Mountaineers Will Attempt to Roll over Huskies

Mar 25, 2010, 3:06 PM | Updated: Apr 5, 2011, 11:20 am

Washington will face a West Virginia team that has lost its starting point guard, but will attempt to over power them in a Sweet-16 match-up in Syracuse NY at 4:20 PM (PST). Senior Darryl “Truck” Bryant cracked a bone in his foot and will miss the rest of the tournament.

Back-up PG junior Joe Mazzulla (who had been getting a lot of minutes) is a rock solid defender and not a bad floor leader, but this clearly offers Washington somewhat of an opportunity as he is a notoriously poor long range shooter. West Virginia now goes from a team that I felt would finally end Washington’s awesome run to one that makes me say, wait a minute here’. If the Dawgs can stay with this team until the end of the game, depth at guard may give Washington a chance to win this one.

It will be very hard regardless for UW, as West Virginia is a top-5 team and defensively as good a team as there is in college basketball this season. Da’Sean Butler is a pro small forward that can score and defend at a level that will remind the Huskies of few players they have seen. Imagine a combination of Seth Tarver of OSU, Marcus Johnson of USC and Quincy Pondexter and a bit taller at six-foot-seven. Butler already plays 36 minutes per game, so wearing him down is not really going to matter much.

He can score on anyone and like Quincy leads his team in scoring at 18 points per game. Putting Justin Holiday on him is a great idea, but he is much bigger than Holiday at 230 lbs. It may be better to put Holiday on Devin Ebanks who is only 215 lbs., but he has handles like an NBA wing and is six-foot-nine. Ebanks leads WVU on the boards with 8 per game while being one of their three double figure scorers at 12 PPG, but he is a horrible outside shooter who hit 3 of 29 attempts from behind the arc.

If Holiday goes with Ebanks and UW puts Matthew Bryan-Amaning on Butler someone is going to have to watch six-foot-eight 250 lb. Kevin Jones who is 2nd on the Mountaineers in scoring at 14 PPG to go with 7 boards. Basically these guys are huge and talented, led by a senior in Butler. They control the paint in a way that would make USC look a bit fast and loose.

The Trojans were the toughest match-up for the Dawgs in the regular season and this team may be able to blow UW out of the building with a series of dunks and tip-ins, combined with a half-court defense that will force UW to shoot from distance. That is not Washington’s game and it seems like the only time the Dawgs hit threes is when all of the rest of their offense and defense is working and the threes are just icing on the cake. The 5th WVU starter is Wellington Smith who scores 7 PPG at six-foot-seven and 245 lbs.

You would think that the Mountaineers are a bunch of big guys that can’t handle the ball, but this team is like a machine and averages only 11 turnovers per game, despite the fact that most team try to pressure the guards. John Flowers a six-foot-seven 215 lb. forward that is the last guy of the regular rotation is cut from the same mold. This WVU team is like a heavy duty machine in the land of steel mills. They are big, have solid team and individual skills and know how to manage games. If UW can stay close they stand a decent chance, but it could get ugly early.

If it does and the Dawgs go down 15, like they did against Marquette, it’s probably over. A huge key for the Dawgs will be the play of back-up posts Darnell Gant and Tyreese Breshers. I would not be surprised to see Tyreese play well against WVU, as this is an excellent opportunity for him to shine. This game is going to be very tough for Washington to win. I would put their chances at about 25% to win.

More likely they will be battling from behind with Quincy and/or Isaiah on the bench in foul trouble and lose in double digits. If I had to guess a final score I would say WVU 72 UW 60. Honestly I hope I’m wrong, but this Mountaineer team is really tough and despite the loss of Bryant, not a great match-up for the Dawgs.

Don Ruiz of the Morning News Tribune did a feature about the size issue between the two teams and the general feeling I got from it was that the Husky players don’t feel that the size of WVU is that big of an issue, but Washington Coach Lorenzo Romar wisely does.

Matt bravely spelled out reasons for his optimism.

“These guys move a lot to the ball, which means we will have more gaps for our big guys to go to work. With USC sitting in the paint, it was harder for penetration and harder for myself, Tyreese (Breshers), Quincy (Pondexter) to make moves on the post. If this team is more aggressive it should spread the court out more, creating driving lanes and giving room for the big guys to go to work.”

