Washington: Why Don’t We Trust the Huskies?

Posted by Andrew Murawa on December 9th, 2014

With it’s big 49-36 win over San Diego State on Sunday night, Washington jumped in to the AP Top 25, appearing as the last team on the list. For a proud program under Lorenzo Romar that was once a regular fixture in those rankings, this is the first time the Huskies have been there in nearly four years (February 2011). But interestingly enough, the Huskies are not in the RTC Top 25 this week, so clearly they still have something to prove to some in the college basketball community. What gives? Why the lack of trust in a Washington team that not only has a convincing win over the nationally regarded Aztecs, but also a Wooden Legacy title under its belt? The Huskies are holding opponents to a 37.2% eFG this season, good for fourth in the nation, and they’re 38th in adjusted defensive efficiency, a mark they haven’t seen over the course of an entire season since Jon Brockman and Justin Dentmon were wearing purple and gold. These guys must be for real, right?

Robert Upshaw's Presence In The Middle Has Helped The Huskies Out To A Dominating Defensive Start (Dean Rutz, Seattle Times)

Robert Upshaw’s Presence In The Middle Has Helped The Huskies Out To A Dominating Defensive Start (Dean Rutz, Seattle Times)

Don’t worry Huskies’ fans. This is not the point where you get the comedown of a “not so fast.” Fact is, there is a lot to like here. And room to get better. Those defensive numbers are probably a bit overblown, in part due to San Diego State’s inability to hit anything en route to a 22.2% eFG on Sunday night. But, with shotblocker extraordinaire Robert Upshaw manning the middle for about 20 minutes per game (his 21.4% block rate – the percent of opponent’s two-point field goal attempts he blocks while he’s on the floor – is the best in the nation), and with fellow intimidating interior presences in Jernard Jarreau and Shawn Kemp, Jr., the Huskies are going to be seriously tough to score on inside all year long. That frees up perimeter defenders to really pressure perimeter players, running them off the three-point line and forcing them into tougher and less rewarding field goal attempts. The 24.4 percent rate they are allowing from behind the three-point line thus far this season is in no way sustainable, but the strategy is. Read the rest of this entry »

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Surveying Feast Week Carnage Around the Pac-12

Posted by AMurawa on December 1st, 2014

Feast Week around the Pac-12 didn’t bring a whole lot of comfort to the conference. Seven teams around the league played in tournament-style events and only two even made it out of their first game and into the championship side of the bracket, with four of the remaining five teams taking two losses on the week. There was good news, however, as Arizona won the Maui Invitational with a workmanlike win over San Diego State and Washington earned the Wooden Legacy title with solid wins over an underwhelming field. And the teams that did not participate in tournaments this week (including Utah, who hosted a round robin event against overmatched opponents) combined to post a 10-1 record. Of course, that “1” on the right side of the record was an inexplicable Stanford loss to DePaul. Below, we’ll take a quick spin around the conference and get you caught up.

Stanley Johnson Is Turning Into A Disruptive Defensive Force (Casey Sapio, USA Today)

Stanley Johnson Is Turning Into A Disruptive Defensive Force (Casey Sapio, USA Today)

Arizona – The Wildcats have not yet looked spectacular this season, in racing out to a 6-0 start. But as they showed against the Aztecs on Wednesday, this is a team with chemistry and toughness, traits that should help them weather the storm as they work towards living up to their incredible upside. Things are coming along slowly but surely, Stanley Johnson is getting comfortable offensively and turning showing his ability to disrupt things defensively and everybody is feeling each other out. It will come all in due time; they’ve still got three months to dial things in before March rolls around. But in the meantime, even as we can pick apart little faults, the ‘Cats have confirmed what we already thought: Sean Miller’s team is the class of the conference. Read the rest of this entry »

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One on One: A Pac-12 Preview With Jon Wilner

Posted by Walker Carey on November 7th, 2014

RTC interviews one on one

Rush the Court is back with another edition of One on One: An Interview Series, which we will bring you throughout the preseason with previews of each of the major conferences.

