1. Who is the #1 UW player on offense Cal fans should know about?
Erickson: The obvious answer would be to pick C.J. Wilcox but I'm going to go with redshirt sophomore Andrew Andrews. Andrews has been one of the biggest surprises for the Huskies this season and is one of the more underrated players in the PAC-12. The Huskies second leading scorer at 13.2 PPG, Andrews doesn't shoot a high percentage (39% from the field. 32% from the field) but has a knack for scoring, finishing in double digits in all but five of Washington's games. Andrews has shown no fear this season, never second guessing a pull up three or drive to the hoop, an element the Huskies have lacked outside CJ Wilcox the last few seasons. His scoring ability and fearlessness have provided a huge boost to the Huskies.
Knibbe: C.J. Wilcox. He just dropped 31 on Colorado, 21 in the second half. He is largely viewed as the best shooter in the conference, and is one of the best in the country. What a lot of people don't realize is just how good of an athlete Wilcox is. When both of them were at Washington, NBA Slam Dunk Contest champion Terrence Ross and Wilcox were developing a bit of a friendly competition when the team was testing physical abilities. When it came to who could reach higher while jumping, the two were within an inch of each other. He can get to the rim and finish with his left hand or go over the top of the defense on lob plays.
2. Who is the #1 UW player on defense Cal fans should know about?
Knibbe: Since I can't say C.J. Wilcox again (he held Askia Booker to 0 points) I will go with Mike Anderson. He transferred from Moberly Community College in Missouri, and quickly inserted himself into the starting lineup with defense and rebounding from the wing. He has been a de facto 4 as the Huskies have lacked frontcourt depth for most of the season. He has taken on the challege and has done an admirable job on much bigger posts. When he gets the opportunity to defend wings, he and Wilcox can each make a claim for best perimeter defender as well.
Erickson: The Huskies don't have one player who stands out on defense but I will go with junior college transfer Mike Anderson. After Jernard Jerreau tore his ACL in the season opener, Anderson was inserted into the starting lineup at power forward. Listed at just 6'4, Anderson has held his own against players much taller than him, averaging 6.6 rebounds per game. Anderson brings the toughness and intensity to the defensive end that has been a staple of Romar's players since he began coaching at UW. Since he usually gives up four to five inches to his opponent, Anderson isn't much of a shot blocker but has ability to fight with taller opponents down low has been a key to Washington's turnaround on defense in Pac-12 play.
Knibbe: Gaddy is an easy comparison. Highly touted freshman point guards with good size but lacking 'wow' athleticism. NWG is better than Gaddy was last season, as a freshman. NWG is better at getting to the rim, and is the better shooter. He isn't the defender Gaddy was, but that will develop. He can be prone to bad decisions at times, but he is only a freshman. He has show the poise and leadership that was much heralded when he came to campus. Yes, he has lived up to his billing. Yes, he is Abdul Gaddy 2.0 in the fact that he is an improved Gaddy -- and I was a Gaddy fan.
Erickson: Cal fans hoping that Nigel Williams-Goss is just the second coming off Abdul Gaddy will quickly be disappointed .After 17 games I am very confident in saying Williams-Goss is a better player now than Gaddy was as a senior. Williams-Goss is not a good shooter from the outside, but has a floater that is deadly. When matched up against smaller guards, Williams-Goss has the size (6'3) to post up and score or can take bigger defenders off the dribble and use his floater in the lane. He is currently averaging 12.3 PPG and I think his numbers will only improve as this season, and his career, goes on. If Williams-Goss can develop a jumper and be a threat from three point range, he could one day end up being a 20 per game scorer in the PAC-12.
4. Last year, Coach Romar went with a high post offense. Is he still running that or is he back to motion?
Knibbe: He runs a high post offense but still uses a lot of motion sets. The two have begun to mesh in their own offense. Having the lack of depth in the frontcourt due to injuries and not having Jernard Jarreau has been big in the shift of the offense. When Romar committed to running the high post offense, I was skeptical. He always has used athletic wings and hasn't had bigs handle the ball all that much. Now, it is beginning to take shape. It is more of a hybrid motion-high post offense that works really well.
Erickson: Coach Romar is still running the high post offense and with a lot more success last year. Last season the players looked uncomfortable in the new system and the offensive numbers definitely dipped. In year two of the system the players look a lot more comfortable and it definitely has shown on the court. Lacking a true low post scorer, the Huskies are still averaging around 77 points per game. Using an array of screens and cuts, the Huskies have set up a lot of opportunities for the guard trio of Wilcox, Andrews, and Williams-Goss.