I also feel that Darnell Gant could provide a big key on defense for some of the WVU players that could be too big for Holiday and too quick for Tyreese. Gant’s jumper could also play a role if the Mountaineers try to help out on Matt, Q and IT’s penetration.

Bad news for Washington fans as Rivals Jason King is picking UW to win. The guy has been one of the more out of touch national college hoops pundits over the last couple of years. I especially loved when he picked UW #5 in his power rankings in his weekly rankings feature after they put themselves clearly in the driver’s seat of the Pac-10 race last year, all alone in 1st place.

Good news/bad news as ESPN’s Doug Gottlieb picks the Huskies but is tempered by the great news that “Mr. East Coast Bias” himself is picking the Mountaineers. Steve Lavin also picked WVU which is also good news for Husky fans. The pretense here, if you didn’t figure it out is that Washington has played its best as an underdog this year.

Huskies Tops in Pac?

The Bleacher Report asked if Washington is the top program in the Pac-10 right now. I think this year Washington was the best team in the league. They beat Cal two out of three, now have the most wins of any team and won the conference tournament. Were they the best team last year? I think that argument can be made, but not as convincingly, as Washington lost in the 2nd round of the NCAA Tournament, where Arizona was able to climb into the Sweet-16. UCLA, ASU and USC were also able to win a game in the big dance and USC won the Pac-10 Tournament.

Are the Huskies going to be the best team next year? A very good argument can be made for that, but predicting the future with a bunch of kids in their late teens and early 20’s is near impossible. Washington has no definite replacement for Quincy or a player that we know can do what he does for the Dawgs. The combination of Pondexter and Thomas, when Matt got his game going made Washington the best team in the Pac-10 as the season played out, but taking away Pondexter raises a lot of questions.

One thing is for sure. There is hope that a player can be added to the mix this spring and if UW is able to add Terrence Jones for instance or anyone out there in the basketball world that we are not yet aware of like Charles Garcia or Elias Harris was last year, UW could certainly be not only the best team in the conference but it may not be that close. One reason is that the league is not changing all that much via the recruiting trail and quite a few of the best teams are losing quite a bit of talent.

Cal loses its four seniors, it’s only experienced back-up PG in Nikola Knezevic and could lose part time starting center Max Zhang to the Chinese pro leagues. ASU, who was the 3rd best team this past year loses its starting PG, starting center, another senior in their 8-man rotation and could lose leading scorer Rihards Kuksiks to the European pro leagues.

Cal and ASU do bring in large and talented recruiting classes and have nice groups of younger players that should be able to fill in spots vacated by departures, but compared to UW who bring everyone back besides Pondexter; I would doubt that they will be better than UW. One team that is being mentioned as a contender is UCLA (aren’t they always). The Bruins have a good argument. They return everyone except shooter Mike Roll and streaky Nikola Dragovic, plus oft-injured post James Keefe.

They add Josh Smith, who is a tremendous prospect, but could have weight problems that could hold him back from being ready to perform at a Pac-10 level. Add a JC point guard Lazeric Jones and frosh shooting guard Tyler Lamb to the mix of Jerime Anderson and Malcolm Lee and the Bruins now have a pretty solid back court to add support to what is already a strong front court in bullish Reeves Nelson, NBA wing prospect Tyler Honeycutt and good shooting big Brendan Lane.

A great argument can be made for UCLA having a strong come-back year, but behind the scenes there could be trouble in paradise. Rumors of Ben Howland leaving for the DePaul job seem unlikely, but could make sense if the Bruins lose a few of these guys in the off-season and he feels that once end up once again that UCLA will be mediocre. There has been consistent talk that Lee will leave for the draft and even some talk that Honeycutt is not happy.

Talented wing Mike Moser and former 5-star center “Bobo” Morgan are rumored to be strongly considering a transfer as well. Could Ben be looking at his options because he knows more about what is going on than has been revealed? Arizona is also a team that could make some pretty big strides this season, as they are loaded with great young talent and could add some pretty big puzzle pieces in the spring. Sean Miller’s huge spring haul that yielded Derrick Williams, Solomon Hill, Lamont Jones, Kevin Parrom and Kyryl Natyazhko was very impressive.

