How far has Washington fallen? Well, the Huskies are underdogs against a USC Trojans team that they beat by 32 points earlier this year. It was just a month ago that the Huskies grinded up the Trojans underfoot and were considered favorites to win the Pac-12. But on a death spiral, the Dawgs have just one win in the last nine and are on a 6-game losing streak.
USC on the other hand won 6 of the last 7 since that games before settling into a 3-game losing streak. The Trojans have been playing lockdown defense holding teams under 60 points per game in four of those last 9 games. With this rejuvenated team and the Huskies woes, it is no small wonder that the experts don’t think that the Dawgs have a shot. For example, SBD’s NCAAB odds page has the Huskies as a 4.5-point underdog and that shows the lack of faith that the experts, fans, and unfortunately the NCAA selection committee share about this team.
The tale of two teams were spurred by the worst of luck by the Huskies and a philosophy change by the Trojans. After getting pummeled by the Huskies, USC learned that they needed to play with a physical toughness that intimidates their opponents. They are the top team in drawing fouls on plays to the rim and with 6’11 Nick Rakocevic they find ways to divert layups on the opposite end. Offensively, the Trojans are led by freshman Onyeka Okongwu who leads the team with 16.4 points per game and 8.9 rebounds per game.
It will be interesting to see Okongwu go up against the Huskies future NBA pick, Isiah Stewart who is scoring at a 17.4 clip and pulling down 8.9 rebounds. Where the Huskies are deficient of course is at the point guard positions where sophomore transfer, Quade Green ended up academically ineligible to play, leaving the team without a distributor. Green averaged 11.6 points and 5.3 assists per game and the USC game was his last of the season. For the Husky faithful, it is hard to stomach a reminder that the leading distributor is the lone reason for the meltdown this season. Well that and the lack of a talented backup of course.
I hate to read the pundits nationally, locally, or even here at Seattle Sports Union give up on Huskies basketball but unless Coach Hopkins changes this culture fast, the bandwagon has plenty of seating as it appears to be just me on this ride.
photo credit: Joe Nicholson USA Today