San Jose State is one of eight teams in the Wooden Legacy tournament and its first game is against the Pac-12's Washington Huskies. The Huskies are currently undefeated at 3-0 and will be a stiff challenge for the Spartans. Since the season is still extremely early it is best to get to know this Washington basketball team by those who know this team the best. That is why we reached out UW Dawg Pound to give us the insight on this game.
Q. What are the expectations for Washington at this Wooden Legacy tournament, the field isn't amazing but some decent teams like Long Beach State, Xavier and UTEP?
1.I think most Husky fans are hoping the Huskies will be playing in the championship game on Sunday. If the Huskies are able get past the Spartans on Thursday, their second round matchup against either Western Michigan or Long Beach State looks like a very winnable game, putting the Huskies in a potential championship game matchup with Xavier on Sunday. Two wins would be seen as a good performance for the Huskies and anything less would be a huge disappointment.
Q. The season is still early, but what have been the bright spots for this Washington team?
A. The brightest spot for the Huskies so far through three games has been the play of their big men. Last year the Huskies lacked both an offensive and defensive presence in the paint, and this year they appear to have both. Senior Shawn Kemp Jr. has emerged as the leading scorer, averaging 15.7 points and scoring in double digits in all three games after doing so just four times as a junior. And Fresno State transfer Robert Upshaw recorded seven blocks in each of the UW's first two games, tying the school record for single game blocks. The UW's guard play has always been consistent with Lorenzo Romar as coach but the big men have provided a much needed boost through three games this season.
Q. Who are some key players San Jose State should look out for? Shawn Kemp, Jr. is a scorer and Nigel Williams-Goss seems to be a shutdown defender with already averaging a pair of steals a game?
A. Sophomore point guard Nigel Williams-Goss entered the season as the Huskies most high profile player, and through three games his stats look great-averaging 12.7 points, 5.7 rebounds and 6.3 assists per game- but I think many Husky fans will say they are looking for him to take his game to the next level. After leading all Pac-12 freshman in scoring and earning All-Pac-12 Freshman team honors a season ago, Williams-Goss put his name in the NBA draft before deciding to return for his sophomore season, and with many fans thinking he may leave after this year, they are expecting him to make great strides in all statistical categories.
As I mentioned earlier, Kemp Jr. has been the UW's best scoring threat, but has been a little bit of a surprise after averaging just 4.4 points during his junior year, which was hampered by Graves Disease. He had shown flashes of greatness during his first three years but was never able to play consistently, so it's nice to see Kemp Jr. putting it together so far during his senior season.
Q. What is the big man situation like for Washington? Overall rebounding is looking quite nice but the size of the team does not seem to be all that optimal, is that by design for this system?
A. As I mentioned earlier, Kemp Jr. and Upshaw have provided the Huskies solid contributions in the post on both ends of the court through three games. Fourth year junior Jernard Jarreau has returned to the starting lineup after suffering a torn ACL in the opening game of the season last year, but isn't quite back to full strength. When he is healthy he gives the Huskies another big who can score, rebound and defend. Outside of those three the Huskies don't have much depth and if they needed to would play a smaller lineup using a stretch-four.
Q. What is your prediction for this game?
A. Unfortunately I don't know much about the San Jose State, but I see they have struggled to score the ball so far this season and I think the UW's length both in the paint and on the perimeter could cause problems for the Spartans. I see the game playing close with the Huskies pulling away late. Give me UW 75-63.
Thanks for UW Dawg Pound for helping out with this preview, but they are being generous on the final score. The Spartans have struggled, so look for at least a double-digit win for the Huskies.
This game tips at 11 p.m. ET and can be seen on ESPN.