To me, I’m not seeing a whole lot of difference between Utah and Colorado from a talent perspective. The Utes like the long ball a little more than the Buffaloes, and are a little less guard-heavy, but other than that, these two teams are pretty close. Yet, against Utah, the Huskies lost by 8, and against Colorado, the Huskies won by 10.
The Huskies, with their zone, and their aggressive style of defense when it comes to steals and blocks, are able to mitigate a lot of talent disparities in Pac-12 play. When they’re on, they can beat any team; when they’re off, they can lose to any team. Now, obviously when you compare them to Gonzaga, or some of the other elite schools, the Huskies don’t have the talent to hang for very long. But, against the Pac-12 so far, it’s fine. The Huskies are probably in the upper half of the middle of the road.
But, offensively, the Huskies have a real problem. As has been noted by anyone who has eyeballs, the Huskies tend to go silent on the offensive end for long stretches of game. Against Utah, it was pretty much the entire first half, as the Utes ran out to a 35-24 halftime lead. The Huskies were able to make a little bit of a run in the second half – getting as close as 64-60 with 2 minutes to go in the game – but ultimately didn’t have enough in the tank to close it out.
The Huskies shot just under 40% for the game, which is pretty normal for them, but they were a truly abysmal 2 of 18 from the 3-point line. David Crisp was a mind-boggling 0 for 7, and Thybulle & Nowell combined to go 0 for 5. Personally, I’d love it if Crisp just stopped shooting threes altogether, because he’s fucking terrible at it. I mean, you KNOW he practices it all the fucking time, because it’s what he loves to do more than anything else on Earth! How he can do that and still be so awful is one of those unsolvable mysteries I’ll never understand. You can’t even call him streaky anymore, because Crisp is just on one season-long bad streak of jump-shooting.
Then, a couple days later, it was more of the same in the early going against Colorado, as poor shooting allowed the Buffs to jump out to a 7-0 lead, and later an 18-9 lead before the Husky Timeout Heard ‘Round The World. There was around 8 minutes left in the first half, and from that point the Huskies went on a 27-9 run to get to halftime with a 9-point lead. The improved shooting continued in the second half, and the Huskies pulled out a crucial win.
It was huge to avoid a 3-game losing streak, it helped leapfrog us back into 4th place in the conference, and it was yet another road victory to throw onto the pile. We’re among the last four out on ESPN’s Bracketology, which is very impressive for this team.
The Huskies shot a whopping 50% from 3-point against the Buffs (8 of 19) and killed ’em on the boards. Crisp kept it to 1 for 3, which is fine, but Thybulle, Nowell, and Dominic Green all crushed it (3/5, 2/5 and 2/5 respectively). The Huskies need those guys to keep up the quality shooting to be a Tourney team, so keep those fingers crossed.
14-6 overall, 4-3 in conference, with 11 more games to go. That’s one game against the Cougs (this Sunday), two more against the Mountain schools at home, and a whopping 4 games against the pretty mediocre Oregon schools. Ideally, the Huskies will find a way to win 6/7 of those games, but that’s me being greedy. If we take down 4/7 conservatively, that puts us at 18-9 (8-6) with 4 important games left over (two at home against the Arizona schools; two on the road in the Bay Area). Win 2/4 of those (with one of the two coming against the Cardinal or Wildcats, that puts us at 20-11 (10-8) with impressive wins over at least two Tourney schools (maybe 3 if USC makes it; maybe more if some of those non-conference mid-major schools play well). 20-11 would put the Huskies firmly on the bubble, with the Pac-12 Tournament to go. They’d definitely have to win their first game, and probably have to win 2 games to assure themselves a seat at the Dance.
Can’t let up against the Cougs this weekend. Maybe more important than anything else is winning the games you’re supposed to win. Padding out that record and getting into the top 3 or 4 in the conference regular season would be my preferred option.