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#20 UW @ OSU Game Preview

Before anything, I want to thank John Berkowitz for bestowing upon me an editorship and for allowing me the front page of a site he built from the ground up. This is a great community, and I really am happy to be able to share my humble thoughts with you guys. My thanks, too, to CODawg for his valuable perspective. Onto the nit-tah grit-tah!

So, hey, lucky me, another easy post. If recent history is any sort of indication, Oregon State shouldn’t pose much of a problem for our Huskies (tipoff is scheduled for 6:00 tonight). We crushed them, 72-103, at the Hec last time around. It was one of the games, however, that lends me the notion that the Huskies are a second half team, as OSU kept it close, 40-39, at the half. Six minutes into the second, we had opened up a 16 point lead.

Matthew Bryan-Amaning had a double-double, posting 24 points and 15 boards, shooting a fantabulous 78.6% from the field. A far cry from the paltry six and 11 he spat up against the Cougars on Sunday, eliciting from me an unprecedented string of vicious profanity that I’d best not repeat here. Look for MBA to bounce back, as he’s got two inches, 35 pounds and three years of experience on Devon Callier, my projected starter at the four-spot for OSU.

I have no idea what sort of defense OSU typically runs—if anyone has a resource that has that sort of thing, I’d be much obliged—but given the success other teams have had running the 2-3 zone against us, it wouldn't be a surprise were Beavers coach Craig Robinson to pull it out against us. They don’t have a lot of length in their starting lineup, though, so tonight would be an excellent night for us to learn how to beat the zone, in-game. (Edit: wyte_lightning informs me that the Beavers run a 1-3-1. I don't think that will challenge MBA like the 2-3).

We’re currently tied with the University of Arizona at the top of the PAC-10 standings, at 7-2. Gill Coliseum should be an excellent place for UW to rebound—metaphorically—following the upset at WSU, as the Beavers have posted only a 5-7 mark at home. Something to keep in mind is OSU’s 76-75 win vs. the Wildcats on Jan. 2nd. Though unranked at the time by the AP, Arizona was ranked 19th by RPI, for whatever it’s worth. Also, the Beavs average 70.9 ppg and allow an average of 73.0 ppg, both good for fifth in the PAC-10, despite their eighth place standing, suggesting that they’re perhaps better than their record.

Regardless, Vegas has us favored by a whopping 13, so I’m going to focus on something a little different: what we want to see from the Huskies as we head into the second half of PAC-10 play. We are essentially a lock for the tourney, so right now we’re playing for seed and improvement. Given the talent on the team, I would personally be upset with anything less than a Sweet Sixteen, and we’re going to need to see some improvement if we want to make a run any further.

We've established how valuable consistent play from Bryan-Amaning is. In four of our five losses, he's been held to single digits. He usually manages to still contribute on the boards, but the lack of a reliable third scoring option leaves a bit too much on the shoulders of Isaiah Thomas, particularly given the loss of our true PG in Abdul Gaddy. Bud Withers noted in yesterday's Seattle Times that IT's production hasn't dipped, as he still leads the conference in assists. This wasn't the case in Pullman. We need Thomas to be able to make up for an off-day by MBA, and the key to that is a combination, made up of one part bench guys, one part three-point shooting and three parts Terrence Ross.

Obviously, the Huskies can't afford to look past the Beavers, but I can. Our guys have only lost two in a row once this season, to the then-eighth ranked University of Kentucky and then-second ranked Michigan State University. Understandable then, and I doubt it's happening now. IT has been the model of consistency, and all but one game in which MBA has played poorly has been followed up by the "real" Bryan-Amaning returning to us like a lost, 240 pound puppy.

So, Mr. Ross, show us something. Well, technically I suppose he did show us something against WSU, staunching the bleeding a couple of times and putting up a fantastic effective field goal percentage of 70.0. Simply put, eFG accounts for the value of three point shots, assigning them 50% more value (duh) in the percentage calculation. He's shown us efficiency, and he's shown he can go off, like the 25 and 65.4% eFG he hung on Oregon. So, Ross, show us more. Show us consistency; show us why you're the future of UW basketball.

On the bench/gunners side of the equation sits C.J. Wilcox. He'll be returning from a concussion down the stretch, but his 41.2% from beyond the arc (third on the team) is going to become increasingly important as he comes off the bench. He's averaging only 12.5 mpg, but hasn't had much of a chance to play since Gaddy went down. Look to see a bit more of him as we look to stretch the court, and as he regains cognitive function and the like.

Projected Starters

UW: Isaiah Thomas (5'8", 185, Jr.), Scott Suggs (6'6", 185, Jr.), Justin Holiday (6'6", 180, Sr.), Matthew Bryan-Amaning (6'9", 240, Sr.), Aziz N'Diaye (holy-crap-I've-spelling-his-name-wrong-this-whole-time, 7'0", 260, So.).

OSU: Jared Cunningham (6'5", 170, So.), Calvin Haynes (6'2", 185, Sr.), Omari Johnson (6'9", 215, Sr.), Devon Callier (6'7", 205, Fr.), Angus Brandt (6'10", 215, Soph).

Guys to Watch

Aside from the obvious, keep an eye on the Squall from Senegal (best I could come up with on short notice), Aziz N'Diaye. He looked athletically out of his league against WSU, failing to get lift on a few boards and whiffing on an easy loose ball. I've been told that height is an advantage in this game of basketball, but although I can't find any statistically significant evidence to back this up, I'm going to have to agree. Use it, Aziz.

The other would be Jared Cunningham, the only Beaver to start all 20 of his team's games. He's averaging 13.7 ppg, but that's been dragged down by a number of terrible outings. He's capable of hanging 20 on us, and although I don't ultimately think that will matter, it's still fun to watch.