by Craig Yamada
Who: Washington (22-10, 11-7) vs. # 15 Arizona (27-6, 14-4)
When: Saturday @ 3:00 PM
Where: Staples Center, Los Angeles
You wanted them, you got them. Zona and UW’s destinies cross paths one more time to determine who really is the king of the Pac. Dating back to 2/17, this was the game that UW fans wanted to see the most. The “white out” that engulfed the Mchale Center in Tucson will not be much of a factor today. A neutral floor at Staples Arena will be the site for the final showdown of the best two teams in the conference. Arizona had to earn their way to the championship coming off relatively close wins against Oregon St and a head coach-LESS USC. UW had a tough road as well as they overcame Klay Thompson’s monster performance on Thursday and outplayed the Oregon Ducks on Friday for the W.
After losing the regular season crown to Cal last year, the Dawgs got revenge in the Pac-10 tourney as they took them down in the championship. Could history repeat itself this year? Arizona took home the honors for Pac-10 regular season champs, but UW could put a huge tarnish in their dream season by taking home the trophy in LA.
Wildcats 101: What else needs to be known about these cats? They are the #1 shooting team from beyond the arc this year and they backed that up in their win against UW in Tucson. They shot the lights out from deep and UW will need to look to close out shooters quicker. Yes fellas, Derrick Williams has proven to be a threat anywhere on the floor this year. Whomever draws the assignment of Williams will need to be in his hip pocket, even beyond the arc. Perhaps double teaming Williams in the post could help take him out of his rhythm early. But UW will need to look to rotate quickly to close out shooters once that happens. Lucky for UW, Arizona will likely plan man the entire game which bodes well for a fast tempo game.
Likely Starting Line Ups:
G – Lamont Jones 6′ 0 196lb
G – Kyle Fogg 6′ 3 180lb
F – Solomon Hill 6′ 6 226lb
F – Jesse Perry 6′ 7 210lb
F – Derrick Williams 6′ 8 241lb
G – Isaiah Thomas – 5′ 9 185lb
G – CJ Wilcox – 6-5 190lb
F – Justin Holiday – 6′ 6 185lb
F – Matthew Bryan-Amaning 6′ 9 240lb
C – Aziz N’Diaye 7′ 0 260lb or Terrence Ross 6’6 190lb
Huskies Update: I would not be surprised to see Terrence Ross in the starting line up again, but knowing how Romar likes to own the glass against bigger front lines, I assume he will insert Aziz back into the starting line up again. But given that Aziz will likely draw early foul trouble, one could argue that Ross or even Darnell Gant could be an interesting start against Zona. The smaller line up Romar has used in this tourney has worked in back to back games, but will he make change to match the size of UofA?
Keys to the Game:
- Rebounding – UW will need to keep Williams, Hill, and Jesse Perry off the offensive glass to even have a chance today against these pesky cats. Win the glass, win the war.
- Free Throw Shooting – UW shot 78% from the stripe against Oregon and will need a similar performance from everyone in order to keep contact with Zona
- Double Teaming D-Will – Everyone one knows who he is. Everyone knows what he can do. Romar needs to find a way to take him out of rhythm early. MBA will need immediate help once Williams gets the ball in the post as he is very clever in scoring down low.
- Get IT going early – IT is going to be the key again tonight. He has played 78 of 80 minutes thus far in the tourney. We will need him to execute like he has the last couple of games, but hope he has the legs to do it. Expect another double double from our general this afternoon.
- Take it at Williams – MBA will need to get some early touches to try and get some early fouls on their star. Williams does get a lot of calls going his way, but since Coach O’Neill of USC called him out, I expect this game to be called a bit more balanced.
- Fouling – Same story, different day. Williams lives on the stripe. Let’s not give him any freebies today by fouling excessively.
- Three Headed Monster = Ross, Wilcox and Suggs will need to be hot today from not only beyond the arc, but inside the lane as well. Suggs and Ross have both done more to add another dimension in their games in this tourney. They have been aggressive in attacking the paint and the team has benefited greatly from it.
Game Prediction: IT refuses to lose. The swagger is back in the steps of the Huskies. Have they been playing flawlessly? Definitely not. But they are playing with purpose and hunger that we have not seen for half a season. My gut is telling me UW takes the crown this afternoon with another thrilling finish. UW wins 82-80.