After winning 4 straight the Huskies have entered a dive with 4 straight losses in conference play and are now looking to salvage what little they can of what many fans, myself included, are starting to draw up as a lost season. No doubt about it, the four game winning streak peaked many fans interests after a dismal non-conference start, yet the four straight losses (including back-to-back drops against conference winless programs) have turned the emotional tide against the Dawgs.
It is tough to nail down exactly what has caused this collapse. The defense has been more than solid, forcing around 40 turnovers the past two games, yet the offense has stalled over and over again. This was highlighted by the final two “plays” draw up and “executed” by the Huskies against Arizona. A failed alley-oop by Abdul Gaddy to C.J. Wilcox and a 3-point attempt by Aziz N’Diaye, the first and hopefully last of his career. The Dawgs do not have an offense outside our perimeter and when that falters the team collapses.
Shawn Kemp had great early success against the Wildcats, yet we did not return to that type of play outside of the first few minutes. Perhaps the defenses adjusted properly to the point where such play was not possible, yet I can’t help but feel that the Dawgs find success only to begin to look elsewhere for more points. The old saying goes “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” and the Dawgs may need to begin such an approach each and every game. Some days Wilcox is hot and should be given plenty of touches. Other days, Wilcox is over matched defensively and the squad needs to find star power elsewhere. Regardless of where the blame may lie, something must be done to right this quickly sinking ship.
The Arizona Sun Devils roll into town Saturday with a bit of a hot streak. With many experts picking another down year for the Sun Devils, it has been a surprise to see Jahii Carson and crew roll over many decent and quality opponents such as the 18 point drubbing of UCLA at home. ASU is riding a 3 game winning streak following a pair of losses to instate rival UA and the Ducks of Oregon.
Jahii Carson is battling for Freshman of the Year against Shabazz Muhammad and is deserving of such consideration. Carson has burst onto the scene following last years ineligibility debacle scoring almost 18 points, more than 5 assists, and 3 rebounds per game. Needless to say, Carson is a huge part of ASU’s success this season as the difference between this year and last is immense. What makes Carson more intimidating is the fact he is a “small” DI guard at 5-10 and 175lb, the exact type of guard that has given the Huskies fits all year long. Expect a strong performance by Carson.
What is more intimidating is the frontcourt of the Sun Devils. Featuring a pair of 7 footers in junior Jordan Bachynski and senior Ruslan Pateev, the Devils are loaded with size in a way that the Huskies may not be able to contend with. Bachynski is clearly the superior player with an average of 10 points and 7 boards a night over 26 minutes, but with Pateev averaging a pair of points and rebounds a piece every 10 minutes the senior adds a nice compliment to Bachynski that will prove difficult to defend should N’Diaye get into foul trouble.
I am afraid that the loss to Arizona has damaged our team morally in such a way that a flat start against ASU is all but inevitable and the Dawgs have already proven the fact that 20 point holes are nearly impossible to climb out of because of how much energy exertion is require to pull even. The Dawgs must come to play and they must leave everything on the court from here until the end of March because anything less will mean an NIT berth at best. If the Dawgs want to play under the big lights come March they will have to pull of some amazing road upsets over the top Pac-12 programs in UCLA and UA. With UCLA and UO still on the docket at home the Huskies can still manage some decent wins to bolster their resume, yet the committee must also consider the amazing number of home losses allowed by the Dawgs this season and question whether or not the road wins have been flukes or flashes of the great play this team should be capable of sporting night in and night out.
I hope this squad can come together and make something respectable of this season.