And hoping to shut down Washington State as they debut their alternate black jerseys as part of their "black out cancer" effort.
In years past, this game was always particularly interesting not only because of the rivalry, but also because of the stark contrast in styles. It was the run-n-gun-fill-it-up Huskies vs. the pack-it-in-grind-it-out Cougars. As both programs made strides to become prominent in the conference the rivalry became especially heated. Now, with the departure of Tony Bennett one could make the argument that the rivalry will not be as intriguing. Or, you could argue that with former UW assistant Ken Bone taking the reins and running a very similar system to what the Huskies have been doing for years, the teams will be even more geared up because they players will be competing more directly with each other.
This year, Coug fans have been quick to point out the Huskies' weak nonconference schedule. It's kind of cute that they do, because while the Huskies S.O.S. is ranked just 59th, WSU's is a much worse 149th.
The big gun on WSU's roster is Klay Thompson. You should remember him from last year, when he was the conference's 2nd best freshman. His game is improved this year, and now that he's the focal point of the offense he gets more than his fair share of looks. He can shoot the Cougars to victory regardless of who they're playing. Or can he? In their 4 games against top-50 (Kenpom) teams (Gonzaga, Kansas State, Arizona State and Cal - all losses) he has played pretty poorly. Conversely, Husky star Quincy Pondexter has played well in 3 of 4 of UW's games against top-50 teams (Georgetown, Texas A&M, Arizona State and Cal - 2 wins).
The real guy the Huskies have to look out for is freshman Reggie Moore. An odd turn of events landed Moore in Pullman, and if a domino or two had fallen the other way Moore could have easily been wearing purple and gold (and black) this year. Hypothetically, if Lute Olson didn't have the medical issues he did it's not a far cry at all. Lute stays at Arizona, Abdul Gaddy remains committed to the Cats, and the Huskies have an open scholarship to give (likely to a guard to fill the Justin Dentmon vacancy). When Moore, a Seattle product (Ranier Beach HS), drops Fresno State the Huskies probably offer him and he has the choice between UW and WSU. And (at that point) I don't think he'd have had to think long at all. Because of this and because they're both freshmen point guards the natural tendency would be to compare Moore and Gaddy. But quite simply, you can't. Not without an asterisk, anyway. At this point it is evident that Moore is the better player. However, Moore also had the benefit of playing a year of basketball at a prep school after high school, while Gaddy has played above his age for virtually his entire life. Moore is more than two years older than Gaddy, who has played exactly 1 game as an adult (he turned 18 when the Huskies hosted Seattle University). Moore is the better player right now. Will it last? Of course not.
If this game was being played in Pullman or on a neutral court, I'd give WSU a shot. But when they're playing at Hec Ed, the Huskies are the best team in the conference and by a wide margin. The Dawg Pack started lining up for this one earlier today. They'll be decked out in black, leading a packed house. The Huskies feed off of their crowd, and the young Cougars (all freshmen and sophomores except Nikola Koprivica) have seen very few, if any environments like a packed Bank of America Arena.
The Huskies need this one, and they'll get it. UW 91, WSU 72