#16 Washington (9-0) vs. #15 Oklahoma (7-2), Saturday 6:00pm, ESPNU.
The Huskies have somehow managed to run through the vast majority of the non-conference schedule undefeated. Out of those nine games, only the victory over ranked San Diego State qualifies as a particularly impressive resume piece.
Enter this Oklahoma team, a high-quality opponent that will face Washington on a neutral Las Vegas court. Depending on your opinion of SDSU, the Sooners may be the toughest opponent on UW's non-conference slate. With only games against Tulane and Stony Brook to follow, a win here most likely means entering Pac-12 play undefeated at 12-0.
Oklahoma has beaten solid teams like UCLA (75-65), Butler (59-46) and Missouri (82-63). The two losses were suffered at the hands of Creighton (65-63) and more recently #2 Wisconsin (69-59).
Projected starting lineup: G Justin Woodard (So., 6-0, 189), G Buddy Hield (Jr., 6-4, 212), G Isaiah Cousins (Jr., 6-4, 192), F TaShawn Thomas (Sr., 6-8, 242), F Ryan Spangler (Jr., 6-8, 235).
Look for G Frank Booker (So., 6-4, 193), GDinjiyl Walker (Jr., 6-1, 197), F Khadeem Lattin (Fr., 6-9, 201), and F D.J Bennett (Sr., 6-8, 202) to fill out the rotation.
Woodard runs the offense. He averages 7.9ppg, 4.0rpg, and 5.0apg. The stat-stuffing numbers look nice, but the young point guard is also turning the ball over 2.9 times per game and shooting 30% from the field, including 5.6% from three-point range.
Hield is Oklahoma's leading scorer at 16.0ppg (along with 5.0rpg and 2.0apg) on 38% shooting from the field and 36% from deep. Cousins is right behind him at 13.3ppg on more impressive 47% shooting from the field and 45% from beyond the arc.
TaShawn Thomas is the best shot-blocker on the roster (1.8bpg), and he's chipping in an efficient 10.0ppg and 5.0rpg while shooting 58% from the field. His 2.3 turnovers per game seem a little overboard for a big man.
His frontcourt mate Spangler also scores 10ppg while leading the team in rebounding (8.4rpg). He is also shooting a preposterous 64% from the field.
Overall, this is a pretty classically constructed starting five. A true point guard, two scoring wings, and two athletic posts, one the stronger shot blocker and the other the stronger rebounder.
Taking a look at team stats, the Sooners do not dominate in any one category. They rank outside the top-50 in almost every offensive or defensive category.
Yet, they have won three in a row since losing to #2 Wisconsin, winning by 20+ each time. Losing competitively to the #2 in the nation and falling by two points to Creighton remain the only two minor blemishes on the 7-2 record. Oklahoma has earned the #15 record so far.
Washington's greatest advantage is, of course, size. Assuming Upshaw will still come in off the bench, UW will still matchup fine in the frontcourt with the 6-10, 240-pound Jernard Jarreau and 6-9, 260-pound Shawn Kemp Jr. compared to Spangler and Thomas, who are both 6-8.
Robert Upshaw will once again tower over every other post on the floor once he checks in, and the Huskies will continue to rely on him as a defensive anchor and oop-finishing monster. I doubt that Romar intends to switch the starting five right now, but I do think Upshaw will need to play more than his average 18 minutes against a team of this quality.
However, he cannot play 40 minutes, so we need to see more out of Jarreau and Kemp, especially on offense, than we have seen the past few weeks. If I'm Romar, my worst fear is that Oklahoma jumps out to a big lead early before Upshaw ever checks in.
NWG, 6-4, should have a pronounced match-up advantage over 6-0 Woodard. Woodard's awful shooting will allow Williams-Goss to focus on playing passing lanes, while on the other end his edge in height and weight should help him score inside with relative ease. We've seen NWG post up a little more often this year, and with this match-up it seems like a natural choice.
Overall, I expect that Washington's superior defense will narrowly carry it through. I trust that NWG, Andrews, and Anderson can harass the Oklahoma back court enough to force turnovers and limit open jumpers, while Upshaw should almost single-highhandedly hut down the paint, if not through actual blocks than by altering shots with his mere presence.
If I'm right, the Huskies could jump as far as #10 in next week's poll. If I'm wrong, the Huskies will still in all likelihood enter Pac-12 play with a single loss to a top-15 program.
Feel free to share your predictions below.
Washington 69, Oklahoma 64