5. After struggling a bit in non-conference play, UW is really coming on lately. What's been the difference?
Knibbe: Defense. As I said above, the offense has done very well. That was never a question. The defense has been the biggest difference. When his guys were consistently being beat off the dribble, he adjusted to having his guys play a bit further off the ball with help defenders in position as opposed to always playing up the line and denying wing passes. There are still points in the game when he goes back to pressure defenses, but there is a lot more help than before.
Erickson: The Huskies have been able to turn it around due to their improvement on the defensive end. After being one of the worst defensive teams in the PAC-12 during non-conference play, the Huskies are allowing just 61.75 PPG in conference play. The Huskies are known for playing an aggressive style of defense, pressuring the ball handler and anticipating passing lanes. This style got them in trouble during non-conference play, as they struggled staying in front of ball handlers and were killed by back door cuts. During conference play the Huskies are still playing the passing lanes but have looked to make teams beat them from the outside, putting on emphasis on staying in front of ball handlers even if it means giving up some space. So far the move has worked, as opposing teams have shot just 6-53 from three point range during conference play. The Huskies lack size so they want opponents to play from the outside so they can secure long rebounds and get in transition. After it looked like the Huskies could stop no one in conference play, it's been a pleasant turn around to see defensive improvement during PAC-12 play.
6. Now in his senior year, C.J. Wilcox has improved his game by being much more efficient scoring-wise. Do you think he will make it in the next level?
Knibbe: He is built to be the "3-and-D" wing that has become so important in success on NBA teams. His length and athleticism combined with his lethal jumper just makes him perfect for that role. Now, I don't know if he will be a solid starter or if he will be someone who comes off the bench, but the versatility with his shot (stand-still shooting, curling off screens, pull-up) combined with his other abilities makes him exactly what a team would want in a 3-and-D wing.
Erickson: I for sure think Wilcox will end up playing at the next level. No matter what people say about his defense, athleticism, or shot creating, he can do one thing all NBA teams are looking for, shoot, and he can do it well. Wilcox has shown that he has NBA three point range so I think he will have a good shot at making a team next season. I will say that his penetration and shot creating have improved greatly over last season so I think some NBA teams will be surprised to see that he is more than just a spot-up shooter.
7. In addition to Williams-Goss, JuCo transfer Mike Anderson is also in the starting lineup. What should we know about him?
Knibbe: He is tough. For a guy his size, he grabs a lot of rebounds. He is best on the team in defensive rebounding rate at nearly 20 percent. He has a decent outside shot, but we haven't had much of a chance to see his offensive game this season. He is someone who will get most of his points inside cutting, just because of the role he has been relegated to on the offense.
Erickson: Like I said earlier, Anderson is a tenacious defender who does a lot of things well but nothing great. He isn't much of a scorer, averaging just 6.9 PPG, but he knows his role and doesn't try to force anything. Said to have a wing span of 6'10, Anderson is able to fight with the giants in the post and has had six games with double digit rebounds. Anderson wont single handedly win the game for the Huskies, but can do a lot of things that lead to a W in the long run.
8. Similar to Cal, UW's have relied pretty heavily on their starting lineup with sparing minutes to only about 3 bench players. Has fatigue or foul trouble been an issue for the team so far?
Erickson: UW hasn't suffered much from fatigue but they have definitely run into some issues with foul trouble, especially in the post. Senior Perris Blackwell has done a pretty good job at staying away from fouls, but since he is usually smaller than the player he is guarding it could become a problem at anytime. Blackwell's backup, Shawn Kemp Jr., has had a huge issue with fouling his whole career and seems to be in foul trouble the minute he steps into the game. The Huskies are definitely thin in the front court so it will be interesting to watch whether they will stay out of foul trouble for the rest of the PAC-12 season as more teams will look to attack them inside.
Knibbe: Surprisingly, no. Lorenzo Romar makes sure his teams are very well-conditioned. Looking at Perris Blackwell, I wouldn't expect him to be able to run 20 minutes per game, but he is more than capable of the minutes he plays. He stays out of foul trouble, and so does Washington as a whole. I have really been impressed. Mike Anderson and Shawn Kemp Jr. are the only ones who have dealt with foul trouble at any points in the season.