On the surface, the next three games should be easy: Washington, Washington State and USC at Pauley. I have two questions: how motivated are the Bruins and has Tony Parker checked out. The motivation is murky especially since UCLA needs at least four other teams to do their part: Oregon, Stanford, Oregon State and Arizona State. With regards to Tony, whatever Steve Alford did to get the others to bounce back from that critical loss to Arizona State didn't work on Tony. It went downhill for him after the first possession the game when Brandon Ashley came all the way over from the weak side to double Tony, and that trap almost worked.
Since motivation is a big factor this week, let's start the discussion with the PAC-12 standings.
Oregon took over sole possession of third place with its win at home over Utah, and Stanford settled into fourth with a win over Berkeley. Three teams have seven losses: Oregon State, Arizona State and UCLA.
The remaining schedule strongly favors the Bruins. Oregon finishes with three road games: Stanford, Berkeley and Oregon State. Stanford plays Arizona and Arizona State on the road, and then has Oregon and Oregon State at home. Oregon State has Stanford and Berkeley on the road and then Oregon at home. Arizona State has Utah and Colorado and the road and Stanford and Cal at home.
1. Incredibly, UCLA can still finish in third or tied for third: Here's what needs to happen:
2. UCLA wins its three remaining games at home
3. Oregon loses at least two of three games. If they do win a game, hopefully it's the Stanford game.
4. Stanford loses at least one game. They play Arizona at home - let's hope the Wildcats show up.
5. Oregon State and Arizona State are in the worst positions. They need to lose at least one game each. This doesn't seem too much to ask for since Arizona State has to go to Utah and Oregon State has to go to the Bay Area.
The RPI argument against having your opponents lose doesn't apply so much anymore. They're basically playing each other, and my money is on finishing ahead of Oregon and Stanford to get a better seeding for a PAC-12 Tournament run.
The Bruins should have wrapped up Arizona State easily, road or no road, but Herb Sendek outwitted them and Tony was a no-show. Now they have to play a parlor game with five other teams. You can see how a slip-up can occur.
Nevertheless, Washington, losers of seven or their last eight, can't beat the Bruins in Pauley. The Huskies were looking formidable at one point with the nation's leading shot-blocker, center Robert Upshaw in combination with power forward Shawn Kemp Jr. Upshaw was booted off the team. They started the season off 11-0, and then went on an inexplicable losing streak that started with lowly Stony Brook, and then continued with an 0-3 start to the PAC-12 season. They regained their footing with a three game winning streak including Oregon State, Oregon and Colorado, but then the bottom fell out with the dismissal of Upshaw.
Once again, the Bruins will struggle with the Washington guards, Nigel Williams-Goss and Andrew Andrews (35 points vs. WSU) and the Huskies depth -they go ten deep. However, the output of their bigs, Kemp and Jarreau is low. They've been serviceable as an interior defense, but Lorenzo Romar has often gone with four guards since the dismissal of Upshaw (Jarreau missed three games with a knee injury). Romar also went to a high-post offense without Shaw with Jarreau on the foul line.
The Bruins should be able to play Washington in a straight-up man-to-man - Alford has been downplaying the zone until things get out of hand. The Huskies only shoot 31% from three, so a packed-in zone as opposed to the 3-2, would work.
The Huskies play man and zone, but they no longer have a rim protector. It will be interesting to see if they follow the playbook, and double Tony - I don't think they have the speed to do this well, and without the rim protector, Norman Powell should have a big game going to the hole.
Checking the stats, Washington is mid-pack to bottom third in virtually all categories. Both teams are low possession which may keep the score close. Despite shooting problems, the Bruins have won because of their rebounding, foul and turnover advantage. They took a major hit to their rebounding and fouling stats this past weekend in the desert. Still, they're slightly ahead of Washington both offensively and defensively.
|PAC-12 Standings Team Standings|
Mostly, the home court advantage will result in a comfortable win for the Bruins.