Washington Huskies (14-7, 3-6) at Oregon Ducks (15-7, 5-4), Wednesday February 4th 6:00pm, ESPN2.
UW nearly eked out a much-needed victory this past Sunday until Cal's Dwight Tarwater ruined it with an unlikely game-winning three.
Excuse my cynicism, but that pretty much figures. Luck has not been with the Huskies this year, and a 14% three-point shooter nailing a shot from the top of the arc is just the first of several unfortunate setbacks since the beginning of conference play.
This team could have folded in on itself after Upshaw's dismissal, and they did not. The effort is still there. But what remains of the team, no matter how hard it tries, is unspectacular.
These Huskies don't defend all that well without the seven-footer anchoring the zone. Without any rim protection to speak of, they have surrendered 84 points to Stanford and 90 points to Cal.
The offense, as you well know, is limited by a lack of perimeter shooters and a consistent issue with turnovers.
Projected Starters: G Joseph Young (Sr., 6-2, 180), G Jalil Abdul-Bassit (Sr., 6-4, 197), 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 Ahmaad Rorie (Fr., 6-1, 175), F Dwayne Benjamin (Jr., 6-7, 210), G Casey Benson (Fr., 6-3, 185), C Michael Chandler (Jr., 6-10, 240).
Oregon has managed a 3-1 record since losing to both Washington schools during a mid-January road trip. Losing to Arizona was understandable, though the 90-56 final score was a bit demoralizing.
Most recently, Elgin Cook took over and guided the Ducks to a 68-67 overtime win on Friday. Both Cook and Young played 40+ minutes. Young struggled to score his 14 points on 4-12 shooting, so Cook racked up 23 points on only 12 shots.
Overall, Joseph Young is still the man. He leads the team with 18.7 points and 3.7 assists, and considering the volume his 43% shooting (35% from three) is more than solid. At 35 minutes per game, he leads the team in minutes played by by over seven minutes.
When the Ducks traveled to Seattle, Ahmaad Rorie started alongside Young. Now it's Jalil Abdul-Bassit. He has played well without dominating the ball, and figures to contribute twenty good minutes.
Brooks, a true freshman, has stepped right in to the starting lineup and averaged 12.6 points, 4.5 boards, and 2.1 assists in 28 minutes. He has shot 46% overall and just over 30% from deep, but he has experienced a mini-slump over the past four games from beyond the arc (0-8 over the past four contests).
Cook has been pretty awesome lately, and Washington has nobody to seriously challenge him around the rim. He worries me more than anybody, especially coming off his best performance of the year. Look for him to earn several trips to the free throw line against Dorsey and Kemp.
One potential weakness to exploit: Cook has turned the ball over three times in three straight games.
Bell has not been a huge offensive threat in his first season as a Duck (5.8 points), but his 7.0 rebounds and 3.2 blocks lead the team by wide margins. It will be his responsibility to body Kemp under the basket, and he also figures to have a field day against Washington's guards, who have had enough trouble finishing at the rim on their own.
All things considered it isn't a bad matchup for Washington. Oregon rolls with four guards more often than not, so the lack of healthy bigs won't be as critical as usual.
Keep an eye on whether or not Romar continues to stick with Dorsey in the starting five. It wasn't entirely fair to press the freshman into service as a power forward, and it may be time to admit that it is not working. Romar only allowed him 11 minutes on Sunday, and he only managed 4 points and zero rebounds.
Anderson is better suited to play as an under-sized four, but the issue is this would force either Darin Johnson or Quevyn Winters to start. Neither player has inspired much confidence.
Expect Romar to stick to a seven-man rotation once again, including 20+ minutes for Winters and Johnson out of pure necessity.
Oregon's only conference loss at Matthew Knight Arena came against Arizona, they are returning home fresh off a gritty road win, and they boast three or four solid bench contributors compared Washington's nearly nonexistent bench.
Meanwhile, UW couldn't quite beat a mediocre-to-bad Cal team at HecEd despite NWG's 31-point performance. Expect the Huskies to keep fighting and to keep coming up a bit short.
Oregon 81, Washington 71