CORRECTED: 3:22 p.m.
Just in case you missed the previous posts, let’s start with a reminder to sign up and play Pick & Roll. It’s a season-long contest in which readers pick Pac-12 men’s basketball games. The grand prize this year is a 16 GB iPad mini (valued at $329).
We give out hot dogs and soft drinks in our humble Guess the UW Score contest and the latest winner is andersjorstad, who predicted Washington would beat Hartford 76-68. The Huskies won 73-67.
Good job. Contact me via email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Twitter to claim your prize.
Thanks to andersjorstad who pointed out to me via Twitter that he’s won twice this season. Still, the season-ending grand prize, which is definitely NOT an iPad mini, is clearly up for grabs.
Alright, let’s move on.
TODAY’S PAC-12 SCHEDULE:
Washington (8-5) at Arizona State (11-2), 5 p.m. PT ……….. ESPNU
No. 10 Oregon (12-0) at Utah (11-1), 5 p.m. …………………… Pac-12 Networks
California (9-4) at Stanford (9-3), 6 p.m. ………………………. Fox Sports 1
Washington State (7-5) at No. 1 Arizona (13-0), 7 p.m. …… Pac-12 Networks
Oregon State (8-4) at No. 20 Colorado (11-2), 7 p.m. ………. ESPNU
Picks: Utah in an upset special, Stanford, Arizona and Colorado
Season tally: 97-22
AND THE UW-ASU WINNER IS …
The Sun Devils 85-75.
Washington is an 10.5-point underdog, which seems a little generous towards the Huskies considering their lackluster nonconference performances and a defense that has failed to slow down a quality opponent.
Still, UW carries a seven-game winning streak over ASU into tonight’s game and in the past the Huskies used their athleticism to overwhelm Herb Sendek’s stodgy Princeton offense. But things have changed this season.
Now the best athlete on the floor – Jahii Carson - stars for Arizona State. The Sun Devils also boast a formidable center in 7-2 senior center Jordan Bachynski. And they flood the floor with shooters such as Jermaine Marshall, Jonathan Gilling and Shaquielle McKissic.
Washington counters with C.J. Wilcox who leads several young Huskies into their first Pac-12 game. Only four UW players (Wilcox, Desmond Simmons, Shawn Kemp Jr. and Andrew Andrews) have played in a Pac-12 game. Wells Fargo Arena has never really been a hotbed for hoops, but tonight’s environment is going to be unlike any other game this season for the Huskies. They fared reasonably well on the road during a 70-63 defeat to then-No. 24 San Diego State in front of a big crowd. They’ll need to harken back on that experience to help them in today’s Pac-12 opener.
It’ll be important for Washington to contain Carson, who is arguably the best point guard in the nation and a contender for the Pac-12 Player of the Year award. He put on a show against the Huskies last season scoring 32 points on a variety of dribble-drive layups, pull-up jumpers and three-pointers. Carson, perhaps the quickest player in the conference, also hurt the Huskies in transition. ASU is intent on scoring in 12 seconds and the Sun Devils average 15.6 seconds per possession, which ranks 34th in the nation.
Washington changed its defense weeks ago and adopted a new scheme in which players aren’t as aggressive defensively on the perimeter as they had been. The Huskies are intent on sagging off to defend the passing lanes and prevent dribble penetration.
Washington wants to entice Carson to take mid-range jumpers. The Huskies will also try and keep the right-handed sophomore on the left side of the court.
Offensively, UW has to contend with Bachynski, one of the Pac-12 all-time best shot blockers.
“We’re going to try to get him moving and set a lot of ball screens because he’s so good at shot blocking,” forward Perris Blackwell said. “When I play against guys like that, I try to get my body in them. Get low. Try to get them moving laterally so I can try to get angles and use different shots around the basket.”
But perhaps Wilcox put it best when he outlined the key to tonight’s game: “The trick is not panicking if something doesn’t work out. It’s going to be important to just get through adversity because we have a lot of young guys who hadn’t been in that environment.”
I asked my friend Doug Haller who covers the Sun Devils for the Arizona Republic what he thought about this game and he wrote in an email: “Lorenzo Romar has had slow-starting teams before, but I have yet to see anything from this bunch — especially defensively — that suggests they’ll be a factor in this season’s Pac-12.” Haller picked ASU to win.
Got a feeling he won’t be only one.