Tonight at 8:00 PM PT, there will be a huge rivalry game at the Matt Court pitting the regressing Oregon Ducks against the rising Washington Huskies. The Huskies are 9-2 in Pac-12 play and are just behind the California Golden Bears in the site’s power rankings. A big road win against an Oregon team that will do anything in their power to knock off Washington could vault the Huskies to the top of the conference rankings. Tony Wroten and Terrence Ross are two of the most talented players in the conference and have PERs of 21.6 and 21.3 respectively.
Ross has been this team’s most important player and has been the man to come through in crunch time for the Huskies, while Wroten is the most talented and used (usage rate over 30%) on Lorenzo Romar’s squad. Ross, however, has been worth 3.5 win shares (2.7 for Wroten), and the gap has a lot to do with Ross’s defense (1.9 DWS, defensive win shares). The Ducks are a mediocre team defensively and are not equipped to stop such a talented duo.
Of course, the talent doesn’t stop with Ross and Wroten for the Huskies. Chris Wilcox is almost at the 20 threshold with a 19.5 PER and has been worth 2.5 wins. Aziz N’Diaye is one of the most physical imposing interior presences west of the Mississippi and has been worth two wins (nearly all of those win shares are due to defense). Wilcox is an efficient player, but Darnell Grant has the highest true shooting percentage on the team, despite a fairly average PER (15.4). Grant is just a shooter, but he can definitely knock down his shooting opportunities.
Although he has still been playing at a high level in his senior year, Garrett Sim’s three-win play has slipped dramatically recently. This may be one of the causes for the team’s overall regression, and Sim’s PER of 18 is a better indication of his true value. Still, Sim’s contributions to this club shouldn’t be downplayed due to his immaculate TS% of 65.2%. He is easily the most efficient player in the Pac-12, and he is an X-Factor tonight. If Sim can get back to where he was last month, then this Ducks team is in a much better position.
Star guard Devoe Joseph has been the team’s most valuable player this season and was the catalyst for the Oregon Ducks rise. Joseph has turned them into a dark-horse contender, when they were previously a middle-of-the-pack team in a run-down conference. After being behind Sim and E.J. Singler, Joseph now has a 20.3 PER in leads the team in John Hollinger’s all-important stat. He is the only player on the team with a PER over 20, although both Singler and Sim had higher PERs as recently as a month ago.
Olu Ashaolu has been getting more hype than Tony Woods this season, but the latter Duck has been surperior in just about every way. He is fourth on the team with an 18.4 PER, and his play tonight could mean the difference between victory and defeat. Woods is easily this team’s best defensive player, and he will need to match Aziz pound-for-pound in this game. He isn’t the best rebounder around, but Woods blocks nearly 10% of the shots taken against him. That’s an astounding figure, and it’s fitting for the only player who has been worth one win for the Ducks on defense.
For those who are saying that the ride has been nice so far for the Oregon Ducks, it must be made clear that the ride isn’t over. The Ducks are still contenders in a wide-open, poor yet captivating conference. Even so, expect the Huskies to get a huge road win and further boost their claim to being the best team in the Pac-12. It will be tough to knock off Cal, but the Huskies have the talent and have now started to shed the inconsistency that plagued them earlier in the season.
Terrence Ross will have a big game and score 20 points, and it was always a matter of “when” and not “if” the Huskies would break out and become a good team again. The inconsistency is over, and now it’s time for the Huskies to continue to rise and notch double-digit conference W’s. But again, the Ducks should not simply be written off, because they are a solid basketball team and have good shot at winning. However, the Huskies are clearly the more talented team and will win 71-67.
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