The Dawgs take on the Cougars in a battle of the bottom this Sunday with little more at stake than program pride. The Cougars are riding a miserable 8 game losing streak with just two wins in conference over Utah at home and a 3 point win on the road against Oregon State. UW opened the 2012-2013 conference reason with a 3 point win on the road over the Cougars and proceeded to win 4 straight before collapsing completely into the dismal season this year has become.
The Dawgs can do little to bolster their tournament resume until the Pac-12 tournament rolls around. The final 3 games on the Husky schedule will simply decide seeding for the Dawgs and at best they will finish in 5th place, one spot outside the automatic first round bye. What this means is that the Dawgs need to win this for themselves and nothing else. It remains to be seen whether or not this squad can motivate with such little hope on the line.
The Huskies should have a slight edge at home where they have been less than their normal stellar selves this season. One would hope that the rivalry match-up would inspire some improved play from the Dawgs, but for a team that struggles to score more than 65 points per game it is tough to imagine a high flying performance to provide motivation and adrenaline for the coming post season.
The Dawgs will need to buckle down in the frontcourt and find a way to shut down Cougar forward and star, Brock Motum, who has continued to average 18 points and 6 rebounds per game. Motum leads the team in both categories and would have been a potential Player of the Year candidate for the PAC-12 if not for his team’s record. Unfortunately for Motum, the Cougars were not able to string together enough of a run to get him the attention and praise he deserves.
If the Huskies can win two of their final three games, they will hit 500 in conference play and avoid a losing season. While this year is a bit of a bust, it seems as though expectations were too high for this under talented squad. Certainly the Dawgs should be favored against WSU and USC, but with the Dr. Jekyll-Mr. Hyde act this squad has put on it I would not be surprised with a loss against either team. The Cougars have less to play for than the Dawgs and as such the rivalry game becomes that much more important.
Aziz N’Diaye has just a few more games to make his case as a potential NBA draft pick. The Senegal native has the size and strength of an NBA caliber player, but his skills require time in the developmental league before he would be an asset. Could an NBA team draft the big man with the idea of stocking him away for a few seasons before rising to his full potential? Of course. Will it happen? Likely not. In all reality, N’Diaye will likely end up in Europe making a decent living and never really fulfill his NBA aspirations.
C.J. Wilcox’s shooting slump has all but cemented his fate with a fourth year in college next season. Wilcox’s hot start had many believing, myself included, that this would be his final season. Wilcox has much to prove and these final few games will go a long way towards improving his hype for next season as a potential POY candidate.
As a coach, I view these final two weeks as a chance to develop my squad and test out the future of the program by giving the underclassmen more play time. Andrew Andrews is the type of aggressive guard that this squad lacked at the season’s onset. Desmond Simmons has slumped once more due to decreased play time. Shawn Kemp Jr. has shown low post moves and athleticism that no other play on the roster possesses. If Romar wants to succeed this season, getting these guys play time is critical. The Huskies do not have the benefit of an extracurricular trip to Europe as they did this year and game time is essential in identifying the key components in a basketball team.
There is little to say of game plan that hasn’t already been said this season. Rebounding and free throws will be instrumental in the outcome of this game as both squads lack consistent offensive production. Turnovers will decide the end game momentum. One hot shooter could make or break the opening half and set up the overall atmosphere of the game. Will the Dawgs come out motivated and exciting or will they dissolve into a puddle of self loathing and misery? I’ll edge towards motivated as they are playing for their pride and own self worth. This team, while certainly less skilled than the previous few years, should still provide more than ample competition for a struggling Cougar squad.