Game Preview: Portland

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by: John Chase

The Pilots return to Hec-Ed once more following a 20-12 season, 7-7 in the West Coast Conference. Last season UW beat Portland 94-72 with Justin Holiday and Isaiah Thomas leading all scorers with 20 points. MBA added 15 and Scott Suggs dropped in 13 of his own. Nemanja Mitrovic led the Pilots with 15, followed closely by departed senior Luke Sikma with 14.

It’ll be two very different line-ups taking the court on Monday as the game’s top four scorers for the Huskies and two of the top three scorers for the Pilots have either graduated or are injured. Sikma had dominated the glass as well with 16 rebounds accounting for nearly 60% of his teams rebounds, four times as much as his next teammate and twice as much as anyone on the UW squad.

Coming into the 2011-2012 season, Portland looks to be rebuilding their frontcourt. Losing 3 starters from last years squad is tough enough, but the Pilots lose their top two rebounders in Luke Sikma and Kramer Knutson who were responsible for almost 50% of the teams total rebounds. That is even tougher to overcome and 6-11 freshman Thomas van der Mars will be asked to help fill that void. Luckily for Portland, their backcourt seems stable and skilled, which will help alleviate the absence of experienced talent in the post.

Nemanja Mitrovic is one of the top 3-point shooters in the nation, hitting 93 shots on 201 attempts last year, slightly better than highly touted 3-point shooter Jared Stohl who graduated this past season. He returns as the Pilots leading scorer after averaging just under 14 points a game. At 6-5 and 200lbs Mitrovic matches up well against the UW defense and will definitely be able to compete. The Dawgs will need to throw their top defenders at Mitrovic to keep him contained.

Another returning (semi)starter for the Pilots is 5-10 160lb Tim Douglas. Douglas led the team in assists last season, but also led in the turnover category. Portland also brings back a starter in Eric Waterford, 6-1 180lb, who had the best assist to turnover ratio at 1.9.

UP posts some decent size with Riley Barker at 6-10 and van der Mars at 6-11. Both have a lot of work to do before they can match the productivity of Knutson or Sikma, but it’ll have to happen if the Pilots want to compete this season.

Predicted Starting Line-Ups:

Portland:

G – Tim Douglas, 5-10 160lb
G – David Carr, 6-3 170lb
F – Nemanja Mitrovic, 6-5 200lb
F – Ryan Nicolas, 6-7 235lb
F  -Riley Barker, 6-10 225lb

Washington:

G – Abdul Gaddy 6-3 185lb
G – C.J. Wilcox 6-5 190lb
F – Terrence Ross 6-6 195lb
F – Darnell Gant 6-8 230lb
C – Aziz N’Diaye 7-0 260lb

Keys to the Game:

  • Rebounding – Just like the past two reviews, and the rest of the season, I will continue to stress the importance of rebounding. Alongside free throws, nothing decides games more than how a team attacks the glass. With the loss of two extremely proficient rebounders, the Pilots will be looking for new players to fill the rebound column. UW can take advantage of this by using their more experienced rebounders to dominate the glass on both ends of the court. By boxing out their men in both the paint and the perimeter, UW can prevent missed shots turning into extra opportunities for the Portland sharpshooters.
  • Perimeter Pressure – With a vast majority of Portland’s talent coming from their backcourt, UW will need to push their defensive efforts out. I would be vastly surprised to see UW run a zone defense as that type of defense is prone to 3 point attacks. Man-to-Man is the way to go and it is where the Huskies always excel. Portland matches-up much better against the Dawgs than the other two teams in the tournament and as such, the Huskies should expect a much better performance out of the Pilots than the other two squads.
  • Get in the Paint – The Dawgs face another inexperienced frontcourt, making them susceptible to sloppy fouls and easy buckets. By getting our tall guards and wings to pressure the lanes, we can open up a lot of opportunities for the smooth shooting of guys like C.J. Wilcox on the perimeter. This is a great chance for our big men to play against players with a little more height, though the strength aspect still appears to be less tested. N’Diaye should have a solid 40 pounds on his defender and can use his weight to back down his man for the easy lay-in or dunk.

Final Score Prediction: UW-90 UP-70

While the Pilots have more talent than either Georgia State or Florida Atlantic, they do not possess the scoring talent and rebounding ability to compete with the Huskies. UW should take over fairly quickly with an aggressive rebounding attack to maximize second shot chances as well as preventing those for the Pilots.

Mitrovic will likely have some success from range and the Huskies need to limit these shots as much as possible. If I am Romar, Wilcox is my go to man for the defensive assignment in this game. He has great athletic abilities that allows him to block shots with authority. In my mind, Wilcox has shown the ability to change shots on the perimeter nearly as effectively as N’Diaye does in the paint.

All in all, UW should find themselves with another comfortable game in which Romar can learn a bit more about his team and which players really have chemistry together on the court.