The Huskies are missing four players from last year’s game, and 36 of the 105 points. The biggest subtraction is that of Spencer Hawes in the middle, but the Huskies are also going to miss the 9 points of Phil Nelson, who transfered to PSU. This year’s Husky team is also anchored by a big man in the middle, Ryan Sommer’s high school teammate Jon Brockman. He’s only 6’7″, but he uses his 245 pounds very well, rebounding as well as anyone in the country right now. Not that they can necessarily do it again, but Brockman was the only player that the Vikings were really able to stop during last year’s game. As a whole, the team has almost as much talent as the squad that beat the Viks by 32 points, but they lack the explosive offense. They are hoping that senior Ryan Appleby can fix that problem. He is averaging 18 points per game since returning from a thumb injury.
PSU’s best effort in last year’s contest came from the departed Ryan Sommer, but Deonte Huff also provided a solid effort off the bench. He will need to provide that and more if the Vikings are going to pull off the upset this year. Who else can come up with some points? Scott Morrison played well when he was in the game last year, but Hawes was ultimately able to draw him into foul trouble that prevented him from having a huge one.
UW: Jon Brockman PSU: Scott Morrison
While Morrison is much taller, Brockman is clearly the more put together. What does this mean to their match-up inside? Likely that Brockman will win. He’s an effort player, which really hurts Morrison. Morrison tires quickly, and has trouble offensively when his defender doesn’t take plays off. This is especially salient when his defender can overpower him. The only way that the Vikings can win this match-up is by getting Brockman into foul trouble. Because the Huskies won’t have to double team in the post, Morrison should get some opportunities for shots inside. If he can keep his arms extended, he should be able to compete, and possibly draw Brockman into some stupid fouls.
UW: Quincy Pondexter PSU: Alex Tiefenthaler
It’s hard to justify Mara getting the start here. The Viks haven’t needed Mara offensively much recently. As his scoring has disappeared, his playing time has too. He should provide a strong backup here, but likely won’t see extended time unless Tief gets in foul trouble, or the Viks need 3 point shooting. Tiefenthaler has been effective since his insertion into the rotation two games ago. If he gets the start, the Viks will need him to score more than the 5.5 he is averaging, but it is very likely that all he needs is increased playing to do that. Pondexter is a good match-up for Tiefenthaler. Like Brockman, he’s had to change his role since the departure of Hawes. He went from being a small forward who was relied on to score, to being a power forward who is relied on to rebound more. As a result, his production in certain categories has shifted. I think given increased playing time, Tiefenthaler should be able to equal Pondexter’s production.
UW: Ryan Appleby PSU: Deonte Huff
Huff clearly has the physical advantage in this match-up, and should eclipse Appleby in almost every category. The question is whether or not he can slow him down scoring-wise, while at the same time continuing his recent hot shooting. I think that might be a bit much to ask, especially if the Viks rely on his scoring. I think both that they’ll both score 15+ points, with all of Appleby’s coming on 3 pointers. I give the edge to Huff because he’s a more complete player, even though Appleby may outscore him. If Appleby doesn’t shoot the ball well, the Huskies have a couple of other options in Tim Morris and Joel Smith who match up better physically with Huff.
UW: Justin Dentmon PSU: Dupree Lucas/Andre Murray
Dupree carried over his solid, if not flashy play in the Cal Poly game. He had 10 points and 4 assists in a game where he didn’t play much because of foul trouble. The key thing he provided was leadership. Though he has been erratic shooting the ball at times, he is a very aggressive defensive player who provides the leadership the team needs when Morrison is on the bench. Murray returned from the ankle injury with a solid game himself. He shot the ball well from the outside and rebounded well. Both players should provide the same things offensively and on the boards against Dentmon. The key however, is how they play against him defensively. Though he is only 5’11”, he can provide stats in every category. Aside from 3 games, he has gone for double digits in every contest, and tends to step up his play for the big games. I think the combo for the Viks will eclipse Dentmon’s effort, but he is a better player than either individually.
UW: Venoy Overton PSU: Jeremiah Dominguez/Mickey Polis
Depending on who starts for the Vikings, Overton could have a huge game. I think that the Huskies will rely on Overton to score in this one, whether or not Dominguez is playing. Outside of the center position, this is the one position where they have an advantage that they can exploit. Look for them to try to get Overton to use his size to drive and post up against the Vikings’ miniature point guards. If Dominguez doesn’t play, the problem will be exacerbated by Polis’ tendency to turn the ball over. I really enjoy watching his effort, and I thought he played a great game on Wednesday, but even though he was more cautious with the dribble, his passes still looked terrible. It’s doubtful he’ll be able to replicate his 15 point performance against a team like the Huskies. I give the advantage to Overton in a one-on-one match-up, who’s stats should look more like they did against Syracuse than his averages. Both of the Viking point guards are capable of scoring, but their games are fairly one dimensional.
PSU’s bench has had some really strong games like the one on Wednesday, and some really poor ones, especially early on. If all the guys play as well as they are capable of, they are very good, however, many of them are reliant on shooting for their offense to run. I give them the advantage over the group of Smith, Morris, Wolfinger, and Bryan-Amaning. The Huskies lost key reserve guard Adrian Oliver, who decided to transfer a couple of years ago.
I think the outcome will ultimately be decided by whether or not Jeremiah Dominguez plays, and how well the Vikings can shoot the 3 ball. If they can make a high percentage, and the Huskies continue their 60 percent clip at the free throw line, then the Viks could find themselves in the game late. As far as match-ups go, a tough game down the stretch might go their way, especially with how they’ve done so far this season. The Huskies have outscored their opponents by 3.7 points per game, while the Vikings have outscored theirs by 2.4 points. If more points are scored, that favors the Huskies. I think they should beat the Vikings, based on the venue of the game. It could really go either way, but the Vikings will need all their scorers to be on at once to win this one.
Prediction: UW 79-74