Washington is traveling to SoCal for their trip to face UCLA and USC, with the Bruins being the first match-up, tonight. The Bruins are led by coach Ben Howland, who is in his tenth season with the team. Howland has had a nice run with UCLA, and at one point took them to three consecutive Final Four appearances.
Leading the Bruins offensively is Shabazz Muhammad, the uber-talented freshman with the Gucci backpack. He is third in the conference in points per 40 minutes played, less than a point ahead of C.J. Wilcox, Washington's leading scorer. Expect these two to go back and forth against each other, with Muhammad spending more time around the rim and Wilcox running off screens in an attempt to lose Muhammad and shoot from deep. This is the key matchup of the game, should these two be matched up against each other.
Senior Larry Drew II is the best playmaker in the PAC, leading the conference in assist:turnover ratio. When he is on the floor he assists in one-third of UCLA's baskets, tops in the conference. He will probably draw Abdul Gaddy defensively, and it remains to be seen how Gaddy will handle the experienced, gifted distributor.
Another freshman to watch out for is Jordan Adams, a 6-5 guard. Adams does a decent job of getting into the paint, and scoring inside. He is in the top 20 in the conference in free throw rate, and scores over 15 per game.
The Wear twins wore out Washington last season (terrible pun, please forgive me). Their interior passing and size bothered UW, and this year they have continued their success, although more quietly thanks to the emergence of UCLA's star freshmen. They both rebound at about the same rate, but Travis Wear has done a better job scoring, and thus has secured more minutes at this point in the season than David Wear.
The last of the major freshman contributors is Kyle Anderson. Anderson is one of the best defensive rebounders in the conference, and is also very good on the offensive glass, but is not in the top-five in the conference in that category. He will prove difficult for Washington to handle, because of how much Washington relies on the offensive glass.
Center/Forward Tony Parker is another, lesser contributor, averaging only seven minutes per game. He has struggled from the free throw line and with turnovers, and hasn't found a true role in the rotation as of yet.
Every player mentioned has the ability to take over a game, and none should be taken lightly. UCLA possibly has the most raw talent of any roster in the conference.
That is it for the little mini-preview. Go Dawgs!