With the college basketball season nearly upon us, we thought it would be a good idea to gather some expert opinions on the nation’s major college basketball conferences. As part of our national preview with the Pac-12, RTC correspondent Walker Carey (@walkerRcarey) recently had the pleasure of speaking with a Pac-12 expert in San Jose Mercury News college basketball scribe, Jon Wilner (@wilnerhotline).

Rush the Court: Even with losing Nick Johnson and Aaron Gordon from last season’s squad, Arizona is once again loaded. What makes the Wildcats so well rounded, and do you see them as one of the favorites to take home the national title?

Wilner: They certainly have to be in the very top tier of contenders for the national title. I that that their depth again is their biggest strength. They have so many good players that they are not just reliant on one or two guys. I think they are going to have more options to score this year. They should be a little bit better on offense. There might be a slight drop-off on the defensive end of the court, but it will not be enough to really hurt them. They should be right in the mix nationally. Sean Miller does a great job of getting his guys to play hard all the time. They have a huge homecourt advantage and they have a lot of experience of being able to go win on the road. A lot of success comes from the ability to go win on the road and this group has done just that.

Arizona (Casey Sapio, USA Today Sports)

Arizona Brings Back Enough Talent to Win a National Title This Year (Casey Sapio, USA Today Sports)

RTC: Colorado brings back a lot of experience from last season’s NCAA Tournament squad. With key players Josh Scott, Xavier Johnson, and Askia Booker returning for the Buffaloes, can Tad Boyle make it three NCAA Tournaments in three years?

Wilner: I think so. I expect them to be an NCAA Tournament team. I think Colorado is the best bet to finish second behind Arizona in the conference standings. It might be three or four games behind Arizona, but second place is second place. Tad Boyle is a terrific coach. He is as good as there is in the league. I think the fact that they played so much of last season without Spencer Dinwiddie will help them now that he is officially gone. There is not going to be the transition that you would normally find with a team that loses its best player to the NBA because Colorado did not have Dinwiddie for the last couple months of last season.

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Pac-12 Season Preview: Washington Huskies

Posted by Andrew Murawa on October 29th, 2014

The Pac-12 microsite will preview each of its league teams over the next few weeks, continuing today with Washington.

Washington Huskies

Strengths. Historically, Lorenzo Romar’s teams in Seattle have been teams adept at getting up and down the court and scoring in an efficient manner. In his 12 seasons with the Huskies, his teams have ranked in the top 75 in adjusted tempo in all but one year. Likewise, his teams have ranked in the top 90 in adjusted offensive efficiency (all of these numbers are courtesy of KenPom.com) in every year except his first season as head coach there. With point guard Nigel Williams-Goss back for his sophomore campaign, joined by junior Andrew Andrews, Romar has the beginnings of the type of high-octane, backcourt-led offensive juggernaut that has been a hallmark of his best teams. Of course, Romar will have to replace his two most efficient players from last season in C.J. Wilcox and Perris Blackwell, but if Jernard Jarreau comes back from an ACL tear that cost him all but a couple minutes of last season, he’s the type of skilled forward who could be a holy terror running the floor with that pair of guards. Throw in a couple of athletic wings in Mike Anderson and Darin Johnson (who really came on at the end of his freshman campaign) and mercurial former McDonald’s All-American transfer Robert Upshaw in the middle, and if things come together, the Huskies could be fairly potent with the ball in their hands.

