Washington basketball begins Pac-12 play as defending conference champions, after finishing 2019 with the best record in the Pac-12
Washington basketball heads into Pac-12 play with a record of 10-3. The Huskies were picked to finish third in the Pac-12 going in the preseason behind Oregon and Colorado, who are both sitting at 10-2 before conference play. The Pac-12 is going to be strong this year, as Stanford currently has a record of 11-1, USC is 10-2 and Arizona is sitting at 10-3.
The Huskies begin the season at home against UCLA on January 2nd, followed by USC on January 4th. Last year, after firing head coach Steve Alford right before Pac-12 play began, UCLA ended up seventh in the Pac-12 with a conference record of 9-9.
This year, UCLA is coached by Mick Cronin, who signed a six-year contract with the Bruins after coaching the Cincinnati Bearcats for 13 years. Last year, the Huskies and the Bruins played only once, with Washington winning 66-59 in Seattle on February 2nd. This year they play twice, with the Huskies traveling to UCLA on February 15th.
The Bruins are led in scoring by junior guard Chris Smith at 11.3 points per game. The Bruins play a shallow rotation, as they have six players who play at least 20 minutes a game. The starters are sophomore forwards Cody Riley and Jalen Hill along with guards Tyger Campbell, Jamie Jaquez, and Prince Ali. Hill leads the Bruins in rebounds with 7.7 per game, while Campbell leads in assists with 3.8 per game.
The Bruins are shooting just 30.7% from behind the three-point line this season, averaging close to six makes per game from back there. The biggest thing the Huskies will need to contain is the Bruins’ offensive rebounding, as they’re excellent at getting themselves second chances.
UCLA will have a difficult time against the Huskies since most of their offense comes on the inside. The Huskies’ zone is notoriously tough against teams trying to come in the paint this season, but if the Bruins can find some soft spots in the zone, expect Mike Hopkins to switch up his scheme and call more man-to-man defense.
This will be a tough matchup for the Huskies, but if they can find a rhythm offensively, they should find a way to pull out a win and get back on track.