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Husky Hoops Need to Know: Pac-12 Race Heats Up

And who ya got between Baylor and Kansas?

NCAA Basketball: Baylor at Oklahoma Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports

Husky Headlines

Washington’s trip to southern California did not give them the new lease on life that they would have wanted. In fact, the games against USC and UCLA looked an awful lot like the other nine conference losses that have become so predictable this season.

There were actually some signs of progress against USC. Even though the Trojans are a very talented team, the Dawgs returned to form defensively after a letdown against WSU. USC only managed 36% shooting from the field and 25% from three. UW also took care of the ball reasonably well with only 11 turnovers on the game. The problem was that UW shot even worse than the Trojans at 35%. Jaden McDaniels played one of his smartest, most disciplined games of the year. Better body control led him to 19 points on 7/14 shooting and 12 rebounds. USC made it hard for Isaiah Stewart to do much with double teams, but he still managed 13 points, 11 rebounds, and 4 blocks (5/9 shooting). Other than the two top recruits, the Huskies shot a miserable 24%.

NCAA Basketball: Washington at UCLA Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

The UCLA game didn’t even have the silver linings that the USC one did. It was yet another game where UW looked coherent and motivated in the first half and cratered offensively in the second. After the Dawgs built a 39-27 lead early in the second half, the Bruins finished the game on a 42-18 run. McDaniels was more erratic in this one, but he and Stewart were again the only viable offensive force. They scored 30 points on 19 field goal attempts and the rest of the team shot 31%. The lack of a playmaker on the offensive end was glaringly obvious again. McDaniels, Marcus Tsohonis, Naz Carter, and Jamal Bey tried to create offense, but ended up with a plethora of bad shots and turnovers against an improving UCLA defense. It was interesting that Hameir Wright was benched after a turnover, a missed three, and a foul in the game’s first minute.

If you’re up for some more torture, you can check out the Dawgs hosting Stanford and Cal over the weekend. The odds would suggest that UW should get at least one win from these two. The Cardinal are almost as cold as the Dawgs, coming in with seven losses in eight games. Cal is UW’s closest rival at the bottom of the conference and doesn’t have the pedigree or expectations that UW does. Stanford especially needs the win- before their swoon they looked like a tournament team. If they bounce back, they still have a chance, but the reversal must start now.

Pac Postings

I mentioned last week that Colorado would have to feel pretty good about a split on its Oregon road trip. They got the split, but by blowing a big lead against the Ducks, they undermined any good feelings they might have had coming out of it. Much like UW, Colorado led by double-digits in the second half. Dana Altman essentially gave up on his struggling front-court and went to a four-guard lineup. That alignment might limit the team’s ultimate upside, but it worked in this game. They terrorized Colorado’s own back-court to the tune of 18 forced turnovers. Hot shooting by Will Richardson got the Ducks a needed win. Both teams won the next time out, which leaves them level at 9-4 atop the conference.

NCAA Basketball: Colorado at Oregon Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

Arizona and Arizona State kept pace at a half game behind the leaders by sweeping their Northern California trips. Arizona looks like a lock as the third Pac team in the tournament with an impressive NET rating of #8 in the country. Without many meaningful non-conference wins, Arizona State still has work to do. They will be favored in four of their final six games. Going 4-2 would leave them 21-10 and 12-6 in conference. Would that be enough for an at-large bid?

This weekend will have plenty of meaningful games in the conference race. Colorado hosts on Thursday while Oregon travels to Arizona State (both LA schools remain only a game back of the leaders). The game of the weekend is Saturday in Tucson when the Ducks battle Arizona. These two teams played a great OT game in Eugene earlier in the year and if Arizona can hold serve, they will have a great shot to catch Colorado over the final weeks.

National Notes

One of the best games of the year is scheduled for Saturday between Kansas and Baylor. They are two of the top three in the land in the polls and the KenPom ratings (Baylor at #1 in the former and Kansas the latter). The Bears hardly escaped Norman on Tuesday when the Sooners gave them all they could handle. The game might come down to which lead guard can break down the opponent’s elite defense. Devon Dotson is one of the top floor generals in the country, but Baylor’s Macio Teague is wildly efficient, as well. Teague has missed Baylor’s last two games with a wrist injury, but he is considered day-to-day, so his status is a major factor heading into Saturday.

Elsewhere at the top of the polls, Gonzaga takes its perfect conference record to Provo for a challenge with BYU. Also, Maryland has emerged as the leader in the Big 10’s indistinguishable morass of teams, but they will have a very tough game on their hands when they travel to Columbus to play Ohio State on Sunday.


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