Nigel WIlliams-Goss and Andrew Andrews Give The Huskies A Head Start On A Potent Offense

Nigel WIlliams-Goss and Andrew Andrews Give The Huskies A Head Start On A Potent Offense

Weaknesses. So, if I’m going out of my way to praise the Huskies’ offense as a strength, I’ll give you one good guess what I think their weakness could be this season. Back in 2008-09, as Washington was running out to a #4 seed in the NCAA Tournament behind the likes of Jon Brockman, Quincy Pondexter and freshman Isaiah Thomas, Romar’s group gave the 10th most efficient defensive performance in the nation. Every year since then, the Huskies have been worse on defense than the previous year, culminating in last season’s dumpster fire. The Huskies gave up an adjusted total of 104.5 points per 100 offensive possessions, good for a dreadful 163rd in the nation and 11th in the Pac-12. Look no further for your primary reason why the Huskies were lucky to finish 9-9 in conference play. This year, if Upshaw can become something of a rim-protector in the middle and get some help from Jarreau, the Huskies should be better by default. But – let’s be blunt – Williams-Goss and Andrews are not the type of defensive-minded guards around which to build a great defensive team.

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Pac-12 Post-Mortems: Washington

Posted by AMurawa on April 25th, 2014

Over the next couple of weeks, we’ll go through each Pac-12 team one by one and recount the season that has just completed and begin to turn the page to what we might see next season. Today, Washington.

What Went Right

For the fifth consecutive season, Washington started off Pac-12 play in strong fashion, winning three of their first four after the calendar flipped. But, just like the previous two seasons, the Huskies had dug themselves enough of a hole in non-conference play to make the second-half of the season an uphill climb. Still, Lorenzo Romar’s club definitely played its best ball of the season in Pac-12 play, with freshman point guard Nigel Williams-Goss developing into a promising prospect down the stretch and combining with vets C.J. Wilcox and Perris Blackwell to make Washington an often fearsome offensive squad, especially at Alaska Airlines Arena.

Nigel Williams-Goss Developed Into A Fine Point Guard In His Freshman Year (Getty Images)

Nigel Williams-Goss Developed Into A Fine Point Guard In His Freshman Year (Getty Images)

What Went Wrong

As alluded to above, the Huskies again struggled in non-conference play. This year there was a 14-point home loss to UC Irvine and a pair of neutral-site losses to Indiana and Boston College that made those mediocre squads look a whole lot better than they really were. Over the past three seasons, the Huskies are 22-15 in games before conference play, with at least one embarrassing home loss per year. Read the rest of this entry »

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Pac-12 Wednesday Night Round-Up: Colorado and Washington Squeak By

Posted by Andrew Murawa (@AMurawa) on January 9th, 2014

Colorado 71, Washington State 70 (OT)

After last weekend where the Cougars looked anemic offensively and the Buffaloes looked every bit like their RTC #17 ranking, the expectation was certainly that this wouldn’t be a game much worth keeping an eye on. Add in the fact that at opening tip, Washington State’s “crowd” in their game in Spokane could be counted by hand and there was little reason to suspect that the Cougars had a chance. Forty-five minutes later, the Buffaloes were limping out of Spokane Arena with a much tougher win than anyone should have expected. While Washington State was shorthanded without junior gurd DaVonte Lacy, Colorado was also playing without their veteran point guard, Spencer Dinwiddie. Huh? What’s that? He played, you say? He played 38 minutes? Well, what do you know? The box score backs up such an assertion, although the film may test that story.

Spencer Dinwiddie Was Uncharacteristically Silent For the Buffaloes Against Washington State (David Zalubowski, AP Photo)

Spencer Dinwiddie Was Uncharacteristically Silent For the Buffaloes Against Washington State (David Zalubowski, AP Photo)

In fact, Dinwiddie did play, took five shots from the field (all after the halftime break), scored six points and added a variety of other plays here and there, but was largely absent, an occurrence that likely would have cost his team a game had the opponent been just about any other conference team other than a short-handed WSU team. Backcourt partner Askia Booker was very active, conversely, but made most of his impact from the free-throw line, scoring 13 of his 18 points from the charity stripe while going just two-of-12 from the field. For what it’s worth, Booker’s free throw contributions summed up the game for Colorado, as they enjoyed a whopping 38-3 advantage in free throw attempts in the game. Still, Tad Boyle wound up needing Josh Scott to go nuts late in order to come away with the tough win; the sophomore big man had eight points (on four-of-four shooting), four boards (two on the offensive end) and a blocked shot in the final two minutes of regulation plus the overtime period.

