Another day, another battle for first. As UWDawgPound describes, this game is even bigger for the Huskies than it is for Cal. The matchup will be getting national coverage on ESPN2 and will be one of the last chances the Bears will get to impress a national audience. With a win, the Bears are another step closer to an elusive conference title. With a loss Cal falls into a tie, loses the tie-breaker, and faces a more difficult end to the conference schedule. What should the Bears do to avoid such a fate? What should you look for at 6:00 tonight? To find the answers to those questions and more we turned to thecassino at UWDawgPound to find out.
1. Quincy Pondexter wrecked us the last time we played. What's the key to defending against him and making sure he works hard to get his numbers?
I'm not sure there are many players or teams at the college level than can effectively defend Quincy Pondexter for long stretches. He's got so many tools that eventually he's going to find a way to cause some damage. I would think that the best way to stop him would be to try to keep him away from the basket. He shoots the ball well from outside, but it at least minimizes him attacking the offensive glass, where he has killed a lot of teams. He's also darn near impossible to defend in transition, so it would benefit Cal to take care of the ball and hustle back on defense.
2. Washington has been fierce to play at home but struggles mightily away (0-4 on the road in conference play, including three blowouts). Is this just the symptom of having a young team, or do you guys think the Huskies are underachieving in that aspect?
I'd love to blame it on youth, but the truth is we're not really young enough to blame anything on that. I'd agree with it mostly being due to underachieving. It's just been a matter of coming out flat in the conference games and digging an early hole that we can't get out of, though not having Justin Holiday for the Arizona trip hurt a ton. He's the captain of the defense and both Jamelle Horne and Rihards Kuksiks had career nights against us in the desert, then when they came to Seattle Holiday shut both of them down. We've also played some pretty good teams on the road (and UCLA), which doesn't help things.
3. Where, if anywhere, do you see Washington ending the season?
Can I answer this one after this weekend? After the Cal game the schedule is pretty good to us - the tougher games (USC and UCLA) are at home and the easier ones (Oregon, OSU, WSU and Stanford) are on the road, so it looks pretty favorable. It just all hinges on how we do in the Bay Area. If we can win on Thursday, then I think we're going to be a tournament team for sure, because the team will have proven to themselves they can win on the road. If not, then we're in a bad way, and probably need to win just about everything left on the schedule.
4. What is the Huskies plan for stopping the Cal offense?
In the first meeting, Isaiah Thomas did a really good job on Jerome Randle. Which was surprising to many of us up here because we'd never really thought of him as a defensive player, mostly because Venoy Overton gets most of the credit for defending opposing guards. If he can replicate that effort (unlikely, Randle is just too good a player to have that many games like he had in Seattle) then it makes life easy for Lorenzo Romar.
The matchup that worries me is Patrick Christopher. There is no way Abdul Gaddy is ready to guard a player of his caliber for extended minutes, and if the Bears go big Romar is going to have a tough decision to make. Does he stick with 2 of the Thomas/Gaddy/Overton trio and give up that size, or play just one of them (something he rarely does) and go big with a Scott Suggs (6'6) or Elston Turner (6'4) at shooting guard? In the end, I feel like Romar will try to dictate rather than be dictated to; Overton will be the first man off the bench (for Gaddy) and he'll be used to push the tempo and try to create turnovers. If that works, then that'll continue to be the game plan. If not, then he'd have to go with Suggs and Turner anyway as they're the best shooters on the team.
5. Abdul Gaddy came to UW with lots of hype, but he hasn't been lighting the world on fire yet. How has he been developing and what do you expect from him for the rest of the year
Part of why Abdul hasn't been putting up huge numbers is because it's not his job to. He's just expected to get the offense underway, keep the team under control, and occaisionally make a pretty nifty pass. And for a kid who turned 18 two weeks ago he does a pretty good job of it, but at any given time he's probably no higher than the 4th scoring option.
His development has been pretty good. At the beginning of the year he couldn't stay on the floor for fouling, and seemed hesitant with the ball. But since conference play has started he's working better within the offense and has unveiled this little running flip shot in the lane which is pretty effective when he decides to be aggressive. His shooting leaves a ton to be desired - single digits from three - but the passing is fun to watch. He's been the best passer on the team since game 1.