This spring there has been talks on the down low that a few spots will be opened up by transfers which could allow Miller to bring in another rich class. I would not be surprised to see Sean do it again and for ‘Zona to be well on the way to being one of the top schools in the Pac-10 next season. Stanford is still going to be young, but like last year they will be surprisingly good at times. I do not see them as a top tier team in the league as soon as next year despite a great bunch of frosh.

USC will be good with a bunch of cool freshmen and a nice compliment of veterans up front in future pro Nikola Vucevic and veteran Alex Stepheson. The front court will be hurt however by the loss of big, tough Leonard Washington. It was announced today that LW left USC and will attempt to transfer.

The back court will be another work in progress, but they could actually find lightning in a bottle two years in a row by bringing in a mid-season transfer that transforms their team. Jio Fontan averaged 15 PPG in the Atlantic-10 for Fordham and though he is young Bryce Jones could be a major story as a freshman wing in the Pac-10. Marcus Simmons will also be back to add a defensive and veteran touch on the wing.

Until Fontan can play the PG spot will be manned by veteran back-up Donte Smith, who showed some nice improvement last season and highly thought of five-foot-seven freshman Maurice Jones. Jones has been ripping up the talented Detroit basketball scene and many have argued that he was the best player in town, despite the presence of some major national blue chips.

I think that USC will again be a team that contends, despite the obvious attrition. They still have talent and from what I hear Fontan may be an upgrade from Mike Gerrity. Bryce won’t top what Dwight Lewis did for USC, but he is going to be a very good one from all reports. The key here is that the Trojans will have more guards than last year and still a very solid front court. A smaller, quicker line-up could be a good thing for Kevin O’Neill, but he will miss Marcus Johnson. Having Simmons there to at least negate the effect of opposing wings could be a strong factor.

There is also the ongoing NCAA investigation which could also blow things up this spring, as it did in mid-season. The Beavers are going to be better in my opinion, with the addition of Roberto Nelson, Devon Collier and Ahmad Starks. There is a chance that OSU also picks up Aziz N’Diaye which could be a major recruiting coup. With the uproar going on at Oklahoma the likelihood of Aziz going to Norman would seem to be fading and he has always been thought to love Craig Robinson who has been on him a long time.

OSU will have Calvin Haynes, Joe Burton, Jared Cunningham, Omari Johnson, Daniel Deane, Lathen Wallace and a few others and are suddenly one of the more talented, experienced and deeper teams in the league. A lot could happen to Oregon with the coaching change, but they certainly have the talent to do great things yet they have also proven a tendency to underachieve.

Last but certainly not least the WSU Cougs are going to be a force next season. Reggie Moore is as solid a point guard as there is and is only a sophomore. Klay Thompson should have a very different junior season and will doubtless be one of the top 2-3 players in the league. DeAngelo Casto will improve further and bring his name into the mix as one of the nation’s top-10 big men.

If that’s not enough WSU will get immediate help from JC guard Faisel Aiden and good shooting and physically mature six-foot-nine forward Patrick Simon and have even more proven veterans returning in Marcus Capers, Xavier Thames, Abe Lodwick and Brock Motum. The Pac-10 from top to bottom is going to be improved and as we are seeing with the success of Washington and Cal in the tournament, was much better than the national hype attempted to spin.

Washington could arguably be the best team for the 3rd year in a row next year and stands a pretty good chance of it actually. They have almost everyone coming back, but lose more than some in Pondexter. The big factor will be the spring signing period. If Washington comes out of it strong and gets everyone in school in the fall, they have to be considered the favorite.

There is a very good chance though that UCLA, Arizona, OSU, WSU and possibly USC could weigh in to the conversation by next March. For that reason I feel it is very much premature to call UW “Tops” in the Pac-10. This time next year, we could see them in that spot though, especially if they are able to land what could be another great class in the fall of 2010.

Hobson Apologizes

Darington Hobson apologized for his remarks about Washington playing their best game ever, etc. I’m glad to see this and look forward to watching Hobson have a great year next year and a speedy recovery to whatever injury he sustained in the dance.

Quincy and the Dawgs Deserve Their 15-Minutes

Pondexter received a fantastic feature in the NY Times that talks is depth about the story of his dad Roscoe and his uncle Cliff, who were as dynamic a brother act as the west coast game has seen in the early 70’s at Long Beach State. Percy Allen also discusses in greater detail his whole family and how they have been such a huge part of the awesome success story at Washington that Q has brought to two games away from of an unprecedented Final Four.

