USA TODAY Sports
Roll up those newspapers and re-load the spray bottles. The flea-ridden leg humpers from the Northwest are pulling their sled to Haas Pavilion. It's been an odd season thus far for the Washington Huskies. Despite losing NBA 1st-rounders Tony Wroten and Terence Ross, Lorenzo Romar typically stockpiles enough talent to reload instead of rebuild. On paper, they have a dynamic scoring duo on the wing, a savvy senior point guard, and a senior 7-footer at center to control the paint.
But the Huskies have dropped three games at home that they were favored to win, Albany, Colorado State, and Nevada.
Usually, the Huskies thrive on getting their athletes out in the open court. They like to pressure the ball on the perimeter and use turnovers to fuel an uptempo attack. But this year's squad is more suited for the half court...and that's historically been a weakness for a Romar-coached squad. Their defense has been inconsistent, and they don't tend to force a lot of steals.
Just like our Golden Bears, the Huskies seem to be a team trying to jell and find their way. This contest may very well be decided on who makes fewer mistakes, which young player steps up to contribute, and whose star is hottest during crunch time.
C Aziz N'Diaye(Sr), 7'0, 260 lbs, 11.1 ppg, 9.2 rpg
F Desmond Simmons(So), 6'7, 220 lbs, 6.1 ppg, 8.1 rpg
G Scott Suggs(Sr), 6'6, 195 lbs, 13.5 ppg, 2.5 rpg
G C.J. Wilcox(Jr), 6'5, 195 lbs, 18.4 ppg, 4.5 rpg
G Abdul Gaddy(Sr), 6'3, 195 lbs, 12.6 ppg, 3.8 apg
Abdul Gaddy has come back from a serious knee injury to run the point. He's not particularly quick, but knows how to change speeds and use his body to get into the paint. Although he's more natural distributor, he's been asked to do more scoring his year. C.J. Wilcox is the straw that stirs the Huskies' water dish. He's a deadly outside shooter who puts up almost twice as many shots as the next guy on the roster. Although he's athletic enough to slash, he prefers to stay on the perimeter. When his shot isn't falling, UW has struggled to score consistently this year. Scott Suggs is another jump-shooting specialist. He's more accurate from deep than Wilcox, but is a bit more discerning with his shot selection. N'Diaye is a rebounding and shot-blocking beast. He's tough on the offensive glass and has developed a hook shot as well as a counter drop step in the paint. Desmond Simmons is their glue and hustle guy. Besides being a lot of fun playing "Fetch," he's the one who will snag loose balls and set the tone defensively. Andrew Andrews is more of high-flying athlete that UW is accustomed to at guard. He also has incredibly creative parents. Shawn Kemp, Jr. isn't a Rain Man-esque leaper, but he's a physical inside presence.
Keys to the Game:
1) Cobbs vs. Gaddy
After starting the year looking like an all-league talent, Justin Cobbs has struggled a bit the past few games. He looks like he's out of sync with deciding when to call his own number and when to set his teammates up. It's hard to fault the willingness to put the team on his back. But, he'd be a much more effective scorer and playmaker if he did so within the proper flow of our offensive.
Gaddy has the opposite problem. He's more comfortable distributing the ball to his teammates, but is being asked to step up his scoring. Dribble penetration is a big part of his game. We'll need to keep him out of the paint without getting into foul trouble.
2) Crabbe vs. Wilcox
Perhaps the marquee conference match-up between two of the league's best scorers. Last year, I would have called Crabbe the better deep threat while Wilcox had the better mid-range game. This year, however, Crabbe has been in a three-point shooting slump. It's a tribute to his off-season work that he's been able to continue to put up good scoring efforts without relying on the three-point line. Both players are capable of getting hot; the question is whether either can slow the other down. With the offenses on both sides so heavily reliant on their leading scorer, an off-night for either player could be game over.
3) Wallace vs. Suggs
Tyrone Wallace has shown more confidence in his offensive game. He'll need to remember the scouting report and not lose Suggs on the perimeter. Along with Wilcox, this is the other UW player that you can never help off of or go under the screen. Jeff Powers will also need to remember this when he subs in on the wing.
4) The Bigs
Production in the paint for both teams has been inconsistent at best. N'Diaye had a strong effort against Wazzu while Solomon and Kravish took a step forward against the SoCal schools. Our bigs will have to finish strong and avoid getting intimidated by N'Diaye's shot-blocking prowess. It seems like a mental issue where we continue to rush and miss easy shots in the paint. If we can just settle down and gain some confidence, it'll do wonders for our offensive balance.
Game Time: Wednesday, January 9th. 8pm(PST)
*** To celebrate the conference home opener, Cal Athletics is providing FREE HOT DOGS to the first 1,000 fans!***