. Not only did Cal remain a game ahead of the Arizona schools and on track for its first Pac-10 title in 50 years, the two leading contenders for conference player of the year also went head to head for the final time this season.
If the race between Quincy Pondexter of Washington and Jerome Randle of Cal came down to Thursday night's game, the Bears point guard would be a runaway winner. Whereas Pondexter managed just three points on 1-for-6 shooting in the decisive first half before a late scoring surge pushed him to 18, Randle had 21 of his 33 before halftime and finished an efficient 12-for-19 from the floor.
To understand how different Washington (16-8) is away from home, consider these numbers for a second. The Huskies averaged 86.4 points at home and 68.1 on the road entering play Thursday night. Opponents put up 66.8 points in Seattle and 79.5 elsewhere.
Determined to find a cure for his team's road woes, Washington coach Lorenzo Romar unveiled the Huskies' black alternate jerseys for only the second time this season and even joked that he might leave his wife at home because she was bad luck. Whatever he tried failed as Cal built a 14-point halftime lead and maintained it throughout the second half, shooting 51.7 percent from the floor and out-rebounding the Huskies by nine in the process.
Now instead of having to win one game away from home, Washington will need to win three. The Pac-10 tournament is next month in Los Angeles, and anything short of a championship will relegate Washington to the NIT.