Washington Huskies (15-9, 17-5) at Colorado Buffaloes (18-7, 7-5), Saturday 2/13 11:00am, Pac-12 Networks.
Since losing to the Huskies 95-83 back on January 20th, the Buffs have gone 4-2. Both teams are tied for fourth in the Pac-12 standings at 7-5 along with Utah and behind Oregon, Arizona, and USC in that order.
Josh Scott is questionable with an ankle injury, though Romar has made it clear that he expects the star forward to play after he missed the mid-week overtime victory over the Cougs.
Projected Starters: G Dominique Collier (So., 6-2, 170), G Xavier Talton (Sr., 6-2, 185), G George King (So., 6-6, 220), F Wesley Gordon (Jr., 6-9, 240), F Josh Scott (Sr., 6-10, 245).
Key Bench Players: G Josh Fortune (Jr., 6-5, 205), F Tre'Shaun Fletcher (Jr., 6-7, 210), G Thomas Akyazili (Fr., 6-2, 180), F Tory Miller (So., 6-9, 255).
If we're being fully honest, the Buffaloes should be very excited at the opportunity to face off against this Washington defense on their home court.
UW just lost to Utah 82-90 and in doing so allowed the Utes to make over two-thirds of their shots. Romar's team has surrendered 80 or more points in every conference game except the recent 72-77 loss to Arizona.
Colorado has every reason to be confident in their ability to score efficiently.
If Josh Scott is at full strength, he fits a prototype that has absolutely killed the Huskies all season: offensively skilled big men. Scott scored 18 points on 7-9 shooting in the loss in Seattle and grabbed twelve rebounds, six on offense.
Wesley Gordon has been a consistent presence in the starting lineup for Colorado, finding a place in the starting five in every single conference game. Gordon is on a tear as of late, having recorded two straight double-doubles, including 15 points and 12 rebounds in the overtime, Josh Scott-less win against the Cougs.
It is unlikely that Dominique Collier can repeat the 21-point performance he managed at Hec Ed, which required a 6-7 night from beyond the arc. He has only scored in double digits in one other conference game. He's more likely to pick and choose a few open shots and otherwise facilitate the offense.
George King, on the other hand, has a good chance of replicating his big game against the Huskies. He scored 18 points on 6-12 shooting, not far off from his season average of 14.5 points on 46% shooting.
King has quietly put together a great offensive season, including outlandish 47% shooting from three-point range. The Huskies allowed the Utes to hit 10-17 threes on Wednesday and will need to play better perimeter defense to keep King under control.
Senior guard Xavier Talton has started the past two games in place of Fortune or Fletcher. Talton has had a pretty quiet year but played pretty well starting the last two games. Still, it's worth keeping in mind that against Washington Coach Boyle decided to go big and start Fletcher as a third forward.
As for the bench, Fletcher is a rough offensive player who can still hustle and defend enough to carve out an important role. Akyazili can run the offense off the bench, and Tory Miller is a capable third big man and a possible starter if Scott cannot go.
Fortune is a quality shooter off the bench. He attempts exactly half his shots from beyond the arc and hits just under 40%. The issue is that he has gone cold over this last stretch of games, hitting only 2-13 three-point attempts in his last four games. Here's hoping he doesn't come alive tomorrow morning.
To me, Washington's defensive struggles and the fact that the game is being played in Boulder tip this one in Colorado's favor. It appears to be a tough reality that Washington requires a big offensive night in order to overcome a constant inability to get stops.
Scott and a suddenly offensively productive Wesley Gordon seems as good a pair as any to rack up fouls and easy baskets in the paint, while King, Fortune, and Collier are all well above-average three-point shooter that can take advantage of the opportunities that inevitably result from the defense adjusting to that inside presence.
King and Collier put on a show from deep in the loss to Washington, and it took a 33-point barrage from Andrews and 8-9 shooting from Chriss to cancel out their production. Similar heroics will likely be required to pull off a win against the same team in a tough road environment.
The Huskies obviously have the talent and Colorado is only a few days removed from an overtime scare vs. WSU. The optimistic flip-side to my pessimism is simply that Washington need only to turn in a half-decent night of defending and they should have it in the bag.
If not, they'll need fireworks from Andrews, Murray, and Chriss.
My Prediction: Colorado 88, Washington 82