It does not seem right that during the last week of the season we are playing a Pac-12 team for the first time. Yet UCLA's next two games against the Washington schools mark their first games against them this season.
I guess it could be argued that it is unfortunate we did not play Washington twice or at least at home as Washington is 2-7 on the road and 6-1 at home in Pac-12 play. However, UW did not play Arizona or ASU at home (first and third place in the Pac-12) and lost to Berkeley who is tied for fourth place.
Further Washington has lost at home this year to Connecticut and UC Irvine. Long and short is, yes, they are a better team at home but this is not the dominant Washington home team of past years. The Huskies are ranked 80 on RPI which is one ahead of Utah who beat us this year when we visited Salt Lake City to be our second worse loss of the season.
So this is a game UCLA should win but it is far from a lock.
While UCLA has a front runner for Pac-12 Player of the Year in Kyle Anderson, Husky fans might try to argue for Nigel Williams-Goss as freshman of the year (although I think a certain Gordon at Arizona may be the front runner here). If you read the official Washington preview of the game, it reads like a promotional sheet for his candidacy. A few highlights:
- Freshman Nigel Williams-Goss leads the league's freshmen in minutes played at 34.4 per game ... he's first in scoring among the newcomers with 14.1 points per game and has reached double-figure scoring in 13 of 16 Pac-12 games (including nine straight), more than any other league freshman
- Freshman Nigel Williams-Goss currently has the second longest active double-digit scoring streak among freshmen in the nation with nine, behind Jabari Parker (Duke - 12) and ahead of Andrew Wiggins (Kansas - 8).
- Freshman Nigel Williams-Goss currently leads Pac-12 freshman in league play in scoring (14.1 points) and assists (3.9 ) and he is second in FG percentage (48.1) and fourth in rebounding (4.4) and steals (0.8)
- Freshman Nigel Williams-Goss has reached double-figure scoring for nine-straight games and is averaging 16.4 points and shooting 43.2 percent from the 3, and 49.3 percent from the field during that span
While Williams-Goss is the newcomer of the year for the Huskies, their MVP is 6'5" senior CJ Wilcox. Wilcox has been something of a Bruin killer most memorably in his freshman year when he "scored a [then] career-high 24 points, all in the second half, vs. UCLA, the most by a Husky in a half since . . . 1995." Wilcox is also scary against this UCLA team as he leads the conference in made three pointers. UCLA sagging zone better not sag off Wilcox who averages 7 three point attempts a game.
Washington does have some other intriguing players. First sub off the bench Is Perris Blackman leads the Huskies in rebounds but more intriguingly Blackman is second in the conference in offensive rebounds. Will UCLA be able to keep him off the offensive boards?
Blackman plays more than the person who he usually subs in for, Shawn Kemp Jr. Kemp has more fouls than rebounds this year and while he has shown some ability at times, he is still raw looking despite being a junior.
The strange lineup continues with Andrew Andrews. Andrew was sort of the point guard but now that role is taken by Williams-Goss. However Andrews for a 6'2" guy has been amazing on the boards recently AVERAGING 8 rebounds a game over the last four. That kind of work keeps Andrews playing big minutes because he only shoots 37% from the field and 26% from three. I guess you could say he is the glue guy.
The last starter is 6'7" junior Desmond Simmons. Desmond missed the first part of the season recovering from knee surgery and has not been the same player since he came back. He is rebounding at a career low rate which is lucky for UCLA since last year he had 11 rebounds in 17 minutes against UCLA.
Simmons is really not replaceable though as the rest of the Washington bench are swing guards Mike Anderson and Darrin Johnson. Coach Romar is a good recruiter who use to have teams that went 10 deep and he could play the hot hand. This team is just not as deep or as good as the past Husky teams.
Washington has some talent but this would be an easy game for UCLA at Pauley. At Pauley UCLA could probably play 20 minutes and win. However as UCLA is on the road there is one stat that UCLA needs to keep in mind:
The Huskies are 12-0 this season when leading with five minutes remaining.
UCLA is almost certainly guaranteed a split as they play a bad Washington State team next. Hopefully they play hard for close to 40 minutes in the Washington game, like they did at Berkeley and save their 20 minute effort for the Cougars. If they do, they can close the season out with a first, a road sweep.