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Is It Time For Washington to Embrace a Four-Guard Lineup?

Posted by Andrew Murawa (@AMurawa) on November 22nd, 2013

Things have not started well for Washington. After being on the outside looking in the last two seasons come NCAA Tournament time, there was quite a bit of optimism around the program, what with a McDonald’s All-American coming in at point guard, a big-time scorer on the wing returning for his senior season, and a whole host of big men up front to interchange. Now here we are, a couple weeks into the year and the Huskies already have a couple of losses, including an 18-point blowout last night against Indiana, as well as some injury issues along the frontcourt. Right now this team doesn’t look like a squad anywhere near the top of the Pac-12.

Short A Couple of Frontcourt Players And With Shaky Perimeter Defense, Lorenzo Romar And Washington Are Off To A Slow Start (Pac-12)

Short A Couple of Frontcourt Players And With Shaky Perimeter Defense, Lorenzo Romar And Washington Are Off To A Slow Start (Pac-12)

Certainly the injuries are part of the issue. Veteran forward Desmond Simmons is out until Christmas shopping is well underway following a knee surgery, while versatile sophomore big man Jernard Jarreau is out for the year after tearing his ACL two minutes into the season. After those setbacks, Lorenzo Romar was left with just three options up front: senior center Perris Blackwell, junior forward Shawn Kemp, Jr., and sophomore center Gilles Dierickx. Blackwell, a transfer from San Francisco, is a good, skilled post man, but at the end of the day he’s an earthbound 6’8” center. Kemp is nice in theory, but his production has never begun to approach the hype generated by his name. And Dierickx? This isn’t a guy meant to be on the court at this point in his career in big-time college basketball, as his offense lags significantly behind his defense. Thursday night against Indiana, the weaknesses of those three were made abundantly clear. Kemp fouled out in nine minutes, Blackwell had a double-double but was regularly abused by the more athletic Indiana freshman Noah Vonleh, and the team as a whole grabbed a woeful 41.2 percent of their opponent’s missed shots. And despite seven blocked shots, there isn’t a great rim protector on this team.

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Pac-12 M5: 11.05.13 Edition

Posted by Connor Pelton (@ConnorPelton28) on November 5th, 2013

pac12_morning5

  1. It was upset weekend in the Pac-12 to start the month of November. What are we talking about, you may be wondering? The world of secret scrimmages, of course. SMU apparently handled Colorado on the road this weekend, with one source even saying that the Mustangs won by at least 20 points. In Tempe, San Francisco got by Arizona State with ease, another surprising result for the conference. Because of the nature of these controlled scrimmages, the results should certainly be taken with a grain of salt, but they are also not good news by any means. Lots of work is still left to be done before the regular season starts this weekend.
  2. Colorado forward Chris Jenkins chose to transfer out of the program Monday. He is a redshirt freshman who wasn’t expected to contribute under head coach Tad Boyle for the second straight season. Colorado opens its regular season Friday against Baylor in Houston.
  3. Washington has missed the NCAA Tournament in back-to-back seasons, and senior guard C.J. Wilcox wants to finish his career in Seattle with a trip to the Big Dance. Wilcox is a fifth-year senior and will have to carry the Huskies if they are to return there. “This is my team,” says Wilcox. “I have to make sure I get these guys back to the NCAA Tournament and we can try to do some special things.” However, he will not be able to sneak up on anyone this season after averaging 16.8 PPG last year. If Washington is to navigate the tough Pac-12, the Huskies will need strong performances from new starters Nigel Williams-Goss and Andrew Andrews, who will be playing alongside Wilcox in the backcourt when Lorenzo Romar chooses to go small.
  4. Most fans around the country like it when a high school senior signs with their favorite team in the spring. They then watch the player get acclimated to the program during his freshman season, play increased minutes his second year, and start as a junior and senior with the team. Oregon fans have come to expect something a little different. Duck fans rarely get a sense of familiarity with their roster as Dana Altman has built his team the last few seasons through one- or two-year transfer players. This year’s team is filled with six transfers, all of which are expected to contribute immediately. Altman’s squad opens its season on Friday at Camp Humphreys, South Korea, against Georgetown.
  5. The guys over at California Golden Blogs met in roundtable form on Monday and discussed California‘s 83-61 exhibition win over Humboldt State. The Bears scored the ball with efficiency and showed off their improved depth over last year’s squad. Head coach Mike Montgomery debuted a 10-deep roster without much of a worry as it appears the majority of the newcomers are already ahead of the curve. As evidenced by that, freshman guard Jordan Matthews led Cal with 15 points off the bench. Forward Richard Solomon added nine rebounds to go with his 11 points.
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Pac-12 M5: 10.16.13 Edition

