I promise this post to be 100% Tosh-free! Yes, we have an ACTUAL SPORTING EVENT tonight. I know that you have all been focused on coaching searches and recruiting, but in the last few days, zero ACTUAL SPORTING EVENTS have actually occurred.
So, let's put all the "what ifs" and "did you hears" aside for a moment to look at real, actual things that will occur in Seattle tonight. Cal Men's Basketball will take on UW Men's Basketball. It will be two good teams in a hard fought battle. Sadly, Cal MBB will not have Richard Solomon who was declared academically ineligible for the rest of the season. Definitely a sad and frustrating situation. I hope Dick Solo can get his academics in order and focus on working towards a Cal degree. In his absence, hopefully the MBB team can step up and take down the Huskies of Washington.
We spoke with knowledgeable source and UWDawgpound favorite UW11BowDown regarding the game. We've seen him around the boards a lot and found him to be a reasonable fan not prone to arrogance or woofery. We definitely think the answers he provided were top notch and hope you enjoy them. We are happy to work with him in the future. I'm sure he'll be around in the comments to provide any further insight should you request it.
So, check out the Q+A after the jump. And let's try to all calm down and focus on real things that exist. GO BEARS!
1. Tony Wroten still seems to be dominating the ball on offense. Is that a good thing or a bad thing for Washington at this point?
Tony Wroten's possession percentage has been a hot topic among UW observers all season. It's currently at 34.2%, 5th in the country. Early in the season Wroten would often attempt to make great passes that were either deflected by taller defenders than he was used to, or uncatchable rockets which our posts did not have a chance at handling. He also has a habit of driving into the lane, realizing he has nowhere to go and having his shot ruthlessly blocked.
Despite all of that, Wroten has frequently been our best offensive option in the half court game. With the loss of Isaiah Thomas and Matthew Bryan-Amaning we have had to completely reset our half court offense, with somewhat disastrous results at times. Wroten has the ability to beat almost anyone off the dribble and get into the lane with ease, and as such a lot of our possessions consist of passing around the perimeter until he is forced to create something himself. Once he gets into the lane he's very capable finishing with his left hand and is adept at drawing fouls from opposing bigs. If he were a better FT shooter (53%) he would easily average over 20 points a game. He is improving every game, and while we would almost certainly be better if C.J. Wilcox and Terrence Ross took more of a roll in the offense, Wroten provides a spark and aggressiveness that the rest of our team is lacking. I shudder to think of where we would be without him.
2. UW's defense doesn't seem to be as strong as it has typically been under Romar. What has the UW defense struggled with this year?
Youth has been the biggest problem for UW on defense this year. We essentially start five second year players, and it has taken longer than expected for them to learn their assignments and responsibilities. Aziz N'Diaye has been our defensive anchor, opposing guards are hesitant to drive when he is in the lane. Most of our defensive problems come from players finding themselves out of position, which leads to easy baskets for the opponent. While Wroten has the potential to be an excellent defender, he is still learning when to attempt a steal and when to stay in front of his defender. We occasionally mix in a 2-3 zone, but normally come out of it in a few possessions after the other team has nailed a few open 3's.
3. The Huskies have been pretty great on the offensive glass. Is that mostly because of Aziz N'Diaye, or does Cal need to account for other players when they box out?
Aziz is certainly the first priority for Cal to keep off the boards, but he is not the only reason for our success. Desmond Simmons (74th nationally OR%) has quickly become a fan favorite for his defense and rebounding and should be in the starting lineup against Cal. Terrence Ross is an excellent rebounder, and Tony Wroten has an uncanny ability to rebound (and make) his own misses. Offensive rebounding is a priority for UW and the ability of Cal to keep them off the glass will be one of the most interesting battles of the game.
4. After handling Oregon and Oregon St. with relative ease, Washington lost to Colorado, then struggled with Utah and Seattle and played from behind for much of the game against Washington St. Why has UW been struggling with such mediocre teams, and were the problems solved in the last 10 minutes against the Cougs?
In addition to the losses you mentioned, losses to Nevada, St. Louis and most alarmingly South Dakota State, have all consternated UW fans this year. In all of these games we have struggled both offensively and defensively. When a lack of defensive stops keeps us from getting any points in transition our offense stagnates completely, which results in a lot of standing around watching Tony Wroten try and win the game on his own.
The first half of the WSU game was more of the same, defensive breakdowns all over the place and offensive stagnation. In the second half the defense tightened up and led to fast break baskets, which along with Terrence Ross's insane game (24 second half points) contributed to a 26-6 run which turned an 11 point deficit into a 9 point lead. UW fans have been desperate to see Ross take a more active and aggressive role in the offense, it will be interesting to see if he demands the ball in the early stages against Cal like he did against WSU.
5. How much of a home court advantage will there be? Are UW fans excited about this team, or will the crowd be muted compared to UW's typically high standards?
Hec Ed woke up for the first time this year on Sunday against WSU. A Technical Foul on Romar when we were down 10 points brought the crowd alive and changed the atmosphere of the stadium. Not surprisingly, we immediately started our 26-6 run. After losing our 3 leading scorers from last year, expectations for this year started out low, but I think fans have begun to realize how talented this team is. That, combined with the fact that most of us believe UW-Cal will go a long way towards determining the Pac-12 champion should make for a lively atmosphere Thursday night.
On the other hand, you may have heard that Seattle is expecting its biggest snowfall in possibly 20 years tomorrow. The city is terrible at handling even a mild snowfall, and if the snow lasts until Thursday I would not be surprised at all if a sold out Hec-Ed is only 50-60% full.
6. I just found out that C.J. Wilcox will be out this week with a stress fracture - how much does that impact the Huskies, and who will take his minutes?
Losing Wilcox hurts UW enough that if we lose I'll take comfort in blaming it on his absence. Outside of Ross he is our only reliable three point threat, and his presence alone is often enough to keep defenses from collapsing on Wroten's drives. His absence will likely lead to Hikeem Stewart giving Ross, Gaddy, and Wroten 3 minutes of rest each in the first half. Outside of that, expect our starting guards to play the whole way. Stewart brings nothing to the table offensively, but isn't a complete disaster on the defensive end. He should grow into a solid role player in a few years, but his only purpose Thursday will be to give each of the starters a break.
If this game were at Cal I would predict a 10 point Cal win. Since it is in Hec-Ed I think UW will pull it out, with a score of around 85-80. Despite that prediction, I wouldn't be surprised by any outcome, including a blow out by either team.