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Husky Men's Basketball

The latest news and analysis on Husky men's hoops.

January 2, 2009 at 10:50 PM

The pick. …

So maybe we knew more about the Pac-10 than we thought.
A month or so ago, we all probably would have predicted that USC would beat Oregon fairly easily, that it wouldn’t even be a question that UCLA would hammer Oregon State, that Arizona State would handle Stanford in Palo Alto, and that an Arizona team that figured to be erratic given its weird coaching situation might lose to Cal on the road.
That’s exactly what happened on the first day of Pac-10 action, though the events of the past few weeks made a lot of us — admittedly me, anyway — question some of it.
I wasn’t sure if USC was really all that good after some of its early performances. But the Trojans were dominant at Mac Court — Dwight Lewis, who scored 26 points today, may be the most underrated player in the conference (he’s now leading the Trojans in scoring at better than 16 a game).
UCLA simply outclassed Oregon State in Corvallis from the opening tip, as did Arizona State in Stanford in a result shocking in its score but not so much in result — there’s every reason to think ASU is simply better than the Cardinal, and it’s now tempting to conclude that Stanford’s 10-0 was indeed a function of a soft schedule.
And while nothing that would have happened in the Cal-Arizona game would have been a surprise to anyone, that’s exactly the point — the days of dominant Arizona teams are over for now and the Wildcats aren’t deep enough that they can win consistently in the conference without getting good performances from all three of their big three. And that’s not happenning right now with Chase Budinger in a pretty deep shooting slump.
So I got three of four right on the first day of play, missing on the Stanford game, thinking that the Cardinal was more for real than it proved to be today.
All of which leads me to picking Saturday’s Washington-Washington State game, a matchup that looks incredibly even. The Sagarin ratings have the Cougars by three, Vegas has the Cougars favored by one-to-two points depending on the book (see odds here).
Basically, that means it’s a tossup except for the game being at WSU slightly tilting it to the Cougars.
As I pointed out in my story for Friday’s paper, however, the Cougars aren’t doing the things that have helped them beat the Huskies seven straight times quite as well this season. Specifically, they turn the ball over a little more and don’t shoot the three quite as accurately. Most of that can surely be attributed to the graduation of backcourt mavens Derrick Low and Kyle Weaver.
The Huskies have their own issues — they still turn the ball over too much, also don’t shoot the three well and also continue to struggle a bit from the free throw line, though that’s gotten a little better of late.
But while seven straight wins reeks of domination, reality is that three of the last four have been decided by four points or less — or what could easily be said to be the advantage WSU had with Low and Weaver in the backcourt. For all the talk of style, then, it’s really seemed quite that simple at times — with those two in the backcourt, the Cougars were simply better, especially down the stretch.
UW’s backcourt, meanwhile, seems to be hitting its stride with Isaiah Thomas coming off a career-high and Venoy Overton finally appearing comfortable in his role. The caveat is that UW hasn’t played a lot of good opponents of late while WSU has been a little more battle-tested.
Ultimately, however, the odds say it’s simply UW’s turn to win a game again in this series. The streak will finally end here, giving the Huskies a huge victory on the path to the NCAA Tournament. Call it UW 66, WSU 61.

Comments | Topics: UCLA

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