Wednesday, December 17th, 8:00pm, Pac-12 Networks.
Grambling State lost to Oregon State 71-43 on Monday to drop to 2-6 on the year. The lonely pair of wins came against Lyon College and Selma University. Every single loss has been a blowout. In terms of RPI, Grambling ranks 291st.
Meanwhile the Huskies are 8-0 and ranked 16th in the nation, 22nd in RPI. They've already come out slow against less-heralded programs on a few different occasions before working their way back to victory. So, even if Washington is a bit dismissive and Grambling jumps to an early lead, it would take quite the first-half hole to rule out a second half comeback.
GSU's likely starting five: G Chase Comier (So., 6-0, 175), G Remond Brown (So., 6-4, 200), F A'Torri Shine (Sr., 6-6, 202), F Mark Gray (Jr., 6-7), and F/C Kyle Williams (Fr., 6-9).
Shine is the only player that has been all that impressive statistically speaking. He is averaging 12.4ppg on 47% shooting (including 44% from deep) along with 2.8rpg. Mark Gray is next with 9.1ppg and a team-high 5.5rpg.
After that no one averages more than 6 points or 4 rebounds per contest. A few issues that stand out just from a glance at the stat sheet: no one averaging over 10 minutes per game is shooting over 20% from three-point range outside of Shine. No one averages more than .4 blocks, and that's Lonnie McElwain (Jr., 6-9), who comes off the bench.
As a team, Grambling has shot 35% from the floor, 25% from three-point range, and 63% from the charity stripe. The team average of .76 points per possession ranks 350th in the country. On the flip side, opponents are shooting 48% from the field, 38% from deep, and average 1.19 points per possession (348th).
There are no obvious strengths to brighten that picture. A rebound percentage of 45% (324th), a .48 assist to turnover ratio (349th), a 2.6 block percentage (342nd).
The numbers certainly look encouraging for Washington.
Even assuming he continues to come off the bench, Upshaw should get in his regularly scheduled blocks and dunks without much problem. No one on the roster even comes close to matching up with him in terms of physical size, let alone overall athleticism.
The big center will draw the ooh's and ah's, but I'm more interested to see if Shawn Kemp Jr. can get himself going against such a favorable matchup. He started the year red hot, but has recently tailed off, scoring a total of 15 points over the past four contests.
This is a prime opportunity to focus on feeding Kemp in the post. Not only does it make good sense against an undersized team, it would also allow Kemp to reestablish himself offensively before the big neutral-court showdown with #15 Oklahoma on Sunday.
While I wouldn't go so far as to suggest Romar try to force the action and run plays for him, it would also be nice to see Jernard Jarreau put together a complete game. He has started every game this season after missing last year with a torn ACL, but he is clearly still regaining his form coming off both a massive injury and significant off-season muscle gain.
A few other things to keep an eye on:
-Darin Johnson has generally looked half-asleep both as a freshman last season and through the start of this year. He possesses the size and athleticism to be a potent Pac-12 wing, but his game has lacked intensity and he's rarely seemed fully comfortable shooting or driving to the rim. He looked a bit better in the comeback over Eastern, so I'm hoping he can get a decent chunk of minutes to work with in this one.
-Williams-Goss is shooting 20% from three-point range after finishing last year at 36%. His jumper has never looked particularly good, but I don't believe such a low number is sustainable. Look for him to start to bounce back from long range. For the sake of his NBA stock, it's important that he shows a more reliable stroke.
-Free throws! Shooting from the charity stripe almost cost Washington the game against Eastern, and then in the second half it likely saved them. Most of all, I'd like to see Upshaw avoid spells of god-awful shooting like his 2-10 start versus Eastern. He recovered and shot acceptably in the second half, but he seemed visibly rattled at the line. It'd be nice to see him complete 60% or more in this contest, in which he figures to reach the line more than a few times.
Overall, I expect Washington to win easily. They are a better team in almost every measurable way, while Grambling State has yet to challenge a quality opponent.
Feel free to include your predictions in the comments.
Washington 78, Grambling State 52