Washington Huskies (7-2) vs. Oakland Golden Grizzlies (6-3), Saturday December 9th 1:30pm, Pac-12 Networks.
After witnessing the Huskies dismantle a Montana team that had just taken the Zags down to the wire in Spokane, I am officially finished doubting their ability to beat on inferior teams. Since returning from a rough tournament in the Bahamas, Washington is 3-0: 87-69 over Cal State Fullerton, 92-67 over TCU, and 92-62 over Montana.
Despite sporting a winning record, Oakland does not appear to be a particularly good basketball team, speaking relatively. Wins over teams like Eastern Michigan, Toledo, Robert Morris, and Alcorn State fail to jump off the schedule. Losses to Georgia, Southern Illinois, and Colorado State are understandable, yet those three foes are hardly power programs.
Projected Starting Five: G Kahlil Felder (Jr., 5-9, 180), G Sherron Dorsey-Walker (Jr., 6-4, 200), G Nick Daniels (So., 6-1, 200), F Jalen Hayes (So., 6-7, 200), C Percy Gibson (Sr., 6-9, 260).
Key Bench Players: G Max Hooper (Sr., 6-6, 206), F Xavier Hill-Mais (Fr., 6-7, 240), C Brad Brechting (Fr., 6-11, 220).
As you can see, Oakland plays a very short rotation. Over the past two games, Hooper has played starters minutes off the bench, with Hill-Mais chipping in around 10 minutes and Brechting barely seeing the court.
Given the way officials have called fouls and just how well Huskies like Andrew Andrews have been able to draw contact, I suspect foul trouble will force more than what has amounted to a seven-man rotation.
Overall, this team is completely dependent on the insane production of Kahlil Felder. The Isaiah Thomas-sized point guard averages 24.6 points on 44% shooting (inducing 40% from deep) to go along with 8.9 assists compared to 3.7 turnovers.
He can score from anywhere, including 40% accuracy from beyond the arc and 88% free throw shooting on an average of 8.5 attempts. He leads the team with 1.8 steals and chips in 4.6 boards on any given night.
Felder is complimented by Percy Gibson, as the big senior has contributed 15.9 points and 8.6 rebounds, both good for second on the team. Gibson doesn't shoot many free throws and has yet to attempt a deep jumper this season, so expect all of his production to come from down in the post.
Gibson is joined in the post by forward Jalen Hayes. It has been a very encouraging start for the freshman, as he's already averaging efficient double-digit scoring (11.6 points) and 6.4 rebounds.
Dorsey-Walker is a 6-4 guard that has somehow almost managed to average a double-double, falling just shy so far at 10.4 points and a team-high 9.0 rebounds.
Despite starting, Nick Daniels has really struggled, averaging 4.9 points on ugly 25% shooting. Given his limited offensive contributions, one would hope he is a plus defender.
Startlingly, the first man off the bench, Max Hooper, has failed to attempt a single two-point field goal. He has, however, jacked up a team-high 80 three-pointers for an average of 8.9 attempts. Why is this acceptable behavior? He's converting them at a 46% clip.
Please, Huskies, rotate over and keep a hand in the face of Max Hooper...firing off deep jumpers is literally his entire plan.
Overall, this seems like a really fun team. They have a diminutive star point guard scoring and feeding teammates, a guard that boards like a center, a couple of productive post scorers, and a sixth man that is only capable of splashing jumpers.
If I attended Oakland U, I'm sure I would enjoy watching them dazzle against Horizon League competition once league play starts up. Against Washington, I don't think they will do much dazzling.
First off, I suspect Washington's length will really trouble Felder. UW isn't a particularly big team on paper, but I'm willing to wager that if you measured wingspan instead of height, the Huskies would come out well above average between guys like Murray, Thybulle, Chriss, and Dime.
Not only will it be tougher than usual for Felder to get off shots against Andrews' physicality and Murray's length, the passing lanes will be clogged as well.
Hayes will be undersized against this roster, while big Percy Gibson will have to deal with Noah Dickerson, only to have him sub out for shot-blocking expert Malik Dime.
Oakland can shoot, but the Huskies have held opponents to 27% shooting from beyond the arc. They have solid rebounders, but Washington's opponents rank 216th in total rebounds.
I can't shake the fear that the Huskies will finally struggle now that I've grown a bit flippant about non-conference opponents, but in all honesty I expect that the walk-ons will see some more court time late in the second half of this one.
Note: This school is not located in Oakland, CA. Perhaps you all know this and I'm just a fool for not realizing until halfway through this preview. It is located in Michigan and actually began as part of the Michigan State University system. Probably should have noticed when they were members of the Horizon League. The more you know!
Prediction: Washington 91, Oakland 64