After a loss to a talented Tennessee team, the Huskies went on a bit of a roll. Sure, the schedule was soft, but the Dawgs took care of business and won five straight by double figures. The last of that bunch came against Eastern Washington last week when the Huskies put up a season-high 90 points on the Eagles. With freshman stars Isaiah Stewart and Jaden McDaniels in early foul trouble, Quade Green picked up the slack with 20 points and 8 assists.
On Sunday, the Huskies faced their toughest test of the year against #9 Gonzaga. The game was within 10 points the entire way. UW pushed the Zags hard, but couldn’t overcome a pair of late threes for an 83-76 Bulldogs win. Filip Petrusev and Killian Tillie are a dynamic combo of big men. Between Petrusev’s post moves and Tillie’s high-post playmaking, they did a solid job breaking down the UW zone. The Dawgs struggled to get Stewart the ball without an immediate double-team, but he still managed to finish with 21. Green and McDaniels also chipped in with scoring and play-making. Even in a loss, it was a good blueprint for how the UW offense can work more efficiently than it did the first few games. The continued emergence of Green improves the team’s overall outlook.
The Huskies have the weekend off before they host Seattle U on Tuesday. The Redhawks come into the game off of some better recent results after a 2-5 start to the season. Terrell Brown, a Garfield and Shoreline CC product, has emerged as the most productive player for Seattle. Brown is averaging over 20 p/g, leads the team with almost 5 a/g, and has somehow rebounded more than 7 shots per game despite his 6’1, 175 lb frame. Seton Hall transfer Myles Carter is the best big man on the Seattle roster. Nonetheless, they have struggled mightily to shoot the ball and have been dominated by the best teams they have played- Syracuse and Ole Miss.
The conference missed out on a couple more chances to prove itself against prime competition last week. Arizona visited Baylor and narrowly lost 63-58. The Cats held Baylor to 30.4% shooting in the game but managed to make a putrid 26.9% of their own shots. If not for 28 made free throws, it could have been an even uglier final. Likewise, Colorado couldn’t find the bottom of the net (30%) on their trip to Allen Fieldhouse against the #2 Jayhawks. It was a frustrating game for the Buffs, who forced 21 turnovers and secured 17 offensive rebounds, but could do nothing with the extras possessions. Sophomore guard Ochai Agbaji continued his upward trajectory with 20 points and 12 rebounds in the game. Colorado’s problems went from bad to worse on Tuesday when they lost at home to a hot shooting Northern Iowa team. It’s safe to say the Buffs won’t be returning to the top 25 soon.
This week offers the Pac more opportunities to get wins against top teams. Oregon heads to Ann Arbor for a true road game against #5 Michigan on Saturday. The Ducks have a reasonable shot in that game because the advanced metrics see Michigan as slightly overrated. KenPom rates Oregon 14th and Michigan 12th nationally. The Wolverines’ calling card has been relentless defense, but Oregon’s #7 ranked offense should give them some trouble. Similarly, Gonzaga continues its tour of the top teams in the conference with a match-up against Arizona. The Cats will host that one, so it will be an uphill battle for the Zags to complete the sweep of Oregon, UW, and Arizona. Between Petrusev, Tillie, Zeke Nnaji, and Chase Jeter, this game will be one of the best match-ups of big men in the country.
If you watched the UW-Gonzaga game on Sunday, you might have heard Seth Greenberg raving about Ohio State at halftime. The 9-0 Buckeyes are all the way up to #3 in the AP poll and have logged lopsided wins over Villanova and North Carolina already. That lofty rating might undersell how good they’ve been so far. According to KenPom, the Buckeyes are easily the #1 team in the country behind the #6 offense and the #2 defense. Junior big man Kaleb Wesson leads the team in scoring and rebounds, but they get it done with a team effort. Ten players average 10-25 minutes per game; nobody averages 26. They succeed offensively by doing a little bit of everything well. They get to the line more than average and shoot better than average when they get there. They shoot more threes than average and make them at the 10th highest clip in the country. The rebound well at both ends and they force more turnovers than they commit. The strategy isn’t complicated. Coach Chris Holtman took over for Brad Stevens at Butler and kept them humming along as a perennial tournament team. He has brought the same straightforward philosophy to a program with more prestige and resources. This year, he brought in three top-50 recruits. It is already paying dividends, so much so that the Buckeyes have to be considered title contenders.
Outside of the Oregon-Michigan and Arizona-Gonzaga games, this weekend is a little light on premier match-ups. What it lacks in high-end quality, it makes up for in animosity. Many of the biggest non-conference rivalry games take place over the weekend. It starts with Iowa-Iowa State on Thursday and continues with Colorado-Colorado State on Friday. It gets even better on Saturday, with BYU-Utah State, Memphis-Tennessee, and Syracuse-Georgetown. I wouldn’t bet on any of those teams to make the Final Four, but the rivalry dynamics should produce some high drama.