The buzz in Syracuse among a number of pro basketball people is that Quincy has played his way into the lottery. We’ll see about that, but if he and his team can find a way to beat West Virginia it will certainly mean that he has had one of the best individual seasons in Husky history and one that rivals that of Brandon Roy’s senior season in which he was named a 1st team All-American by three of the four publications, including the AP.

Thomas is also getting some well deserved recognition. Allen in the Times talked about the important progress that he has made this year and the confidence that his team is showing in him to lead them. Isaiah is certainly going to be the leader of next year’s team, though having the 3 seniors at his side is really going to help the Huskies chances.

During the season Thomas received a lot of criticism, including a comparison to “Stacy Patton” by Seattle Sports Net’s excellent blogger Alex Akita. Patton, a fictional NBA player from the movie “Eddie”, was selfish and childish and Thomas has demonstrated nothing like that type of behavior during a sophomore campaign in which he has done nothing if not improved in every facet of his game and as a team mate.

I criticized Isaiah, at one point this year stating that he needed to be more of a playmaker for his team mates and improve his shooting. I also mentioned that hall of fame little man Calvin Murphy was an example of what it would take for him to actually carve out a successful pro career and I said that I believed that he could achieve that kind of success with that type of dedication. Alex listed his 11 reasons to Love Isaiah Thomas as some sort of apology for the Patton remark.

I am not apologizing for what I said, but I will say that I am impressed as to the level that Isaiah has addressed the issues that I felt that he needed to and without crying about it or seeking validation for it. The best thing about both Thomas and Pondexter is that I sincerely believe that if both of them go scoreless and the Huskies beat WVU that they will be ecstatic.

Elston Turner is also getting a good bit of attention for his continued good showing in the Pac-10 and NCAA tournaments. In a feature in the Morning News Tribune Romar used the term “Tournament Turner”, but I think that UW fans hope that this late season run by ET is just the beginning of what will be a breakout year for him next year, much as Pondexter did late in his sophomore season, when he and Justin Dentmon were both very effective off the bench and subsequently major factors a year later.

Q13 News did a nice video segment on the “Salute” that the UW players do after big shots, usually threes. In the feature Turner admits that LeBron James was probably where they got it, but Holiday, Isaiah and Turner have each put their own unique spin on it.

I can definitely remember this salute being part of the mix as the Huskies won their last three games on the road against hostile crowds at Pullman, Corvallis and Eugene. It was kind of an in your face, shut up, type of statement at those games and this weekend the Dawgs must maintain that us against the world attitude in my opinion if they are to have a chance. Keep on saluting’ guys and keep on dancing’.

Apps and ‘Maal

Ryan Appleby and Jamaal Williams did a chat for the Seattle Times on Wednesday. Ryan is the all-time three point shooter in Husky history and a much better all-around player than he was given credit for being in college. Jamaal is pound for pound the best low post scorer that I’ve ever seen at Hec-Ed. Both guys have chosen to make Seattle their home after college and bring a lot of insight into what is going on with this year’s team, despite refusing to admit that these youngsters are near as good as their 2005-2006 team that “Shoulda” beat UConn.

I hope UW is able to beat WVU and Romar is just the guy to devise the right strategy to do so, as he did against UConn. Here’s to hoping that this time Lorenzo and these new Dawgs are be a bit better at getting the job done.

Husky Recruiting Corner

Oklahoma, as I alluded to earlier when talking about OSU and Aziz N’Diaye, is falling apart. 2010 UW forward prospect Terrence Jones is still mentioning OU as well as Oregon (who also hit the skids this season), but one would think that if the current state of a program means anything the Sooners and the Ducks would have to be out of the Jones loop.

The word in the street is that big freshman post “Tiny” Gallon and star sophomore guard Willie Warren are looking hard at the NBA draft, while ESPN reported yesterday that McDonalds All-American freshman guard Tommy Mason-Griffin has declared his intentions to enter the draft. Back-up guard Ray Willis has also decided to transfer. Gallon also was reported to have received a $3K money transfer. Wasn’t it just yesterday that Jeff Capel was this golden boy of coaching?

This also smears the name of his former coach Mike Krzyzewski, who also saw another one of his protégée’s in former Mercer Island’s Quin Snyder go down as well.

2011 UW guard recruit Jabari Brown has a very impressive youtube highlight reel.

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