Mercifully, Washington's season has nearly come to a close. Only a single weekend of basketball remains (well, except that whole Pac-12 Tournament deal), granting the Huskies a chance to end what has been a miserable run through the conference schedule on a little bit of a higher note.
Nothing can bring back the hopefulness of a one-loss non-conference schedule. Nothing can bring back Robert Upshaw, either.
That does not mean the Huskies have to return from a rough, injury-riddled Southern California road trip and simply accept another pair of blowouts. If they have any fight left, this is the time for it.
Nigel Williams-Goss should play after missing UW's most recent defeat at USC, though Shawn Kemp Jr. will not.
The last time the Huskies saw Colorado on January 22nd, it was the Buffs that happened to be depleted by injury and misconduct. Xavier Johnson and Josh Scott were both out, and yet it still took a game winning shot from Andrews to give the Huskies one of their few road wins on the year.
Probable Starters: G Askia Booker (Sr., 6-2, 175), G Jaron Hopkins (So., 6-6, 200), G Xavier Johnson (Jr., 6-7, 230), F Josh Scott (Jr., 6-10, 245), F Wesley Gordon (Jr, 6-9, 240).
Key Bench Players: G Dominique Collier (Fr., 6-2, 170), G Dustin Thomas (So., 6-7, 225), F Tre'Shaun Fletcher (So., 6-7, 210), F Tory Miller (Fr., 6-9, 240).
The biggest advantage for Washington will simply be the setting. Colorado are 5-10 in conference play but only 1-6 on the road. Though, before you get too excited, it's worth mentioning that the Huskies have not won a home game since defeating Oregon on January 18th.
A general inability to execute on the road has been one of Colorado's many problems this season. Despite boasting solid individual talent in the form of Askia Booker, Xavier Johnson, and Josh Scott, the team has failed to win with consistency throughout the entire season.
Two wins against the LA schools to open the conference slate were followed by four straight defeats. Every other win (or pair of wins) since then has led to three straight losses, the latest of which was just ended on March 1st with a narrow victory over ASU.
Injuries have played a part, but Colorado's best three players have all been available over the last few weeks without the fortunes of the team swinging dramatically.
That makes it tough to evaluate this particular contest. On paper, the Huskies are outgunned even with NWG. However, Colorado has consistently underperformed compared to what the strength of its individual components might suggest.
To begin with, Askia Booker is averaging 17 points, by far the most on the team, but he has shot a lowly 39% from the field to do so. When he is hot there are few scorers more potent in the Pac-12, as demonstrated by his 27 points on the 1st. When he isn't, the misses keep coming. One such clunker was mostly to blame for Washington's win earlier in the season.
Xavier Johnson has put in a solid junior campaign (12 points on 42% shooting) as a second scoring option. Other guard options, like Fletcher and Hopkins, have been asked to do less, but they have done so with superior efficiency.
All four of these guards shoot at least 35% from three-point range, especially troubling for a Washington team that has at times struggled to close out on hot shooters.
Wesley Gordon and Josh Scott make up the starting front court, and it is still one of the best in the conference. I'm thinking double-double for Scott, who will have only Jernard Jarreau, Donaven Dorsey, and the big Belgian to contend with down low.
As inconsistent as the Buffaloes have been away from home on both sides of the ball, a return to Seattle will likely not be enough to fix Washington's problems with such a drastically undermanned front court.
Not to mention the fact that Nigel Williams-Goss is by far the team's most valuable player, so if he is even mildly bothered by his ankle, it could simultaneously tank Washington's offense while also aiding in Askia Booker's efforts to take over the game.
Give the Huskies a 100% healthy NWG and Shawn Kemp Jr. and I think this game would be very competitive. As is, Washington will be fielding the weakest starting five in the conference.
Colorado 72, Washington 61