Oregon State at Washington - 7:00pm - TV on FSN NW
To discuss the other games happening in the Pac-10 this afternoon, head on over to Connor's open thread.
Every game is crucial in college basketball, but now it's time for the competition to get stiffer and the stakes to get higher-- it's time for Pac-10 play to begin.
Picked by many to win the Pac-10 conference, thepresent a daunting task for the Beavers on opening night. They're exactly the type of team that Oregon State seems to have the most trouble with: they play uptempo and rebound well.
We're going to find out right off the bat if the freshman trio of Cunningham, Brandt, and Burton can make a difference off the bench. It's almost a given that there will come a point in the early part of the second half where Washington will try to kick it into high gear and convert easy baskets in transition and pull away with threes from the likes of sophomore Isaiah Thomas. The Huskies are one of the worst three-point shooting teams in the country right now, but Thomas has been streaky from beyond the arc this season, and is hovering right around 35 percent from long range.
We've already seen that Cunningham has the quicks to keep up with guys on a team like the Huskies, but perhaps the bigger question is what effect Brandt and Burton will have on the glass. Washington is fifth in the nation when it comes to getting offensive rebounds, which in turn means they get a lot of easy buckets under the hoop.
The fact that the Huskies are a very good team on the offensive glass would make you think they get a reduced number of possessions, but this is not the case. Their tempo is the fastest of any in the conference, which clashes with the style that Oregon State grew accustomed to playing last year, despite slight deviations we've already seen this season.
The problems on paper persist when you note that Oregon State has not done a good job of protecting the basketball so far. They're committing turnovers at a faster clip than everybody else in the conference. That means that not only is Washington going to look to get extra chances by crashing the offensive glass, they're going to try to capitalize on freebies given to them by the Beavers. Keep an eye on the "Points off turnovers" stat category during this game.
More after the break... this post was updated around 11:00 am with more player-specific information and game keys.
Washington's two main threats are 6-6 seniorand 5-8 sophomore Isaiah Thomas. As mentioned earlier, Thomas is the team's best three-point shooter, and volume shooter in general. He's averaging 17 points per game, which is just a few below Pondexter, who's hovering around 22 points per game. Pondexter, a guy NBA scouts are excited about, has set career highs already in nearly every statistical category already this season, which is a sign of his development. Did I mention that he's also pulling down ten rebounds per game? The kid has size, he's mobile, and he's going to be tough to defend for Oregon State. Again, guys like Burton and Brandt may be called upon to slow down the UW star.
While Pondexter and Thomas are the two guys who do most of the scoring for Washington, Matthew Bryan-Amaning and Venoy Overton are both averaging about eight minutes per game in significant minutes. Bryan-Amaning is a 6-9 junior who dominates the glass, and Overton is a vocal 5-11 guard who is frequently assigned to the opposition's best ballhandler-- and gets into their heads.
Oregon State and Washington have had a history of off the court altercations in recent years, and the Husky team still has the same fire and swagger that frustrates so many teams. He is what Overton had to say following Washington's game with Washington State and his matchup on Taylor Rotchestie late last season:
"I basically did what I do with everybody, just try to jump up in them, make them feel uncomfortable and slow them down," Overton said. "He was a little frustrated, but he's a tough player so I knew he was going to bounce back and help his team out the best he can. But I knew if I limited a lot of his touches, then they were going to be in trouble."
Here's what Rochestie had to say: "Venoy Overton is just becoming a giant pest defensively. He's like a shot-blocker who blocks three shots, but changes four or five. He might get three steals, but he throws the rhythm of others off because they don't know where he's at."
Darnell Grant is Washington's best post defender, but doesn't bring much to the offense. Tyreese Breshers gets into foul trouble a lot, but could be the team's best true post player. He sat out all of last year due to an injury, and is still working on getting into game shape.
Keys to the game:
1. Penetrate, and get to the line: Especially in the second half, the Beavers are going to have to do damage against Washington when the clock is stopped. That's exactly how Georgetown beat UW on December 12--shooting 20 of 28 from the line, while Washington was just 6 of 9. Common opponent Texas Tech made 29 free-throws in their seven point overtime win back on December 3.
2. Play great defense: With Isaiah Thomas and Quincy Pondexer both averaging over 17 points per game, the Beavers need a strong defensive effort to limit the UW scorers. Seth Tarver, you ready?
3. Rebound: As mentioned earlier, Washington is a very good rebounding team and they create many extra opportunities by dominating the offensive glass. The Beavers need to limit second chance points.
4. Be Patient on Offense: I don't know that the Beavers will look to be as patient on offense as they were last season with more athleticism and depth on the bench, but there's no question that the Beavers are going to have to be patient and take high percentage shots.
That just about covers everything... basically, the Beavers are going to have to play mistake-free basketball, and get some breaks as well in order to win this game.
--Jake | (firstname.lastname@example.org)