Thursday night’s 6PM contest between Oregon St. and Washington officially opens Pac-12 play for both schools. Much is at stake. Oregon St. faces a difficult opening stetch in its first 5 conference games. First, UW and Wazzu on the road followed by home bouts against Cal and Stanford and then on to face Arizona in the desert. This stretch will tell us alot about this team and if they can come out of these 5 games with a winning record it will put Oregon St. on a great path to the NCAA tournament.
This year’s Husky squad has 8 freshmen and chief among them is PG Tony Wroten who already has the attention of NBA scouts. One good omen for the Beavers will be that UW is playing in the Alamo Bowl at the exact same time as this game. This could mean more fans staying at home to watch both games on TV and a slighly less hostile environment. For those that do come to the game there will be occasional live check-ins of the football game on the arena’s jumbotron. 7-0 center Aziz N’Diaye’s also returns for this game after a right knee injury against Duke. He may well have a little rust but Oregon St. should be prepared in case he shakes it off quickly. 6-6 SG/SF Terrence Ross is a player who Husky fans still believe is an amazing weapon but they are looking for him to be more assertive and provide more leadership along with Wroten.
For Oregon St. to win they have to come out ready to play from the tip. Stay calm and focused on continuing to find quality shots and being unselfish. On defense have a sense of urgency and make UW work hard for good shots. Take advantage of the Huskies still working to find their idendity and leadership by disrupting rythym and not allowing open 3 point shots. If they get frustrated figure out ways to keep them in that mindset. The Huskies like to penetrate and then dish out.
We have to be in position to stop those drives but not lose sight that the kick out is coming and then get in position to contest or make a jumper more difficult. Cunningham and Starks both need to bother the UW guards and Nelson and Starks need to be ready and willing to shoot open shots. Them hitting some will open up the inside even more for Collier, Brandt and Burton. Moreland should get 18 or 19 minutes. We will need all those defensive rebounds and his blocking threat on drives.
I like the Beavers chances and a win here will go a long way to getting our season off to a strong start. Oregon St. can gain a lot of momentum on the Pac-12 respect front with a win. Larry Scott and the conference realize we are likely to only send 2 or 3 teams to the NCAA tourney this year so if Oregon St. can set the tone that they have one of the best chances to give the Pac-12 a berth it can play to their advantage. This is about opportunity and much of the trajectory of teams will be settled in the 1st half of conference play. Our win over Texas makes us a team that will get that NCAA tourney respect when needed if the grouping proves tight at the end. Some analysts feel there may be a team with 13 wins in conference and then 3 or 4 who could have around 11 or up to 12 wins. OSU is expected by most to be in that mix.
I see this game as within 6 points at halftime. Any team that gets down 8 or more cannot get too discouraged and needs to claw back as they likely will. If we play an all-around great game with 5 guys in double digit scoring it is probably our best bet. OSU is that type of team that thrives off solid contributions throughout its main 7 deep rotation. Feed the hot hand at times and keep working together to get great and not just good shots. I believe the team that takes the lead into the final 4 or 5 minutes will probably be able to do just enough to hold on and seal the victory. I am optimistic that team will be OSU but it could easily swing the other way should we get too careless. We have to cut down on our turnovers while maintaining pressure on UW and getting some key takeaways. I like OSU 84-79. That score assumes a decent pace to the game and you also figure one team will have to make some free throws at the end.
OSU 84, Washington 79