Words cannot describe what a pleasure it was researching the Washington Huskies this week. Fortunately, Apple(tm) laptops are made of stern stuff, and repeated blows whenever I saw that infuriating logo failed to destroy my monitor. (Dear Apple, if you'd like to sponsor me, I'd like a boat, house, and triple what CGB is paying me.)
I've also given up Peet's, so I might be prone to excessive crankiness. But before my dark emotions betray me further, let's put on some Judas Priest music in the background, and give this preview a stab.
What was once billed as an epic show-down between two future tournament teams with top 25 aspirations has lost a little luster after both teams failed to notch any significant out of conference victories. In terms of Pac-12 standings, it's still a game worth paying your 30 pieces of silver for admission as first-place is on the line.
Although they're one of the most explosive teams in the league when everything is running on all cylinders, they've been plagued by inconsistencies on both ends. If we get a million-dollar effort from the Huskies, we're probably in trouble. But, if they don't sell-out to match Jorge Gutierrez' intensity and Harper Kamp's toughness, then it could be anyone's game.
After the jump, personnel and matchups:
G Abdul Gaddy, 6'3, 8.5 ppg, 4.8 apg
G Tony Wroten, 6'5, 16.7 ppg, 4.5 rpg
G/F Terrence Ross, 6'6, 15 ppg, 6.6 rpg
F Desmond Simmons, 6'7, 5.8 ppg, 6.4 rpg
C Aziz N'Diaye, 7'0, 8.2 ppg, 7.9 rpg
G Hikeem Stewart, .6 ppg
F Darnell Grant 7.5 ppg, 4.9 rpg
Tony Wroten is the clear front-runner for Pac-12 Freshman of the Year. He's a dynamic scorer and is an absolute terror driving to the hoop. When their halfcourt offense stalls, they usually just give him the ball and let him go to work. He does have a tendency to get himself into trouble by driving into traffic and forcing the action.
N'Diaye is their rock defensively. Even though their perimeter players are prone to being inconsistent with their assignments, they're bailed out by his shot-blocking.
Simmons is their uber-athletic glass-eater, particularly on the offensive end. Gaddy has come back from a devastating knee injury, but is more of a facilitator than scorer. Ross is their best outside shooter and another good rebounder, and is capable of going off at any moment.
With senior guard Scott Suggs out for the year with a broken toe, and sharpshooter CJ Wilcox out with a stress fracture, the Huskies don't have a lot of perimeter firepower off the bench. Without having experienced reserves, it does restrict them a bit from their normal breakneck up-tempo attack.
1) Protect the ball
The Huskies like nothing better than to use shot-blocking and a gambling defense to ignite their transition game. They are much, much less proficient at running a halfcourt set, so anything we can do to limit their uptempo game is important.
2) One and done
UW has a number of guys who can get hot at any moment, but they're also prone to long stretches of laying bricks. They love to pound the offensive boards and have three guys in N'Diaye, Ross, and Simmons who are really good at crashing the glass. It'll be interesting to see whether Monty will use Harper's strength or Kravish's length against N'Diaye. Considering that Monty gambled and let Kravish guard Josh Smith man to man, I'm guessing the later. Crabbe will have to really work to keep Ross in check.
3) Foul trouble and bench play
With Richard Solomon out, it'll be more imperative for Harper and Kravish to be able to stay on the floor for their rebounding. When they get a rest, Bak and Thurman are really going to have to be ready to keep the Huskies off the offensive glass.
4) Stay composed
It's more than likely that UW will go on several runs. We need to weather the storm and stay within our game. If we panic and start forcing bad passes or early shots, they're more than capable of turning a small deficit into a large one.
We all want this game. Let's take it. Go Bears!
Tip-Off: 5:30 PT.
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