Posted by Andrew Murawa on October 16th, 2013

pac12_morning5

  1. After a stretch of several months where most of the news coming out of Westwood was of the bad variety, UCLA finally found some good news waiting for them on Tuesday when forward Wanaah Bail was granted eligibility to play immediately for the Bruins after transferring out of the Texas Tech program. While Bail is still recovering from offseason knee surgery, if and when he is healthy enough to go, he’ll be expected to provide much-needed depth in the frontcourt behind the senior Wear twins and sophomore center Tony Parker. Still, despite the good news, some Bruin followers have chosen to paint this as, somehow, another strike against new head coach Steve Alford before the guy has even gotten to the plate. Seriously though, Alford had the temerity to answer a question about comparing John Wooden to his former college head coach, Bobby Knight. I mean, get a rope, right?
  2. Turning back to UCLA’s biggest rival in the conference, Arizona is considered the prohibitive favorite by most prognosticators, but the one weakness most people look to nitpick is the team’s possible lack of outside shooting. The team loses four of their top five three-point shooters from last season and their most ballyhooed newcomers, namely freshmen Aaron Gordon and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, are known for just about anything on the basketball court except long-range shooting. Nevertheless, newly eligible transfer T.J. McConnell is a 41.6% three-point shooter for his career, junior guard Nick Johnson improved to a 39.3% three-point shooter last season, and guys like sophomore Gabe York (despite his one-for-nine shooting in the Red-Blue game) and Kansas transfer Zach Peters are expected to chip in from range. Meanwhile, even sophomore Brandon Ashley has worked to expand his range out toward the three-point line.
  3. Speaking of T.J. McConnell, while anyone who never saw him play in his first two seasons of collegiate eligibility at Duquesne can look at the numbers and see a guy who can knock down the three as well as drop a dime (KenPom, paywall) with the best of them, Arizona head coach Sean Miller has been talking up McConnell’s ability to get after it on defense. The Wildcats’ defensive efficiency has improved every season under Miller (again, KenPom, paywall), but if McConnell can live up to Miller’s hype, he’s definitely got a versatile enough frontcourt to match up with just about any opponent, what with Kaleb Tarczewski’s ability to out-physical true posts, Ashley’s length and athleticism advantage over  most fours, Gordon’s ability to guard any number of positions, and Jefferson’s toughness and length. Throw in the already established Nick Johnson, whose ability to annoy the heck out of opposing ball-handlers far away from the hoop can be disruptive enough on its own, and this Wildcat squad is a good bet to improve on the team’s defensive numbers from a year ago.
  4. For some reason, we haven’t talked a lot about Colorado so far these past couple of weeks (something we will remedy soon enough), but the Buffaloes are one of the handful of teams who can legitimately challenge Arizona for conference supremacy. Things will be a bit easier for the Buffs this season, especially around Boulder, as season tickets for the Coors Event Center have sold out for the first time in CU history. With a student section that has evolved into one of the best in the conference, and now the full Boulder community also committed to supporting the team, expect the Rocky Mountain swing to be one of the least welcoming road trips on the Pac-12 schedule.
  5. We’ll wrap up the morning by pointing you to a thorough rundown on the Washington basketball roster by Ben Knibbe (follow him now) at the UW Dawg Pound. Yesterday he took you through the high post players Jernard Jarreau and Desmond Simmons (and offered the saddest of lines for a Husky fan: “Aaron Gordon would have been…”). Last week he broke down wings C.J. Wilcox, Hikeem Stewart, Darin Johnson and Mike Anderson. And the week before that he filled you in on point guard options Andrew Andrews, Nigel Williams-Goss and Jahmel Taylor. Certainly, we’ll get the breakdown on low posts Perris Blackwell and Shawn Kemp in the near future, but you’ll need to keep up with Ben (seriously, follow him now) in order to get the best position-by-position rundown you’ll find around the Pac-12 team blogs.
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Washington Post-Mortem

