Let’s get an early start with the picks today and maybe we’ll get some good feedback.
Before looking at today’s big game, we’ve got to take care of business from last week and announce the results in the Guess the UW Score game.
The big winners are la idiota and PurpleNation.
It’s the second win for this season for la idiota who guessed 78-64 while PurpleNation predicted 79-63. Washington beat New Mexico 82-64 in the second round of the NCAA tournament.
Okay, let’s move.
Make sure to post your prediction on today’s third round NCAA tournament game between No. 11 Washington and No. 2 West Virginia.
My pick — UW 73-66 – is printed in Thursday’s newspaper and posted on the website so I won’t rehash points made earlier.
BUT I’VE GOT A FEW MORE THOUGHTS ON THE GAME:
I don’t feel good about this pick. Not this time. I was iffy on UW upsetting Marquette and pretty solid on the Huskies knocking off New Mexico.
But this time is different.
I’m a firm believer that styles make good fights and West Virginia plays a brand of basketball that’s Kryptonite to Washington. If you follow this blog, then you’ve got a pretty firm grasp on the Mountaineers scouting report.
They’re long and athletic. They’ve got a Big Three (Da’sean Butler, Devin Ebanks and Kevin Jones) who are monsters on the glass and pummel opponents inside. They play outstanding defense. And they’re coached by one of the best in the game Bob Huggins.
This is a scary bunch that many tabbed to win the win the national championship when the NCAA tournament seeding were announced. And the Mountaineers were upset thinking they should have been a No. 1 seed ahead of Duke.
West Virginia doesn’t have a 7-footer, but its too big for a team like Washington that likes to create turnovers, speed the game up and score in transition.
It is imperative Quincy Pondexter and Matthew Bryan-Amaning avoid foul trouble because UW doesn’t have the front line depth WVU has. If Pondexter plays less than 30 minutes, the Huskies won’t win. Washington needs his scoring, rebounding and defense, but more than anything he has to be a presence on the floor because he draws attention.
The same can be said for Bryan-Amaning. And it will be interesting to see what reserves Darnell Gant and Tyreese Breshers can add. This game seems tailor made for their skills. Gant has a mid-range jumper to draw a defender away from the basket and Breshers has the size and strength to bang with the Mountaineers.
In games like this in the past, Justin Holiday tends to disappear for various reasons. He’s a top-notch perimeter defender and he said Wednesday he’ll need to “be more of an inside player and slowing down their Big Three.”
On paper, West Virginia has an advantage inside. And a couple of days ago, I was fairly certain the Mountaineers would win.
But Darryl “Truck” Bryant crumpled in Tuesday’s practice and he’s out of the tournament because of a bone in his foot.
His absence changes everything.
Anyone who doesn’t believe the loss of Bryant is a major factor just isn’t paying attention. I’d submit, the Mountaineers would rather lose their best player Butler than lose Bryant because they’re loaded with 6-7 to 6-9 rangy forwards who are versatile. They got eight of them on the roster.
Meanwhile, the Mountaineers only have three true ball handlers and Bryant was the best of the bunch. Joe Mazzula, his backup, has never started and he’s a non-factor offensively. Jonnie West, who is now the No. 2 point guard, has played in just 17 games and averages 1.9 points.
I spoke to Mazzula yesterday and he talked about the importance of staying out of foul trouble. He knows he’s got to stay on the court.
Huggins has used a five forward lineup this season, moving Butler to the point-foward position. He did it four games and WVU was 3-1. Still, that’s not ideal against a speedy team like Washington.
Isaiah Thomas could have a big day. He has the quickness to get around Mazulla and will need to be clever once he gets into the lane. He also averaging 3.5 three-pointers in the tournament.
And Venoy Overton will be the fastest player on the court. Earlier this week, he said speed can sometimes negate a size disadvantage. We’ll see.
Look for Washington to pack the middle defensively. All five players should have a foot inside the paint at all times and double-dog dare the Mountaineers to shoot from the perimeter. The Huskies can live with West Virginia taking 18-footers, but they’ll bow out of the tournament if the Mountaineers are scoring at will inside.
Those are some thoughts on the game.
We can bounce around some more ideas during the LIVE CHAT at noon.