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Diamond Head Classic Final: Houston Cougars Open Thread

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#21 Washington looks to take home the trophy in Honolulu

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Midwest Regional-Houston vs Kentucky Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

The Essentials

Date: Wednesday, 12/25/19

Tip-Off Time: 5:30 pm PT

TV: ESPN2

Radio: KOMO 1000

Streaming: Espn.com/watch

Location: Honolulu, Hawaii

Betting line: Pick’em

Houston 2019-20 Statistics:

Record: 9-3

Points For per Game: 77.3 ppg (46th)

Points Against per Game: 65.0 ppg (83rd)

Adjusted Offensive Efficiency: 110.6 (19th)

Adjusted Defensive Efficiency: 93.4 (61st)

Strength of Schedule: 148th overall

Houston Key Players:

F- Brison Gresham, Jr. 6’8, 230: 3.7 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 1.4 bpg, 67.7% FG, 25.0% FT

Gresham is your prototypical big who blocks shots and dunks and doesn’t do much of anything else. He only plays about 15 minutes per game because his aggressiveness going after blocks leads to him committing a ton of fouls. Still, when he’s in the game he’ll be Houston’s best chance of checking Isaiah Stewart and he has the potential to come up with put back slams when Washington is in zone.

F- Fabian White, Jr. 6’7, 230: 10.3 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 0.9 apg, 48.6% FG, 76.9% FT

Houston likes to play 4 guards around White as a small ball center since neither he nor Bryson have range out past the 3-point line. White has adjusted though and is comfortable attempting midrange jumpers so we may see him set up at the free throw line to try to punish UW’s zone from there. He’s at his best as a pick and pop player or as an offensive rebounder which is of course a major weakness for the Huskies.

G- Nate Hinton, so. 6’5, 210: 12.8 ppg, 9.3 rpg, 1.6 apg, 43.9% FG, 44.0% 3pt, 74.0% FT

Hinton’s been a star in his second season and the closest comp in his KenPom profile is Arizona’s Rawle Alkins. He’s one of the best rebounders for his size in the country and ranks 30th in the country in offensive efficiency. Hinton isn’t overly assertive and prefers to play the role of spot up shooter but he’s incredibly good as a vastly overqualified role player.

G- Quentin Grimes, So. 6’5, 205: 15.3 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 2.7 apg, 48.2% FG, 33.3% 3pt, 62.7% FT

Last year Grimes scored 21 points in Kansas’s season opening win over Michigan State and it looked like the 5-star would be a surefire one and done lottery pick. It was his best game with the Jayhawks and he was essentially forced off the team after the year before landing in Houston. He has been playing more like a 5-star this season as the team’s leading scorer and while he’s been only ok as a shooter he is deadly in transition or running the pick and roll. Grimes ranks in the 99th percentile as a P&R ball handler so Washington will need to be careful if/when they switch to man.

G- Dejon Jarreau, Jr. 6’5, 185: 8.8 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 3.7 apg, 40.1% FG, 17.6% 3pt, 77.1% FT

If this name is familiar it’s because Dejon is the cousin of former Husky Jernard Jarreau who was on his way to a solid career before tearing his ACL in the season opener of the 2014 season. Dejon is much smaller than his cousin but likes to bully his way to the basket and is extremely adept at drawing fouls. That’s good for him because he’s a a fairly abysmal shooter from any farther out than the free throw line. He’s the leading assist man for Houston but has struggled with turnovers at times which could play into Washington’s favor.

G- Caleb Mills, Fr. 6’3, 175: 11.8 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 1.2 apg, 41.1% FG, 35.4% 3pt, 68.8% FT

The redshirt freshman Mills has only started 3 games for Houston but is usually part of the closing lineup and is 5th on the team in minutes so I included him here. His season long numbers are fairly average as far as the percentages but he’s come on a bit as of late with at least 9 points in each of the past 5 games including at least a pair of 3-pointers in each.

2019-20 Houston Shot Chart

Synergy Sports

Houston has been much better shooting beyond the arc on the left side of the court so expect Naz Carter and Jamal Bey to be shaded to that side rather than Quade Green. Houston is more than happy to take midrange jumpers so the Huskies need to make sure they don’t get into an early rhythm against the zone like Tennessee did or else they might be in serious trouble.

The Outlook

Ever since the field for the Diamond Head Classic was announced it looked like this match-up was destined to happen and luckily that’s what we’re getting. Houston isn’t as good as the team that earned a #3 seed in the NCAA tournament last year but they will almost certainly end the season as a top-50 team and make this an opportunity for a quadrant 1 victory.

The Cougars have a ton of really good players in the 6’3 to 6’5 range and they prefer to put out four of them at the same time to spread out defenses and leave room for their undersized big man. That leaves two options for Washington. Either they roll with their normal zone lineup and hope that they can do a good enough job covering all 4 shooters along the perimeter. Or they go man-to-man and feel confident in their ability to switch 1-5 when Isaiah Stewart is in at center.

The odds are we’ll see a mix of both after they went primarily man against Ball State and entirely zone against Hawai’i. The issue which could force their hand is Houston’s prowess on the offensive glass. The Cougars are #2 in the country in offensive rebounding rate. That’s rough after the Huskies just gave up 19 offensive rebounds to Hawai’i. Four different Houston players average at least 2 offensive rebounds per game. If the Huskies are getting killed on the glass they may be more comfortable switching to man for a while especially when Elijah Hardy is in the game.

It’s not as important for the outcome of the game but it’s interesting that both teams rank in the top-10 nationally on offense at not getting their shots blocked and on defense in blocking opponents’ shots. If the Huskies are able to handily win the blocks battle it will be a sign that their size and athleticism are on a different level from what Houston is used to seeing.

Along those lines this Houston team has played a schedule that’s light on complete fluff but also is mostly missing premium competition. They’re 6-0 against teams ranked between 80-180 at KenPom and 0-3 against teams better than that including home losses to BYU and Oklahoma State (plus a road loss at Oregon). If Houston were to win this game it would be far and away their best win of the season and an extremely necessary one for a team that if the tournament was today would be on the bubble.

Despite playing a relatively undersized lineup (at least at the 4 and 5 spots) Houston has been extremely good with their interior defense. Their bigs are good at denying opposing centers the ball as they face less than 2 post-up attempts per game. The game may come down to whether Washington is able to reliably get the ball down low to Isaiah Stewart since it’s hard to imagine Houston being able to guard him without repeatedly fouling over the course of 15+ attempts.

The other key for the Washington offense will of course be taking care of the ball as they’ve had one stellar first half against Ball State and then 3 sloppy ones the rest of the time in Hawai’i. Houston is just 324th nationally in forcing turnovers so if Washington doesn’t beat themselves in that regard it’s unlikely that Houston will be able to create fast break opportunities from steals.

If Washington plays like they did against Hawai’i then they aren’t going to be able to beat Houston. Kelvin Sampson almost always pulls his guys the second they pick up their 2nd foul so UW needs to keep attacking inside early even if it’s tough sledding in order to get Houston’s primary bigs in foul trouble to open things up over the course of what would be the 2nd quarter. I think Washington’s talent is just slightly too much and the Huskies are able to pull out what should be a close contest throughout.

Prediction

Washington Huskies- 75, Houston Cougars-73

*****

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