Posted by AMurawa on April 22nd, 2013

Now that we are officially in the offseason, it’s time to take a look back and evaluate each team’s 2012-13 performance. Here’s a look at Washington.

What Went Right

The Huskies opened Pac-12 play with three straight road wins, then backed that up by knocking off Colorado at Hec Ed and it looked like the team was on the verge of turning things around after a horrid non-conference schedule. C.J. Wilcox was leading the way in scoring, having led the team in seven of its last eight games (all wins), Aziz N’Diaye was chipping in offensively and doing his normal yeoman’s work on defense and on the glass, and things were, all of a sudden, running smoothly. And then….

C.J. Wilcox's Offensive Burst Was The Biggest Bright Spot In An Otherwise Disappointing Season

C.J. Wilcox’s Offensive Burst Was The Biggest Bright Spot In An Otherwise Disappointing Season

What Went Wrong

And then the Huskies proceeded to revert to non-conference form (you know, when they lost home games to Albany, Nevada and Colorado State, the latter by like a million points), dropping eight of their next 10 games and averaging 0.88 points per possession over the losses in that stretch. Abdul Gaddy frustrated Huskies’ fans, Scott Suggs was only occasionally involved in the offense, Wilcox struggled with an ankle injury, N’Diaye reverted to his old familiar offensively incoherent self, and the wheels fell off. Worst of all, it was awfully hard to watch at times.

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Pac-12 Burning Questions: Pac-12 Tournament Dark Horse?

Posted by AMurawa on March 13th, 2013

The beginning of a new era in Pac-12 basketball begins today, as the first conference tournament in Las Vegas tips off. With the top four teams receiving a bye, we’ve got teams #5 through #12 in action, so we asked our correspondents:

“Which Pac-12 team playing in the opening round has the best chance of springing the upset and winning the conference’s automatic bid?”

 

Adam Butler: I’ve struggled to figure out exactly what’s happened in Palo Alto this year. They have a very interesting group and a group we thought would play better than to the tune of .500 in conference play. They’ve looked equally good as they have bad at different times throughout the year. And I can’t tell if it’s fortunate or unfortunate for me — and I’ll argue unfortunate with regards to my prognosticating skills — that the two trips I’ve taken to see Stanford play this year were when they hosted Oregon (76-52, W) and visited Cal (83-70, W). Through stretches of these games, if not their entirety, the Cardinal looked unstoppable. For such, as a team capable of playing with any team in the conference, I like the #8 seeded Fighting Dawkins as the top Wednesday playing team to make a run at this thing.

