Happy Football, I mean, Basketball Friday, Cougar Nation. Hope you've had a great week.
Last Saturday I was watching young BH play a basketball game while our very own Taylor Roshestie was busy etching his name in Cougar lore.
While my son's game was going on, Uncle Sedihawk was texting me updates every two or three minutes (it felt like an hour between each one).
Finally, I texted him back with about 3 minutes left. I told him I was so nervous that I literally couldn't stand it anymore.
His reply: Don't be nervous, next week is the game to be nervous about.
My response: Nope, this is the one that we need! This one puts us in the NIT.
Well, we both were right. This weekend is one to be nervous about.
But, as we head into this preview, just remember: a post-season birth is already wrapped up for us....
So, onto the Defeateds.
As you may have surmised by our musings this year, both Sedi and I think quite highly of the Huskies as a basketball team. They are quick, long, athletic, and they pound the offensive glass about as well as anyone in the country. Without question, the U has all of the goods needed to make the same type of Sweet 16-Elite 8 run that we made last year. They're that good.
At the same time, it is important to remember that the Defeateds are NOT a top five team. And they are NOT nearly as good as UCLA or North Carolina were last year. They also are not as good as Pitt is this year.
In addition, while Hec-Ed sure is loud as hell, it is not worse than playing @ Arizona or trying to win #2 out of 60 in Pauley Pavilion.
So, while Washington is certainly a VERY, VERY, VERY formidable foe, they can be beaten. And let this much be clear: It won't take a perfect game to do so.
With that all in mind, here is what I am looking for in this game.
1) Three Point Shooting.
The last time we played these guys, they ate us up from three point land. Meanwhile, we were ICE cold. The final stats: UW shot 54% from behind the arc, we shot 20%. When you shoot that poorly from long distance, you're giving up a LOT of long rebounds. When you give up long rebounds to a team like Washington, they get out in transition. When a team gives up a bunch of points in transition and allows 54% on three pointers, they lose by 20 points. Period.
So, for this game to be different, we MUST shoot better. And, we must defend the perimeter better.
We're gonna balance out the difference in 3 point percentage in this game, folks. And that is why the game WILL BE CLOSE.
Washington and their main man Johnny B make their living on cleaning the glass and tipping the ball in.
When we are on D, we HAVE to keep them off the glass.
Last weekend against ASU, we gave up ONE OFFENSIVE rebound. Our numbers were also good against Arizona and UCLA. If we keep the U off of the offensive boards, we will win this game.
3) Our Match-Up Strategy on Defense
One of the reasons why Washington is so good on the offensive boards is the slash and burn work of Mr. Thomas. Isiah is easy one of the best freshmen I have ever seen play in the Pac-10. The guy is going to a special pro. The thing I like about him the most is his ability to get in the lane and then score with both hands. He's special. Real special.
So, it will be incumbent upon our Pac defense to try to keep Thomas out of the lane. If we do that, we'll be able to hold our own on the boards. While Thomas MAY wind up going off, if he is the guy who kills us from 3 tomorrow, I can live with that. I can't live with him scoring 21 while leading to 21 more each from Brockman and Dentmon. We've got to make him shoot it.
In terms of overall match-ups, I think that Taylor and Dentmon are going to cancel each other out. Ditto Baynes and Brockmon. So. the guys I'm worried about are Thomas and Poindexter.
Early in the game, we're going to match-up with their backcourt with Capers on Thomas, Rochestie on Dentmon, and Thompson on Poindexter.
IF that lineup works, we'll win this game.
But I think that Poindexter is going to KILL Thompson. So, the line-up I am looking for is the following:
Rochestie-Thomas, Thompson-Dentmon, CASTO-Poindexter,
along with Forrest and Baynes.
If that line-up plays, AND can stay out of foul trouble, we'll win this game.
4) Our Match-Up Strategy on Offense
The Achilles heel of Washington is that their backcourt is the midget army. Thomas gives up about 5 inches to Taylor. Meanwhile, Klay is about 7 inches taller than Dentmon. With one week of preparation, you would think that we would find a way to ISO Klay early on either of those two. He should KILL them. Then, it will come down to our ability to shoot from outside. I think Taylor is ready to really light them up.
5) The X Factors
Certainly, the defense of Casto and Capers could be huge in this game. But I think our X factor is Forrest. If Caleb is feeling it, it will give us about a +8-10 from the four spot. And we'll need that to win. In my mind, if Caleb scores under 14 points, we can't win.
Washington's x factor is Mr. Overton who I think is their hidden MVP and unsung hero. He's solid defensively, is competent around the basket, shoots well when it matters, and distributes very nicely. Whenever Dentom or Thomas has an off game, he ALWAYS seems to step up.
I'm looking for him to come in and really bother whoever our hot hand is. His play in in the middle 10 minutes of the second half could very well be THE game decider.
6) The Last Three Minutes.
This is the big part of the game that I just can't predict. IF UCLA wins on Saturday, does that make Washington tight? If UCLA loses, does that make Washington lose their edge?
Plus, if we're winning heading down the stretch, does the U gut this one out with the same championship spirit that has defined this year for them? Or, do they start to get the yips from the prospect of losing 7 of 8 to their heated rival???
And for us, do we assume the role of the aggressors late, or do we get tight thinking about our NCAA chances?
The team that stays aggressive AND loose will win the game.
The U is going to be too much for us at Hec-Ed. If the game were at home, I'd really, really like our chances. That said, I think this is a close game and I think we will have plenty of chances to get some separation.
But ultimately, this is their year. Remember last year when we did not lead for an entire OT and then won at the end? Its Deja Vu all over again.
Washington 69 WSU 61 (it will be a two point game with 2:00 left).
Enjoy the game. Lets GO COUGS!