Washington Huskies (7-3) vs. Seattle University Redhawks (5-6), Tuesday December 22nd 8:00pm, Pac-12 Networks.
After several years of tough sledding, Cameron Dollar put together his first season over .500 in 2014. Now, in the absence of graduated guards and leading scorers Isiah Umipig and Jarell Flora, Dollar is in for a tough fight to manage another winning year.
Dollar has also shown a tendency to play a very deep rotation this year, including an ever-changing starting lineup. Definitely treat the lineup listed below as a slightly educated guess, as both Chibuogwu and Shaughnessy have started the past couple games despite playing relatively limited minutes.
Starting Lineup: G Jack Shaugnessy (RSFr., 6-2, 180), G Brendan Westerndorf (Jr., 6-5), Emmanuel Chibuogwu (Jr., 6-6, 185), F William Powell (Jr., 6-6, 210), C Jack Crook (Sr., 6-11, 250).
Key Bench Players: G Manroop Clair (Jr., 6-2, 180), G Malik Montoya (Fr., 6-2), C Aaron Menzies (RSFr., 7-3), G Jadon Cohee (So., 6-4, 182).
With Umipig and Flora gone, guard Brendan Westendorf and center Jack Crook have taken over as key contributors.
Westendorf leads the team with impressive 5.1 assists (to 3.5 turnovers) while also contributing a team-high 11.9 points. He possesses plus size and length for a primary ball handler, and he is an impressive long-range shooter. He actually shoots far better from beyond the arc (43.5%) compared to within the arc (35%), and he does not get to the line at an above average rate.
Crook, on the other hand, is a big bruising center. He has slowly developed over the past three years, but so far 2015-16 has been a clear step forward. His scoring average is up to a career-high 11.6, and his team-high 7.5 rebounds will be another career-high if it holds over the course of the season. Crook is not, however, a productive shot-blocker, a weakness shared by the team as a whole.
William Powell has filled an important role as Crook's front court partner, an efficient scorer and solid rebounder who is essentially repeating his 2014-15 season.
Aside from these three, the starting lineup is, as previously mentioned, very fluid. Monroop Clair has been in an out of the lineup, but either way he will play significant minutes as Seattle U's resident three-point specialist. He fires off a team-high 6.0 three-point attempts per night, and he converts an impressive 45%. He isn't really a threat to do anything else offensively, as he shoots 27% on attempts from inside the arc and attempts only 1.1 in an average game.
Jadon Cohee started the first 10 games but has lost his spot for the past two. His shooting has been ugly (33%) and he is averaging more turnovers than assists.
Aaron Menzies backs up Crook at center, towering over his senior counterpart at 7-3. He is still very raw as a redshirt freshman, but he can be counted on for 15 minutes, a bucket or two, and some solid rebounding. Considering the Huskies boast zero players over 6-9, he could be a difference maker. Malik Montoya is another freshman, this time a guard, who is already contributing enough to demand a spot in the rotation.
Oakland University took it to Washington only a few days ago. Clearly I overlooked Oakland U, and it's possible that the team made the same mistake. I don't know how much of that loss involved Washington playing very badly for one night, how much was a result of Oakland U playing pretty damn well, and how much was the Huskies overlooking a lesser-known foe.
Still, I think it's safe to say that Oakland U would beat Seattle University pretty badly, and that even setting aside this fact, the Huskies should simply play better than they did in that loss, in which Andrews, Murray, Crisp, and Dorsey all shot horribly from the field and a defensively solid team allowed Khalil Felder to do whatever he liked.
So even as I hesitate to project a blowout after such a flat performance, I believe that Coach Romar's Huskies are simply the better team, and they should have motivation to come out strong after such a disappointing loss.
Among the things I'll be watching for: how Dickerson, Chriss, and Dime handle the pure size of Crook and Menzies. Neither player is particularly skilled, but Crook has a few dozen pounds on the heaviest Husky and Menzies is a poor-man's Mamadou N'Diaye at 7-3. That kind of height is just tough to deal with.
Dickerson and Chriss have had real issues staying out of foul trouble, plus the Huskies just gave up 17 total rebounds to 6-7 Oakland forward Jalen Hayes. Will Crook be able to dictate terms to the Washington front court?
I also want to see how Andrews and Murray bounce back from a night in which both shot terribly from the field and neither could do a thing to stop Khalil Felder. Nobody would accuse either player of lacking in confidence, but sometimes pressing to make up for a bad night can be harmful in its own right. For a young player like Murray especially, bouncing back would be a great sign for conference season.
If the Huskies come out flat again, it will be time to start worrying. For now, I'll chalk it up to an off night against a very underrated Oakland squad. Here's hoping I'm right.
Prediction: Washington 81, Seattle University 63