On Sunday, the Portland State Vikings take their 7-1 record to Seattle to take on the Washington Huskies. Phil Nelson and Ken Bone return to their old stomping grounds where the Viks have had very little success. Unfortunately, this game is just the beginning of what will be a tough non-conference schedule the rest of the way. One plus is that the game will be televised on Fox Sports Net, so Viking fans will get to see their team play on tv for just the second time all season.
UW: Jon Brockman PSU: Jamie Jones
Although Jones is just as tall as Brockman, that is about the extent of their similarities, aside from a knack for scoring around the basket. Brockman is a big-bodied bruiser and All-American candidate, whereas Jones is a wiry finesse player who has difficulty rebounding. Unfortunately for the Vikings, they are matched up against each other. The one positive going for PSU is that Brockman is not the strongest defender. As long as Jones can score on his first opportunities, he should be able to put up 10 points. Even if Jones produces 10 points and 5 rebounds, that isnâ€™t going to keep it close here. You can mark Brockman down for at least 20 and 10, maybe more if they go to him more often.
UW: Darnell Gant PSU: Kyle Coston
Although Gant is a very talented freshman, he does have a propensity to get into foul trouble. He also has limited range on his jump shot. Look for the Viks to try to exploit those weaknesses in any way possible. If Coston can draw him out to the perimeter, it will take away one of the strongest rebounders the Huskies have. Coston is the ideal size match-up here, so Mara may not see as much time as heâ€™s used to. Even though Washington doesnâ€™t depend on Gant to score, he has the ability to do so, and if Dentmon or Thomas have difficulty with their defenders he may get a chance to show the coaching staff what he can do. If Coston can step up and score 12-15 points, it should help keep this one fairly close.
UW: Quincy Pondexter PSU: Phil Nelson
Nelson has been dreadfully inconsistent. His average of 10.1 points per game comes from a combination of a 24 point game with 0 points the next week. He seems to be tentative when his shot isnâ€™t dropping. However, in this game they need him to produce. His best games have come when he is shooting a lot and creating contact. If he can drive to the rim, and help draw fouls on the Huskies big men, it will help Jones. Going up against Nelson is inconsistent number two. Pondexter began the season by dropping a goose egg against the Pilots, then scoring 15 three days later. He has come on of late averaging 14 points in his last three contests. If he can score 12, it would really hurt PSUâ€™s chances. The advantage as far as production goes is awarded to Nelson because of his importance keeping this one close. If he has less than 15, itâ€™s unlikely that spread will be less than 20.
UW: Justin Dentmon PSU: Andre Murray
Although heâ€™s not very tall, Justin Dentmon produces like a prototypical shooting guard. His production is up in almost every statistical category from last year, and appears ready to help his team back to the NCAA tournament. Murray has been great in all but two games when he didnâ€™t score. However, he took a combined five shots in those two games, both of which were won by the Vikings. He will need to have one of his better games if he is going to keep up with the all-around production of Dentmon. Andre is plenty capable of doing just that, and I expect this to be one of the better one-on-one match-ups all season.
UW: Isaiah Thomas PSU: Jeremiah Dominguez/Dominic Waters
Jeremiah Dominguez is questionable going into the match-up on Sunday. If he canâ€™t go, the Viks will go with Waters, who has been solid in most of his appearances. Unfortunately, that bad appearance was against the speedy guards of Cal State Fullerton. The Vikings will need him to keep up with the explosive true freshman if they want to keep him from scoring 20+. After dominating his high school competition, Isaiah Thomas (not that one) has averaged 13.5 points per game, saving three of his four biggest games for Kansas, Florida, and Oklahoma State. All of this changes if Dominguez plays. Whether or not he can be effective on the offensive end, I think he has to play. Without him on the court, the Vikings have had no flow to their offense, and have lacked the key piece to their defense. I think Waters will see starter minutes even if Dominguez does go, because they will need the points Dom can produce.
Originally, the group of reserves looked very solid for the Viks. Unfortunately, the losses of Guede and Visockis hit hard. Aside from Waters, none of the players can be counted on to produce on a consistent basis, and they are dreadful free throw shooters. The Huskies have a very solid bench composed of potential future stars like Matthew Bryan-Amaning and Elston Turner as well as solid contributor Venoy Overton. The Huskies may not need much from their bench, but if they do, theyâ€™ll be ready.
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. Shutting down Brockman isnâ€™t a real possibility, so the Viks will need to focus on the things they can do — forcing bad shots by the guards, and taking advantage of the younger players. The Huskies donâ€™t shoot the 3 ball well or often, so forcing them to do that could get them out of their comfort zone. Even if the Viks have a perfect game, it will be tough for them to beat UW on the home floor.
Prediction: UW 78-67