The Oklahoma Sooners return to Lon Kruger's old stomping grounds to participate in the MGM Showcase. At a neutral site, the No. 15 ranked Sooners take on the No. 16 ranked Washington Huskies. We decided to cross into enemy territory in order to secure a Q&A with SBNation's UW Dawg Pound and Erik Erickson. Here is the result...
CCM - After a 17-15 finish while missing the NCAA Tournament a year ago, what are some realistic expectations for the Washington Huskies this season?
EE - Heading into the year I think there were a lot of mixed predictions about this team because they were one of the biggest unknowns of the Pac-12. The Huskies lost their leading scorer in C.J. Wilcox to the NBA, and the only returning player who fans really could count on was Nigel Williams-Goss. Nobody knew if Robert Upshaw would be on the team or what he was capable of, or whether Shawn Kemp Jr. or Jernard Jarreau would bounce back from injury filled seasons. Now that the team is 9-0, I think Husky fans are starting to jump back on the bandwagon and are hoping this team will end the program's three year NCAA tournament draught.
CCM - Oklahoma may look undersized on paper but Lon Kruger likes to stretch the floor with Ryan Spangler playing around the perimeter. Currently the forward is 7-of-12 from behind the arc but lacks the ability to create for himself off the dribble. Will UW force him off the perimeter or dare him to shoot?
EE - I think the Huskies will try to throw a few different looks at Spangler to try and limit his game. At the beginning I expect him to be guarded by Jernard Jarreau, who should be quick enough to stay in front of Spangler and long enough (he is 6-11) to have a hand in his face if he tries to shoot from the outside. If that doesn't work I would think they would put Mike Anderson on him, who is only 6-5 but has a 6-11 wingspan and is probably the UW's best perimeter defender. Lorenzo Romar has also shown he isn't afraid to go into the 2-3 zone this year and it has worked wonders for the Huskies. Even against teams like Eastern Washington that are known for its 3-point shooting the Huskies have enough length to contest every shot.
CCM - One of the biggest struggles last season for the Huskies remained the defense. Allowing opponents to shoot a league worst 47.5% from the field in 2013-14, is this a team capable of shutting down the likes of Buddy Hield and TaShawn Thomas?
EE - The Huskies were a terrible defensive team last year but this year it's a completely different story on that end of the court. Currently the Huskies rank 4th in the nation in opponents field goal percentage and have turned defense into the staple of their team. Robert Upshaw, a transfer from Fresno State who sat out last season, leads the country in shots blocked per game and just may be the best defensive player in the nation. He gives the Huskies a strong backbone and even if the guards get beat, they know Upshaw can clean up the mess.
CCM - Losing a scorer like C.J. Wilcox can be detrimental. Who has stepped up to fill the void in his absence?
EE - The Huskies currently have four players scoring in double-digits but their best offensive player is Nigel Williams-Goss. Williams-Goss led all Pac-12 freshman in scoring and assists last year, and is doing a little bit of everything this season, currently averaging 14.6 points, 6.9 assists and 5.4 rebounds. Sooner fans will quickly find out that Williams-Goss has one of the best floaters in the nation that he uses almost anytime he gets into the paint. He has struggled from behind the arc but has come up with some clutch shots from downtown so far this season. His backcourt mate, Andrew Andrews (13.6 ppg), is the UW's most consistent threat from outside and has no hesitation firing from any spot on the court.
CCM - What one stat (aside from scoring) most affects the outcome of this game? Give us your score prediction.
EE - I think will decide this game is 3-pointers made. The Huskies have struggled to shoot the ball from the outside this season and will need at least one or two players to step up and knock some perimeter shots down on Saturday if they want to beat the Sooners. Buddy Hield, Isaiah Cousins and Ryan Spangler have all shown they can shoot the 3-pointer and if the Huskies aren't able to contest the outside the Sooners could easily run away from this one.
Prediction- UW 84, Oklahoma 80
The matchup is set to tip off tonight at 8:00 PM CST and can be found on ESPNU.