After pulling together at halftime (when we were down 44-35) and outscoring the Racers 47-19 in the second half, the Vols chalked up win number 2 on the young 2019-2020 Basketball season by defeating Murray State 82-63. We learned a little bit more about this team- something I believe we will be able to say after each game until the tip-off of conference play. With our first BIG test coming up this weekend with a match-up against the Washington Huskies in Toronto (5:00 p.m., ESPN+, VolRadioNetwork), let’s take a gander at who we are playing, what we can look for against the Huskies, and what the Vols need to brush up on prior to the game.
School: University of Washington
Location: Seattle, Washington
Coach: Mike Hopkins (3rd Season)
2018-2019 Record: 27-9 (15-3 PAC-12)
Notable Alumnus: Ted Bundy- I am not going to go into too much detail here. Look on your streaming service for one of many docudramas about him. I just want you to have the knowledge that the Ted Bundy was a proud alum of U-Dub (1977) and a pretty big Huskies supporter before any Washington fan tries to come at you with anything negative. [In all honesty, MY personal choice was Irv Robbins, nominal latter half of ice cream mega-chain Baskin-Robbins, who graduated in 1939]. Ice Cream > Ted Bundy.
How the Huskies Hoop
Washington is led by a back-to-back PAC-12 Conference coach of the year, Mike Hopkins. Hopkins pulled together quite the recruiting class for 2019, which featured 2 of the top ten players in the country (per 247) Isaiah Stewart and Jaden McDaniels, both big-men, and former University of Kentucky Point Guard Quade Green.
In their 2 games so far, the three players previously mentioned have combined for over 50% of the team’s rebounds (51%), assists (65%), and points (50%). That should tell you that the machine operates with them as the main cogs. Green isn’t one (from his time at U.K., and through two, at U-Dub) to beat you with his scoring, but does get a lot of other players involved and can quickly pile up some assists. His weakness? (and Washington’s as a whole?) Turnovers. Green boasts a less-than-impressive career Assist-to-Turnover ratio of 1.5:1, and the Huskies have already amassed 35 turnovers on the young season.
As for the front court play of the new twin-towers in Seattle, it is a little more crisp. The two newcomers down low have put together the following stat lines. Note, this is only through their first two games (vs. #24 Baylor and vs. Mount St. Mary’s), but quick starts like this by freshman are usually pretty good signs:
- Isaiah Stewart: 31 points (15.5 avg) [60%], 12 rebounds (6.0 avg), 8 blocks (4.0 avg)
- Jaden McDaniels: 23 points (11.5 avg) [36.8%], 13 rebounds (6.5 avg), 2 blocks (1.0 avg)
The combined post presence image that these stats should conjure in Vols’ fans minds should really scare us. These boys are athletic and long, and have the potential to get us in trouble quickly.
Our Inside Game
Our game against Murray State was not pretty, but we won, and made runs when it mattered. We found some things out about our team though. First, John Fulkerson and Olivier Nkamhoua need to be on the court in some combination for as many minutes as possible. Those are our only front court presences, and especially up against a team like Washington, we need as much production as we can muster from the maxed-potential Fulkerson and the yet-unknown Nkamhoua.
Secondly, Yves Pons and Jordan Bowden are going to be scoring options 1a and 1b this season. Pons looks like he has flipped a switch, with little hesitation coming when he shoots and still a force to be reckoned with in the paint. His athleticism and newfound offensive game, should it remain steady this year, make him a dangerous player on either end of the floor. Also, the aggressive play of Jordan Bowden was comforting to see. We all know he has the talent, but he has always seemed a little timid on the floor. In crunch time against Murray State, we saw a man who wasn’t going to let his team lose. If he can continue an assertive style of play and produce, the team as a whole will be well served.
Turner and James (not Hooch)
Lastly, I think that Lamonte Turner is much better as a distributor than score-first point guard. It will be interesting to see the approach Barnes takes with Turner, who has no shortage of big-time shots on his resume. It will also be interesting to see how Turner responds. That being said, after a 14 assist with 0 turnovers evening against the Racers on Tuesday, I think he has seen how much of a difference he could make there. One more thing I want to point out is Josiah-Jordan James’ play. I think people forget that the exhibition game against Eastern New Mexico was the first time he and the rest of the team had all been on the floor together due to an injury. He is loaded with talent, seems lost right now and is terribly frustrating, but we’ll see more of him as the season goes along and be happy with what we see.
Final Prediction/The Sign Off
Again, I am sticking with my preseason prediction, which has served me well through two games (2-0). I believe the Huskies just have too much down-low and just enough on the perimeter to really make it a tough match-up for Tennessee. Look for both Stewart and McDaniels to have big games for the Huskies. We will also get to see how our put-together front-court shows up against top-rated talent. I believe it is a low scoring game, 60-52 in favor of the boys from Seattle. I hope I am wrong!
Thanks for taking the time to read this article. As this team begins to take its shape (and next year’s does, as well) be sure to come back to check for previews on each game. Also, for minute to minute coverage of all sports on The Hill, be sure to check out MoreImportantIssues’ articles and podcasts on a variety of platforms, including Twitter (@More_Issues) and iTunes!
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