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November 30, 2014 at 4:00 PM

Pac-12 predictions: Washington underdogs for first time this season

Nigel Williams-Goss (left) and Robert Upshaw (right) has led Washington to the DirecTV Wooden Legacy title game against UTEP on Sunday at the Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif. (Photo credit: Gary A. Vasquez - Associated Press)

Nigel Williams-Goss (left) and Robert Upshaw (right) has led Washington to the DirecTV Wooden Legacy title game against UTEP on Sunday at the Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif. (Photo credit: Gary A. Vasquez – Associated Press)

Somebody’s ‘0’ has got to go.

Too cheesy? Perhaps. But it’s accurate.

The DirecTV Wooden Legacy title game features two undefeated teams in Washington (5-0) and UTEP (4-0), which should make for a good game at the Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif. ESPN2 will provide the television coverage.

For the Huskies, who needed to overcome a 9-point second-half deficit in Friday’s 80-70 win over Long Beach State, it will be their toughest challenge of the season. It’s their first opponent against a non-Mid Major team.

And it’s the first time UW is the underdog. The Miners are a three-point favorite.

UTEP doesn’t have any glaring weaknesses unlike Washington’s previous opponents. The Miners are led by 6-8 forward Vince Hunter, who won the Conference USA freshman of the year award last season. He’s a double-double machine who averages 18.0 points and 12.5 rebounds. Senior Cedrick Lane is a big body (6-10 and 255 pounds) in the post. Senior guard/forward Julian Washburn is a matchup nightmare at 6-8. He’s also UTEP’s best on-ball defender and was twice voted to the conference’s all-defensive team. Meanwhile the backcourt (senior C.J. Cooper and freshman Omega Harris) is unspectacular, but solid and savvy.

And the Miners are led by veteran coach Tim Floyd who knows all about the Pac-12 after a five-year stint (2005-09) at USC. He’s 3-6 against Washington.

There’s no obvious matchup advantage for the Huskies although they’ll likely do what they’ve been doing. They’ll rely on Nigel Williams-Goss to continue his stellar playmaking. They’ll see what they can get offensively inside with Shawn Kemp Jr. who struggled in his last outing with two points after leading UW in scoring in three of the previous four games.

The Huskies will space the floor with shooters and hope to find a hot hand. Maybe it’ll be freshman Donaven Dorsey or newcomer Quevyn Winters or Andrew Andrews, who drilled two three-pointers in the final minutes Friday to secure the win.

And they’ll try and limit UTEP inside with center Robert Upshaw, who has 27 blocks.

It figures to be a close game and the Miners have excelled in close game. They’ve won their last three games by a combined 14 points.

Conventional wisdom – and Las Vegas – says the Huskies suffer their first loss of the season. We’ll see.

THE PICK: Washington 76-72

TODAY’S PAC-12 SCHEDULE:

Colorado (4-1) beat Lipscomb (2-4) 84-75
USC (4-3) beat New Mexico (3-3) 66-54
Stanford (4-2) lost to DePaul (3-1) 87-72
California vs. Fresno State, …………………………. CBS Sports Network
Portland (4-0) at Oregon (3-2), 5 p.m. …………… Pac-12 Networks
Washington (5-0) vs. UTEP (4-0), 7 p.m. ……… ESPN2

PICKS: Cal and Oregon.

GUESS THE UW SCORE WINNERS: Jon May (79-69, UW) and user1084784 (78-68, UW). The Huskies beat Long Beach State 80-70. Contact me (pallen@seattletimes.com) to claim your prize. Thanks for playing.

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