It's always nice to know what you're up against — and with BYU preparing to face Washington tonight in the first round of the NIT, we turned to an expert on the Huskies for a little help. Many thanks to Ben Knibbe, manager of SBNation's UW Dawg Pound blog, for being willing to share his thoughts with us.
1. UW has had a fairly up-and-down year, marked by sustained periods of good play followed by equally long stretches of poor performance. What kind of momentum will the Huskies carry into the Marriott Center?
Washington carries a decent amount of positive momentum into the tournament. They had played decent basketball for the last several games of their schedule. They did fall to an extremely talented UCLA team and ran out of gas against Oregon late in their conference tournament game, but they had played alright, although not great, to finish their season.
Senior Scott Suggs is finally getting his shots to fall after going through an extended cold spell for most of conference play. His outside shooting has been invaluable to the offensive improvement Washington has seen. Abdul Gaddy has also played well during the second half of the season. Washington's fan base has been very unfair to Gaddy this season, and he has been arguably their best offensive player for the last half of the season before Suggs' hot streak.
2. The secret has been out for awhile that shutting down Tyler Haws is an effective way to defang BYU's offense. However, that is also easier said that done. How do you think Lorenzo Romar will approach Haws defensively?
Typically Romar will put Suggs on the opposing team's best scorer. He has length, quickness and the determination to slow down scorers and shooters. If a screen is set for Haws by C.J. Wilcox's defender, the two will switch, as Wilcox can be at times the best perimeter defender Washington has, although he is too inconsistent defensively to be constantly defending top perimeter player. He is also nursing a stress reaction in his foot, which has to be limiting him in at least some fashion defensively, and may explain the inconsistencies.
I have a feeling that Wilcox will be seeing extended time on Haws due to familiarity. The two are old childhood friends, and it could cause some extra effort to be put out by Wilcox on the defensive side of the ball.
3. Tuesday night will mark UW star C.J. Wilcox's return to his old stomping grounds of Utah County. How do you anticipate this unique storyline will affect his play and/or that of the team, if at all?
As I already mentioned, I can see Wilcox putting forth extra effort on the defensive end. This is all dependent upon him having a good day dealing with his stress reaction in his foot. Offensively, it may cause him to be a little more aggressive in his shot-taking. If the shots are falling for him, no Husky fans will complain. Even if the shots aren't falling, there is a sense that he could bust out at any moment. He could go like Terrence Ross last season and explode in the NIT, but whether that will be because he started in his hometown remains to be seen.
4. Is there one thing that particularly worries you, as a Husky fan, about the matchup with BYU? Anything that gives you added confidence?
Haws scares me. He gets into the lane and draws fouls. He will put Aziz N'Diaye and the Washington guards in foul trouble. When Gaddy and freshman backup Andrew Andrews are left to guard him, he should attack the basket anytime, as they are prone to get into foul trouble. Washington as a whole struggles to defend perimeter players with an ability to get into the lane, and Haws is one of the best.
5. Prediction time: Who will win this game and survive to see the second round? Why?
BYU struggles against long, athletic teams. Washington struggles against players like BYU's two best. This one could go either way, in either blowout fashion or in a tight one. I have to take BYU because Washington can show up flat or not flat at any moment. Following their third loss to Oregon, I see them coming out emotional, but getting into foul trouble and forcing Lorenzo Romar, the coach who does so little with so much as was so kindly put, to use his bench more than he has for most of this season. Also, the home court advantage with the altitude will definitely play a factor with Washington's thin rotation.