Big game today against Washington State. This game has been made even bigger due to the loss at Washington. The bad news is that Washington State is a very tough team that plays a deliberate slow down style and plays an unorthodox pack line defense. Their home court, usually as devoid of life as a nuclear blast site, has been rocking and very hostile this season. However, there is some very good news: we are going to have a very pissed off Aaron Brooks tonight.
Lets get to know a bit about WSU, shall we? Everything they do is started by their very good point guard Derek Low. I'm not talking about the pitcher for the LA Dodgers, WSU's Derek Low is their Aaron Brooks. He averages almost 15 ppg, doesn't turn the ball over, hits their big shots, and just runs the offense really well. He is no slouch defensivly, either. The matchup between he and Brooks should be an absolute joy to watch.
Kyle Weaver is their other guard, and he is a very rare pass first two guard, averaging almost five assists a game. He can get to the rim, averaging 11 a game, but isn't the best three point shooter. However, he may be their best defensive player (they'll probably either put him on Aaron or maybe Bryce), averaging about 2 blocks, two steals, and six boards a game.
Their frontcourt consists of three guys who are basically the same player, Devean Harmeling, Robbie Cowgill, and Ivory Clark. Harmeling is the best shooter, Cowgill the best rebounder, and Clark the best defender, but all are dangerous, and Maarty is going to need some help from Bryce and Malik to shut them down.
The are very slow and deliberate on offense, but the thing that concerns me is their defense. They run the pack line defense. It's kind of rare, as WSU coach Tony Bennett's father pioneered the defense at Wisconsin-Green Bay. Basically, in the pack line, its a man to man defense, but there will be no denial of the pass outside the three point line (or "pack line", if you will). They will pack the defense inside the three point line trying to deny penetration and post entry. The only man outside the pack line will be the man guarding the ballhandler. There is little room for penetration, and the defense will collapse on such penetration immediately. There is hard fronting of the posts and any cutters inside the pack line. The trade off is that you get wide open shots outside. If the Ducks are hitting those shots, then great. But they also need to try to break the defense down and get some easy shots, which you can do if you are patient enough.
THINGS I'D LIKE TO SEE:
- Don't settle for threes against the defense. Yes, the Ducks will need to hit some outside shots (many of which will be wide open), but if it is an off shooting night, they will have to get to the rim. If they can get the ball into the key, the defense will collapse and somebody should be open.
- I want to see a pissed off Aaron Brooks who is determined not to let this team lose. Because he didn't play Thursday, I want to see two days' effort put into this game.
- Malik needs to step up like he was unable to do Thursday. Hopefully, with MVP back, he will feel more comfortable riding shotgun.
- I want to see Bryce, Maarty, and Malik really rededicating themselves to boxing out on every shot this game. I don't know if Zahn is back, but he, Catron, and possibly Schafer need to box out as well. The rebounding, or lack thereof, vs the Huskies was inexcusable, and more than anything cost us the game.
- Shooting a high percentage from the field would really help.
- Finally, just realize that it is going to be difficult to run on this team. They have set the tempo in almost every game they have played this season. The Ducks have won slow down half court games before. Just be patient on offense, and really dedicate themselves on the defensive end. If they kind of get bored and just start jacking up bad shots and slacking on defense, it will be a long night. But I expect them to come out with fire and intensity. If they play hard and smart, they have a good chance of coming out of this trip with a split.