The Pressure Is On For Johnny Dawkins And Company, But Can His Cardinal Spring a Big Upset? (credit: Danny Moloshok)

The Pressure Is On For Johnny Dawkins And Company, But Can His Cardinal Spring a Big Upset? (Danny Moloshok)

Connor Pelton: I actually like #6 Washington to advance furthest and have the best chance of winning the championship out of the eight first round teams. The Huskies have wins over the #2 and #5 seeds in the tournament and have shown they can compete against the other top teams in the field. What you need to win four games in four days are good shooters and a good bench. Scott Suggs and Abdul Gaddy have been shooting the lights out of the gym as of late, and while they may not put up huge numbers, Andrew Andrews and Jernard Jarreau can control the game and score from anywhere on the floor if they are called on to spell the starters. Most importantly, the Dawgs have one of the easiest paths to the title game. Washington State has been playing good ball as of late, but there’s no reason UW can’t pull out a win against the rival Cougars. LoRo and company hung with Oregon in their first two meetings, and I think they pull the upset in their third attempt against a reeling Duck squad. A date with California is likely for the semifinals, and if Washington’s only prior meeting with the Golden Bears is any indication, the Dawgs could be on their way to the title game. And once you get there, no matter who the opponent, anything is possible.

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Pac-12 Report Card: Volume II

Posted by AMurawa on January 16th, 2013

Professor Pac is back to break down and evaluate each team’s performances in the past week. With three pet pupils atop the leaderboard still without a loss, it’s no surprise who is earning the As thus far.

Washington – A

After winning a conference road game over an intrastate rival last week, the Huskies decided to one-up themselves this week, taking down two more road games, this time over slightly more significant competition, to begin the season with a surprising three-game road winning streak.

Focus on: Andrew Andrews. The stats this week weren’t anywhere near mind-blowing for the redshirt freshman (9 PPG, 4 RPG, 0.5 APG), but he brings an energy and athleticism to a Husky backcourt that definitely needed it. Offensively, he is a threat to get to the paint and create opportunities on any possession, and on defense, as his four steals against Stanford on Saturday showed, he is capable of wreaking havoc on the opposition. He’s still green, but look for his role to continue to expand this season.

Looking ahead: For a team with a history of struggling on the road, the Huskies have taken care of business there in recent weeks. Now they have to prove they can win at home, something they have failed to do three separate times in the non-conference schedule. Colorado is the first test tonight with Utah visiting on Sunday.

Andrew Andrews Has Been Providing A Spark Off The Bench For The Huskies (Elaine Thompson, AP Photo)

Andrew Andrews Has Been Providing A Spark Off The Bench For The Huskies (Elaine Thompson, AP Photo)

Oregon – A

If you wanted to pick one weakness on this Ducks team, it might be the lack of a proven go-to scorer at this point. This week, for instance, in each of their two home wins over the Arizona schools, four of the five starters scored in double figures, with nobody scoring more than 14 points. In fact, only four times all season has a Duck scored 20 or more (Damyean Dotson twice, Arsalan Kazemi once, and E.J. Singler once). I’m not one who thinks this is always necessarily a problem – if you have plenty of good offensive options and you wind up with balanced scoring that way, it certainly keeps the defense guessing – but I think in the Ducks’ case, they have a bunch of good players, none of whom are completely polished offensive options. And against Arizona down the stretch, the possibility of that being a problem raised its head. Part of it has to do with the decision to milk the clock way too early, but at some point they probably need somebody (the best candidate is Dotson) to become the go-to guy down the stretch.

Focus on: E.J. Singler. The senior had a great all-around game in the win over Arizona, going for 14 points, seven rebounds, seven assists, and three steals, while knocking down some key free throws late, but then once again disappeared for the most part against Arizona State, hitting just one of nine field goal attempts and grabbing only one board in 36 minutes of play. That’s been the M.O. for the most part this season for a guy expected to be an all-conference caliber guy: inconsistency.

Looking ahead: The Ducks leave the state of Oregon for the first time in almost a month and just the third game all year when they head down Los Angeles way. They will be the opponent for Bob Cantu’s debut with USC tomorrow night before headlining the Pac-12 schedule on Saturday with a visit to Pauley Pavilion and UCLA for the first conference match-up between Top 25 teams since 2009.

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