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Men's Basketball Preview: Stanford Cardinal

Having now lost four straight to talented opponents, the Huskies look to end that streak against a red-hot Stanford team.

John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports

When Stanford hosted the Oregon Ducks on the 13th of this month Coach Dawkins and his team carried a four-game losing streak of their own. They ended it by handing Oregon a 76-72 defeat, inarguably Stanford's best win of an up-and-down season.

Two days ago Stanford followed up by dispatching the Cougs 72-56 in Pullman for just the Cardinal's second true road win of the season.

Rosco Allen scored 25 in the upset over the Ducks, yet it was young forward Michael Humphries that racked up 26 points, 10 rebounds, and 3 blocks against Hawkinson and the Cougs.

This last week really complicates a matchup that would have heavily favored Washington at home earlier in the season. It figures to be a very good game.

Projected Starting Five: G Christian Sanders (Sr., 6-4, 185), G Marcus Allen (Jr., 6-3, 190), F Rosco Allen (Sr., 6-9, 220), F Michael Humphrey (So., 6-9, 215), C Grant Verhoeven (Sr., 6-9, 245).

Key Bench Players: G/F Dorian Pickens (So., 6-5, 210), G Marcus Sheffield (Fr., 6-5, 180), F Cameron Walker (Fr., 6-7, 210), G Malcolm Allen (Jr., 6-1, 175).

Dawkins has changed up his starting five a fair amount over the past four or five games. At WSU Verhoeven started and Pickens came off the bench as a sixth man. It was the second straight night that Pickens was left out of the starting lineup, and he has clearly not been phased by the change. He scored 16 against Oregon and 14 in Pullman.

This lineup means two guards and more size on the floor, which leads me to believe it's what we'll see this evening. Washington have struggled to clean up on the defensive glass, which has led to a lot of opponents playing as big as possible.

Sanders has been a fixture in the starting five though he really isn't a factor as a scorer. He averages 4.3 points on 30% shooting, including 18% from three-point range. Still, he leads the team in assists with 2.8 compared to 1.5 turnovers. He is comfortable facilitating given that he is always surrounded by 3-4 double-digit scorers. He is also a competent on-ball defender.

Marcus Allen has a bit more a scorer's mentality compared to Sanders. Most of his production comes inside the paint. He shoots 45% on two-point attempts compared to only 22% from beyond the arc. He's also second on the team with an average of 2.0 assists.

Stanford's best and most consistent player has been Rosco Allen. He stands 6-9 but still shoots 38% from three-point range. He has averaged 15.4 points and 6.4 rebounds on the year and he is only a week removed from the aforementioned 25-point performance against Oregon.

Michael Humphrey has a bright future, but his huge night in Pullman honestly came as a surprise. Humphrey hadn't scored in double-digits for the past five games, including 0 points in 12 minutes against Oregon. Then he went off on the road. That makes him a bit of a wildcard in this game, as we don't know if he'll continue the hot play from two nights ago or return to his earlier struggles.

It will be interesting to see if Verhoeven ends up starting for a third straight game. He played 32 minutes and scored 13 points against Oregon but only logged 11 minutes in Pullman. He isn't exactly a game-changing big, but he is another big body to harass these undersized Huskies on the offensive glass.

I don't think it's a bad idea for Dawkins to keep a versatile player like Pickens on the bench as a sixth man. At 6-5 he can defend any guard or wing and as a scorer he is productive inside the paint, beyond the arc, and at the free throw line.

The rest of the rotation is competent, though Dawkins is likely to stick to what is essentially a seven-man rotation with Pickens and Cameron Walker. This was the case against WSU until late in the second half.

I absolutely think the Huskies can and should win this contest. Before beating a badly-struggling WSU team, Stanford's last road trip featured a 16-point loss at Colorado, a 22-point loss at Utah, and a 15-point loss at Cal. One win in Pullman does not a good road team make.

I'm also encouraged by Stanford's lack of overwhelming size. Even if they do go with three forwards, the size difference will not be nearly as stark as against Arizona, Utah, or Cal.

The players that have really dominated Washington have largely been very tall players who eat up offensive rebounds and score automatically from the paint. Humphrey is capable of that kind of performance on the boards, and Allen is a great scorer in a different mode, but there is no obvious Ivan Rabb or Jakob Poetl here that Washington should be incapable of defending.

Still, how can I possibly feel comfortable projecting what UW will do? This team's play tends to vary wildly within the same contest, as we saw against Cal. They are capable of looking dominant and being dominated in the same night, and in fact have made a habit of it.

Andrews has been generally cold over the past week or two, including a horrible night against Cal. But then again he hit two ridiculous threes to nearly force overtime. Chriss has arguably been Washington's best player during the losing streak, but who would be shocked if he picked up two fouls in the first minute and sat most of the night? Murray can dazzle you on the break for a layup, steal the inbounds pass, then turn that ball over for an easy two points for his opponent.

Part of it is the nature of being a very young team in a very deep conference. It's certainly not a coincidence that Washington has lost four straight against four likely NCAA tournament teams. it's hard to be consistent when your opponents are consistently very good and much older than you.

This is a chance for the Huskies to remind folks that they are still talented as hell and that the season did not end with the loss at Cal. Block out to avoid giving up offensive boards, cut down on the wild turnovers, and get Chriss involved early and Rosco Allen and the rest of Coach Dawkins' team will have their work cut out for them.

Predicted Score: Washington 81, Stanford 74