Washington Huskies (14-6, 3-5) vs. Cal Bears (12-9, 2-6), Sun Feb. 1st, 12:00pm, Pac-12 Networks.
Shortly after the news broke of Upshaw's dismissal, the Huskies played Stanford and provided us a first look at this team without the presence of a seven-foot shot-blocking force. The result was an 84-74 loss that never felt nearly that close.
As predicted, Stefan Nastic dominated down low against Shawn Kemp Jr. and Gilles Dierickx. After an incredibly hot start, he finished with 17 points on 8-11 shooting. Stanford shot 52% from the field and 61% from three-point range.
Stingy defense, the real source of Washington's early-season success, may no longer be something this team is capable of playing without Upshaw or Jarreau.
Likely Starting Five: G Tyrone Wallace (Jr., 6-5, 200), G Jordan Matthews (So., 6-3, 205), G Jabari Bird (So., 6-5, 198), F Dwight Tarwater (Sr., 6-6, 230), F David Kravish (Sr., 6-10, 240)
Key Bench Players: F Christian Behrens (Jr., 6-8, 226), C Kingsley Okoroh (Fr., 7-1, 254), G Sam Singer (So., 6-4, 205), G Brandon Chauca (Fr., 5-9, 160).
If the Huskies are to make something of the rest of the season, a win here is very necessary. It is the last game before a two-game road trip to Oregon/OSU, which will be followed by a home game against #7 Arizona.
The good news is that Cal has been one of the worst teams in the conference since the start of Pac-12 play. In fact, the Bears had lost six straight games before snapping that streak in Pullman on Thursday night.
Even better, Cal lacks intimidating size in its starting five. Kravish is a solid, versatile player, and he stands 6-10, but he is not the type to work Kemp under the basket the way Nastic did.
Plus, the Bears start Tarwater, who stands all of 6-6, at the four. Considering that Romar has been forced to insert Donaven Dorsey (who should be playing small forward, and even more ideally could be redshirting) at power forward, this is a serious break.
However, if Kravish and Tarwater were both out at the same time, it's likely that Behrens and Okoroh would be playing in their places. If Kemp has to sit, UW will likely go with Mike Anderson at the four and Gilles Dierickx at center. That is problematic.
Behrens is a actual power forward with the size to body Dorsey or Anderson under the basket, while Okoroh is both very raw and very massive. Dierickx has not shown himself to be a particularly physical player so far, and I worry that Okoroh can have a serious impact if given 20+ minutes despite his limitations.
Out of Dorsey, Kemp, and Dierickx, there is not one plus rebounder or defender.
If I'm Coach Martin, I would not hesitate to play Okoroh and Kravish together for certain stretches, considering that Kravish is comfortable at the four and has the shooting ability to space the floor.
The situation is better for the Huskies in the back court, more because the Huskies actually have bodies at guard rather than because Cal is devoid of talented guards.
The biggest problem should be Tyrone Wallace. At 6-5, he has more than enough size to attack or defend against NWG or Andrews. He is averaging 17.6 points (including 26 in the win over WSU), 8.0 rebounds, 3.7 assists, and 1.3 steals, all team highs.
Wallace is a dangerous scorer, but he has been a little hot-or-cold lately. Before the 26 in Pullman and a solid game in the loss to Arizona, he managed only 7 points on 0-6 shooting against ASU, 14 points on 6-22 shooting vs. Stanford, and 4 points on 2-9 shooting at UCLA. UW needs to force him into another bad shooting night.
Matthews has been an efficient second scorer. He averaged 14.7 points on 45% shooting, including 42% from downtown. Discipline against shooters like Matthews has been a huge problem for Washington's zone, especially now that perimeter defenders cannot rely on Upshaw to lock down the paint, so Matthews is a player to watch and worry about.
Jabari Bird, once a hugely-hyped recruit, returned from injury several games ago but has failed to find any sort of rhythm. After combining for only 13 points over his last three games, Bird scored 12 at WSU, but required 4-11 shooting to do so.
Cal has had a rough couple of weeks, but so has Washington. If the Stanford game were a first test, the Huskies clearly failed.
A rally is certainly possible, but so soon after seeing them outplayed so thoroughly at home, it's difficult to have faith in such an undermanned squad, especially not when home court advantage will be all but nullified by Super Bowl Sunday.
I picture another impressive but turnover-heavy performance from NWG and some highlight reel plays from Shawn Kemp overwhelmed by an overall lack of ball security, defense, rebounding, and the depth necessary to deal with subs like Behrens and Okoroh.
Cal 77, Washington 64