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Pac-12-Tournament 2015: Kevin O'Neill talks about the Huskies, Williams-Goss, Upshaw and the Tournament in Vegas

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I got the chance to talk with Pac-12 Networks analyst Kevin O'Neill about the Huskies and the upcoming Pac-12 Tournament.

thanks Kevin
thanks Kevin
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Former USC Trojans head coach and current Pac-12 Networks Analyst Kevin O'Neill was kind enough to take a couple minutes with me to discuss his thoughts on what the Huskies can do in the Pac-12 Tournament, their chances at an NIT bid and a few other topics around the team.

The first piece of analysis O'Neill dropped was that Washington was going to have trouble getting by Stanford and playing their way to the second day of the Tournament. In order to pull off a second consecutive upset? "They're going to have to shoot the ball extremely well, and they're going to have to out-rebound Stanford; Stanford does a great job on the boards." Basically what O'Neill is saying is that Washington is going to have to do the two things that they struggle with the most.

Stanford is in the upper third of the conference in both offensive and defensive rebounding percentage (conference play only), with Arizona being the only other team to accomplish the feat. Arizona leads in both categories. Stanford also is in the top third of the conference in opponents' eFG%. Stefan Nastic in particular is going to be difficult to keep off of the offensive glass in Washington's 2-3 zone. He grabs over 10 percent of opponents' misses.

Now, assuming (big assumption) that Washington can bypass Stanford, O'Neill still thinks it is going to be difficult to secure an NIT bid with the post-Upshaw slide. But had Upshaw theoretically still been on the team, the Huskies would have been a lock in the Big Dance. Once those games get started, we really can't know who is going to come out on top.

He particularly noted how difficult it would be for a coaching staff to deal with the loss up Upshaw. "It's just too big a void to fill. Not just on the defensive end, cause Upshaw was starting to play so well offensively ... It's very difficult for Lorenzo Romar and his staff to swallow, but it was a very unfortunate incident that led the team down a tough road."

We know how much of a loss Upshaw was on the basketball court. The defense fell apart around him, and the offense lost its main roll man on Nigel Williams-Goss screen and rolls.

With Upshaw gone, O'Neill says the best gameplan against Washington offensively would be to get the ball inside and crash the offensive glass. The Huskies lack of size (the "emergence" of Gilles Dierickx might help that a little bit) can be exploited. The conference has a size advantage over Washington, not just Arizona with its crazy amount of length and girth up front. Crashing the offensive glass is playing to a team's relative strength, because the Huskies as a whole will struggle to rebound defensively with both the lack of size and use of the 2-3.

Since Upshaw left, the Huskies have been turned into a jump shooting team, which certainly doesn't play to the their strength, without a single player (minimum 20 attempts) hitting 40 percent from behind the three-point arc. Keeping Williams-Goss out of the lane can be difficult (ask Delon Wright) but forcing the Huskies to shoot jumpers and contested twos is a solid gameplan, especially considering Andrew Andrews and Williams-Goss' affinity for the shot.

The boldest statement O'Neill made to me was this: "Nigel Williams-Goss can't play in the NBA, I don't know why everybody's worried about him going to the NBA." He didn't say that Williams-Goss will struggle if he leaves school now. He didn't say Nigel just isn't ready. O'Neill said that he just flat won't be able to play. He said that Williams-Goss isn't quick enough to separate from NBA-level players.

If a player can't use his athleticism to separate himself, he usually needs to have a three-point shot. Williams-Goss doesn't. The last reason O'Neill stated was that the Husky point guard would struggle to defend opposing point guards. I can't argue with any of his reasons, which is why at this point, I agree with O'Neill that it would be a "fatal mistake" for Williams-Goss to go pro at this point in his career.

The last thing I spoke to O'Neill about was his thoughts on the Pac-12 Tournament. He believes that it will be a boring Tournament with the clear favorite Arizona taking the title. Utah and Oregon each have a chance to take down the Wildcats, with Utah having a slightly better chance, but neither stack up well enough to best UofA.

Thanks to O'Neill for taking the time to talk to me. I would point you to his Twitter but it hasn't sent out a tweet since 2009.

@KnibbeBen