Projected Starting Five: G Ahmaad Rorie (Fr., 6-1, 175), G Joseph Young (Sr., 6-2, 180), F Dillon Brooks (Fr, 6-6, 225), F Elgin Cook (Jr, 6-6, 205), F Jordan Bell (Fr., 6-9, 215).
Key Bench Players: G Jalil Abdul-Bassit (Sr., 6-4, 197), F Dwayne Benjamin (Jr, 6-7, 210), G Casey Benson (Fr., 6-3, 185), C Michael Chandler (Jr., 6-10, 240).
Immediately after the Huskies outlasted Oregon State in one of the roughest offensive games of the college season, Oregon fell in a 108-99 OT shootout over in Pullman. UW-OSU halftime score: 19-15. UO-WSU halftime score: 57-52.
If I had to put money on which variety of game we'll see on Sunday, I would bet on a repeat of Washington's low-scoring affair.
Oregon is severely undersized and, with three true freshmen starters, very young. The loss in Pullman was somehow the team's very first true road game of the season.
Now the Ducks will face a starting front court composed of the 7-0, 250-pound Robert Upshaw and the 6-9, 255-pound Shawn Kemp Jr. in a fairly hostile environment having won a single game outside Matthew Knight Arena (a neutral court win over Illinois).
That's a tough task, even with Jernard Jarreau's knee surgery (estimated to miss 4-6 weeks) severely depleting Washington's depth in the front court.
Ugly as it was, Washington's game against the Beavers provided evidence that Upshaw is fully capable of starting and logging heavy minutes. The sophomore played a team-high 37 minutes, contributing 12 points, 16 rebounds, and 6 blocks while committing 1 (!!!!) personal foul.
Every starter but Quevyn Winters played over 30 minutes, and the only players that rotated in off the bench outside of the last bit of garbage time were Andrew Andrews (29 minutes) and Donaven Dorsey (9 minutes).
On Sunday we can probably assume that Andrews will start, as it sounds like he may have lost the start for showing up late to shoot around. NWG is ready to play around 35 minutes with only occasional spells of Andrews handling the point. Anderson or Dorsey are capable of playing the four for the brief periods of rest for Kemp and Upshaw.
This flexibility allows Romar to play a seven man rotation with fairly minimal contributions from Winters (if Darin Johnson is back from his quad strain he may replace Quevyn) and Dorsey. It is not at all ideal, and may cause the team to fade as the conference season wears on, but it's a workable solution.
As strange as it may sounds, I also think that the loss of Jarreau is good in that it forces Romar to do something he should have done awhile ago: play Robert Upshaw 30+ minutes. The man is already Washington's record holder for blocks in a season and it's mid-January. He may or may not be with us next season, and it's time to unleash his full potential.
All that being said, Oregon is a deep, dangerous team led by one of top scorers in the conference, Joseph Young. The senior is averaging 20.1 points (44% from the field, 35% from deep), 5.0 rebounds, 3.8 assists, and 1.2 steals in 35 minutes. On a team that consistently plays 8 guys 20+ minutes, Young is the only player to average over 30.
The idea of Andrews going against Young makes me extremely nervous. When engaged, Andrews can be a hard-nosed on ball defender, but he is prone to mental lapses. It's too easy to picture Young losing Andrews around some screens and finding wide open looks.
Running the point is Washington native and true freshman Ahmaad Rorie. He has held his own in 24 minutes, chipping in 6.1 points, 3.1 rebounds, and 2.4 assists to 1.4 turnovers.
Brooks and Cook each average around 12 points and 5 boards in roughly 26 minutes. Both stand 6-6, though only Cook figures to spend significant stretches matched up against Kemp or even Upshaw in the post.
Jordan Bell is a promising young big, but he gives up three inches and 40 pounds to Upshaw. He has averaged a modest 5.9 points and 6.7 rebounds in 23 minutes, but the 3.5 blocks per game have been his true calling card.
Dwayne Benjamin is the most important post off the bench (6.8 points, 5.8 boards), but he is Desmond Simmons-esque at 6-7.
Benson and Abdul-Bassit each play over 20 minutes, keeping all five guards constantly fresh. This could be a real concern with both NWG and Andrews figuring to play 35 or so minutes.
Even with the defensive lapses and the sloppy, turnover-heavy offense, I'll comfortably take Washington's starting five over Oregon's in a game played at HecEd. As long as Upshaw can put up another double-double with 5+ blocks, he gives the Huskies a certain margin for error on the offensive end.
The question is whether or not the Husky bigs can both stay out of foul trouble and avoid wearing down out of exhaustion in the second half.
Only one victory removed from an ugly losing streak, it's silly to have too much blind confidence in the Huskies.
It's totally possible that Joseph Young takes the game over early against a lethargic Husky zone, or that Upshaw/Kemp find themselves in early foul trouble.
All things considered, I'll uneasily take the Huskies in an ugly one.
Washington 64, Oregon 61