Washington Women’s basketball is back in action this weekend.
Coach Tina Langley is facing a new challenge this season at the University of Washington by taking over a program that has been in the dark for years; and Langley needs to make a good on-court impression quickly.
However, the Huskies face a mixed bag of nonconference opponents that will challenge the program in multiple ways, next up: LOUISVILLE (No. 20) @ 2PM.
Washington’s third game of the regular season will come against perennial national title contender Louisville this Saturday afternoon.
Last season, the Louisville Cardinal, led by coach Jeff Walz in his 15th season, had a 26-4 record overall and finished 14-2 in the ACC (1st place),
Walz is an elite Power Five coach and makes a very challenging coaching matchup for the new Huskies head coach Tina Langley.
However, the challenge Walz presents is less of a challenge than Washington facing Stanford’s Tara Van Deveer twice a year, so this will be a good litmus test.
The Cardinals began the 2021-22 season with a neutral site loss to the Wildcats.
Of course, the underlying reason for Louisville’s visit to Seattle is the return of former Washington high school star Hailey Van Lith.
After star guard Dana Evans declared for the WNBA Draft, the Louisville women’s basketball program is looking to reload after a great 2020-21 season.
Expect Offensive Fireworks From Louisville
Unfortunately, Washington faces a Cardinal team looking to bounce back from a disappointing loss to Arizona on the road.
Against Arizona, Louisville was cold shooting from outside the three-point arc. As a team, Louisville only shot 18% from three-point range; while offensive leader
Van Lith only shot 0-for-4 from three-point range.
Lith is only averaging 35.7% from the field overall and 9% from three-point range, so she is overdue for a breakout game.
However, Louisville’s leading returning scorer from last season is 6’0″ Kianna Williams (11.4 points per game last year, just edging out Van Lith’s 11.2 ppg).
Against Arizona, Williams only shot 33% from the field overall, so she is also due for a breakout game.
Two transfers, Emily Engstler from Syracuse (2 points versus Arizona) and Chelsie Hall from Vanderbilt (12 points vs. Arizona) are also expected to both bring more scoring to the Cardinal offense.
Smother & Bully
Expect Louisville to be very aggressive on the defensive end of the floor.
To be blunt, the Cardinals will attempt to smother the Huskies with defensive pressure.
Last season, Louisville switched all screens 1 – 4 during the NCAA tournament.
This could be a huge problem for the Huskies who have struggled against pressure this season and are averaging 30 turnovers(!) per game.
Also, expect Louisville to use its size to attempt to bully the Dawgs.
The Cardinals will likely use their size and strength to bully the Huskies inside.
This will be Husky center Nancy Mulkey’s biggest test to date, maybe of her entire career.
Louisville’s 6’3″ Olivia Cochran and 6’5″Liz Dixon led the team in rebounding last year ( Cochran averaged 6.9 boards, while Dixon had 5.4 per game).
Scoring-wise Cochran was the fourth-leading Cardinal scorer with 9.9 ppg and Dixon was fifth at 7.6.
In addition, Syracuse freshmen 6’5″Sydni Shetnan adds a lot of size as well.
Prediction: Louisville but by How Much?
The Huskies average 64.5 points per game, while the Cardinal average 67.7 points per game.
However, Washington’s defense allows 58 points per game, while Louisville’s defense only allows 38.7 (second best defense total in the nation).
A drastic difference because the Cardinal’s average net margin is 29 points (22nd in nation); while UW’s average net margin is only 6.5 points (118th in the nation).
Realistically, Washington has a less than 10% chance of beating Louisville, but there is a small chance.
For the Huskies to win, they must control the boards, take care of the ball (low turnovers) and control the tempo on offense, while taking advantage of occasional fastbreak opportunities.
Make no mistake, a perfect game will be required.
The real question is whether the Huskies can be competitive for the majority of the game.
A blowout loss at home(e.g., losing by 30 points) is not acceptable.