Happy I Hate washington Day, fellow Duck fans. The Oregon Ducks have the opportunity to run their record to 18-2, and 7-0 in the Pac-12 as they host the washington huskies Saturday at Matthew Knight Arena. A win would not only keep Oregon undefeated in conference but, given what has transpired this week in the college basketball world, would put them tantalizingly close to the top ten when the new AP Poll comes out on Monday.
Washington is a difficult team to wrap your head around. Their record sits at 12-7, with losses to the likes of Albany, Utah, and Oregon State. They started off conference play 5-0, only to turn around an lose to the Utes and Beavers in consecutive games. This is not the husky team of old, as losing two early-entry NBA guys has left them less talented than in years past.
The biggest problem that washington has had this season is on the defensive end. They rank last in the Pac-12 in defensive efficiency (100.2). They don't get good ball pressure, don't close out well, and teams just shoot a really high percentage against them as a result (Utah shot 60%, and OSU shot 47%). They also don't do a lot of things that limit the other teams' possessions. The huskies are one of the worst rebounding teams in the league, and don't really force turnovers. Oregon, by contrast, is the best team in the league at both.
That said, washington still has plenty of talent, and are capable of beating anyone if they get hot. That starts with C.J. Wilcox, who is averaging 19.3 points per game, and can stroke it from anywhere. He shoots almost 47% from the field and 41% from three, and mission no. 1 for the Oregon defense is to make somebody besides Wilcox beat them. Scott Suggs and Abdul Gaddy both average over ten points per game, but neither are dynamic scorers like Wilcox, as both hit the three around 35% of the time and are somewhere around 40% from the field overall. Aziz N'Diaye is a double-double guy, but his offense mostly consists of dunks down low.
A big question is going to be the mental states of each team coming into this one. Oregon looked flat on Wednesday against Washington State, but came on in the second half. Ditto washington against OSU. The Huskies should be pumped for this one, knowing that their chances of doing anything this season rests on a win in Eugene. That said, WSU should have served as a wake-up call for this Oregon team, who make their Pac-12 lead more commanding with each passing win.
The Ducks have the best defense and rebounding in the league, and should be able to ride those to victory at home. They also have a good offense that should make uw pay for their lackluster defense. That said, the concern is if guys for washington get hot. Wilcox is almost guaranteed to get his, if some combination of Suggs, Gaddy, and Andrew Andrews join him, and that offensive success leads to an increased effort on the defensive end, that is the recipe for the huskies to nab a win.
Game time and date
Saturday, January 26, 4 p.m.