This game is a mini-crossroads of sorts for Washington. They showed earlier this week in the loss to Oregon that they were not capable of beating a good team even when they knew they really had to. And that was enlightening. But tonight we will gain a little bit more of a final insight, for if the Huskies cannot manage to beat a mediocre team like Oregon State even when they know they really need to, we will finally be sure that this season is over and that this team is just that bad.
If that sounds overly negative, that’s because it is high time to be negative. In my books, the loss to Oregon finished any realistic hopes of an NCAA tournament bid, and now it’s about degrees of failure. Because this season is a failure, a net negative. But now the team is playing for pride, playing to make sure they can finish out the season with some NIT games instead of a lowlier tournament, and how they perform will allow us to determine if this is a bad team by Romar’s standards, and a mediocre team by the general standard of college basketball, or if it is a bad team by anyone’s standards.
And losing at home to an Oregon State team that is 3-9 in the Pac-12 when you are absolutely desperate for a win is bad by anyone’s standards. Thing is, I’m honestly not confident that they can do it. C.J. Wilcox is not the player he was for the first three fourths of the season. Whether it’s the stress fracture in his foot, simply a brutal stretch of cold shooting, or a combination of the two, his woes from the field have reached such a point that his shooting is just hurting the team.
With Wilcox no longer chipping in an efficient 17-23 points a game on any given night, the offense is a joke. Already terribly inefficient in transition or on the fast break, the halfcourt now being extra ineffective means that Washington cannot reliably score points. That means they have to play fairly rugged defense to stay competitive with anyone, something they did against Oregon despite ugly, ugly shooting from nearly everyone on the team. Simmons dove on the ground for loose balls, Andrews was inducing Overton flashbacks (sans pimpish legal troubles) with his on-ball pressure, but Washington as a whole is still not a terrific defensive team no matter how hard they’re working to overcome offensive miscues.
Teams might have to work, but eventually Suggs will leave his man open on the three point line two or three times in a row, N’Diaye and Simmons will fail to provide help when a guard slashes for an easy layup, or everyone will forget to hustle back on defense in transition, and the game slips away. If this pattern continues, I think Oregon State is just good enough to get by with a road victory.
Now, the equation could change. The Ducks hit a lot of shots, especially early, despite solid defense. Perhaps that was a bit of luck, and Oregon State, a much less polished offensive unit, could struggle to score points just like the Huskies do. And maybe Wilcox snaps out of his shooting slump, or a guy like Andrews or Kemp, who have shown flashes of scoring brilliance but haven’t developed consistency on any given night, could have another big game and avoid long slumps of halfcourt chucking.
That sure would be nice, but right now I’m not betting on it.
Oregon State 65, Washington 61