Gonzaga and Washington. It was a rivalry so fierce it imploded like a dying star and shot out a whole load of nothingness out into space. Meaningless words for a decade ensued. If you need more of an idea on what happened, we have you covered right here. Just know this, a lot of grown men (on both sides) kind of acting like babies.
Either way, after last season’s early gift at The Battle 4 Atlantis, the one-and-one that was scheduled to begin finally does. This year in Spokane, next year in Seattle.
Let the winning fan base dub themselves the best team in the Pacific Northwest.
Meet the opponent
Washington Huskies, 4-3, KenPom #89
Let’s start with what we do know: the Washington Huskies are led by freshman forward and potential the No. 1 overall pick in the 2017 draft Markelle Fultz. Fultz has so far been everything he was advertised to be. He is averaging 22.7 points, 6.7 rebounds, 6.6 assists, 2.1 steals and 1.4 blocks per game. He is shooting 54 percent from the floor and 48.1 percent from long range. His only human stat? He shoots just 65.5 percent from the free throw line. He is the heart and soul of the Washington team, having scored in double figures in all but one game, and at least 20 points in all but two games.
After that? That is where the Huskies get a few question marks. They have scorers in Matisse Thybulle, Noah Dickerson and David Crisp. The Huskies push the tempo at an incredible rate, running the sixth-quickest offense in the nation. Unfortunately for the Huskies, that quickened tempo doesn’t necessarily translate to the best shot, and that is where they have suffered.
The Zags will also have to be on the lookout for Malik Dime patrolling the post. He is one of the better shot blockers in college, averaging three blocks per game. Overall, the Huskies are long and athletic, and we can probably expect to see quite a few shots swatted.
What to watch out for
Defend the three.
The Huskies shoot 42.4 percent from three-point range as a team. They love to launch the long ball. Against TCU (the first time), Washington went 10-of-12 from long range. Of course, they still lost that game, mainly because they shot 38.9 percent from the charity stripe and were just 36.2 percent on two points shots. Against TCU (the second time), the Huskies were just 5-of-18 from three point range, which buried them in a game where they shot two pointers and free throws rather well.
Either way, the Huskies aren’t disciplined enough as a team to beat Gonzaga, especially in Spokane. But they are athletic enough to run with the Zags for a bit, and that will become much easier if they are dropping their threes. Expect to see a little bit of zone defense from the Zags to throw the Huskies off course.
Feed the ball to Przemek.
We watched Przemek Karnowski absolutely abuse the Arizona Wildcats in the low post just off his sheer size alone. I would expect that, unlike Sean Miller, Karnowski will see some double teams when the ball goes in, but the Huskies don’t have the size to deal with our big man. Dime is athletic, and he will block some balls, but Karnowski should be able to bully him into proper positioning in the post. If Karnowski’s soft jump hook is falling in, he should be the only player shooting the ball when on the floor.
Keep on moving the ball.
We saw it a little bit in the Arizona game, and it is the slightly worrying trend of the Zags not really moving that well off the ball as a team. Washington is long and athletic enough that they will throw the Zags off their rhythm a bit. As a team, the Huskies block more shots than only seven other teams in college. They have the ability to frustrate the Gonzaga shooters if they are trying to force room into the paint.
The simple answer is to not force the shot. The Huskies are not a good defensive team. Yale dropped 98 points on them. Yale just got done scoring 59 points in their latest win. If the Zags maintain an easy head, this game shouldn’t be hard to manage whatsoever. If the Zags get a bit slow or lazy on the offensive end, they’ll let Washington stick around in a game they have no business in.