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What to Watch: Seattle vs. WSU

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The Redhawks come to the Palouse and the Cougs look to continue their solid start to the season.

NCAA Basketball: Seattle at California Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

WSU is set to host the Seattle Redhawks on Friday night (7 p.m., Pac-12 Network) and it should be a notably different challenge than Alcorn State was. The Redhawks are in the midst of a sudden coaching change, but they have handled it well thus far. They also beat Alcorn State this week in a close 69-66 matchup that came down to the last shot.

The Cougs are coming off of a good, if ugly, win against Alcorn State and it will be good for them to play against a team like Seattle. Seattle offers a completely different challenge than Alcorn State. Alcorn junked everything up with presses and blitzes and used their athleticism to make things difficult for the Cougs. Seattle is a team full of skilled guards and shooters and they win by spreading the floor and executing well.

Seattle Redhawks

Offense

Synergy Seattle Offensive Efficiency

The Redhawks are a team that thrives with their shooting and playmaking from all five spots on the floor. They like to free up their guards and wings for open shots and run plays meant to create horizontal space rather than vertical space. They know they are not going to win with athleticism, they instead win with execution.

Their go-to play is a horns set, where the two bigs stand at the elbow and act as either screeners or playmakers. The first option out of this is generally a double screen for a guard who will catch on the left wing and look to attack from there.

The other option is a pass into one of the elbows, where a potential dribble hand-off can be run or the big can attempt to playmake to a cutter or shooter.

If the horns set doesn’t work, they are more than willing to run a simple 4 out ball-screen where the guard is gifted the keys to the offense and generally told to go score.

They also run a lot of Dribble hand-offs. These are sometimes straight up DHO’s between a guard and a big, and sometimes it is a continuous DHO, where the bigs are always in vicinity of each other and the guards are always moving around them.

They also run some guard-guard screens, hoping to get soft switches or lazy doubles that they can exploit with their shooting.

One of these plays was run to get them the game winning shot against Alcorn State. The screening guard sets a blur, both defensive players went with the ball-handler, and they created an open look.

Defense

Synergy Seattle Defensive Efficiency

Seattle U runs a very basic defensive scheme. They are pretty much always in man but with the occasional 2-3 zone thrown in to muck things up. They are a fundamentally sound team, but also one that plays a conservative defensive style.

The bigs are always either icing or soft hedging screens up top, with the goal of returning to the screener. The Redhawks are content with to let opposing guards beat them in one-on-one scenarios. They will do switches late in the shot-clock, but they are mostly playing straight up.

They will almost always hard hedge baseline ball screens to keep the play central and funnel things to their competent rim protectors.

The Seattle defense sometimes struggles due to this overly conservative scheme and opposing guards can take advantage. Here, the obvious move is to trap a guard in a bad spot, but Chatfield returns to his man and opens up a lane for a shot.

The Seattle defense is far from stifling and the WSU guards should get plenty of 1-on-1 looks to work with. They are almost certain to struggle with the Cougs’ athleticism and spacing and it should be a good game for the WSU offense.

Players to Watch

Cameron Tyson is a transfer from Houston who can really score. The 6-foot-2 guard hit the game winning shot against Alcorn State and has proven he can play at a high-major level. The jumper is clean and he creates a lot of space with his handle. He should be a good challenge for our guards to defend.

Riley Grigsby is a 6-foot-6 wing/forward and one of the few players on the Redhawks who might be playing pro-ball after this season. He can really defend and will give fits to whoever is trying to score on him and he a solid all-around offensive player.

Kobe Williamson is not the player you’d expect from a mullet sporting, mustachioed red-head, but he is vital for Seattle nonetheless. He is a great defensive big and handles post-ups really well. He was a big reason they were in the 58th percentile when guarding in the post despite the lack of size. He can also block some shots, space the floor, and pass from the elbow.

Darion Trammell is the Redhawks’ point guard and he really does it all. He averaged 20 points and 5 assists per game last year and he adjusted well to having another guard in the rotation against Alcorn State. Trammell is a jitterbug point guard who can really score and pass and makes a lot of the Seattle offense work.

This last one is less for his play on the floor and more just for fun. As Cougs, we always root for fellow Cougs and big-man Brandton Chatfield transferred from WSU to Seattle over the offseason. He didn’t play much with the Cougs, but he is an important bench piece for the Redhawks and we all are rooting for him to succeed there.

Washington State Cougars

Players to Watch

Jefferson Koulibaly had a surprising game against Alcorn State, bringing a lot of energy off the bench. The jumper is almost certain to wax and wane, but he is an athletic guard that does a lot on both ends. Hopefully the redshirt freshman gets to cement his rotation role in this game, where he should be able to attack downhill against shaky defensive bigs.

This might be the breakout game for Mouhamed Gueye. He is still raw and predicting a freshman to blow up in their second game is always tough, but he has a major athletic advantage against the Redhawks and he could really open things up for himself. He had some small flashes against Alcorn State, but Seattle could be the team he really spreads his wings against.

Andrej Jakimovski had his moments against Alcorn State on Tuesday, but he continued his rough finishing and iffy turnovers. Against a team like Seattle, he will not be at the athletic deficit he is on so many other teams. He needs to slow himself down and take advantage of his court mapping to make plays for others.

What to Watch For

The rotations are still something to monitor in this game. Koulibaly gave a real case for being a third guard in the rotation against Alcorn State, but he will have to remain consistent to hold that spot. The wing rotation still remains up in the air and there are some players who could start to separate themselves here.

The offensive scheme for the Cougs should look a bit more normal here. Alcorn State really mucked things up and it hurt some of the sets Kyle Smith could run. Against a team like Seattle, WSU should be able to focus on execution and we can get a better look at the sets they will run.

The final thing to watch for is just how well each guard can run a pick-and-roll. Alcorn State played a scheme that made running straight pick and rolls virtually impossible, but it should open up more against the Redhawks. Which guards focus on getting to their shots, which ones have the touch on lobs or finding the posting bigs, and which can really get downhill to create rotation in the defense will all be important things to monitor for the Cougs’ offense.

Question of the Game

Will the Cougs shoot over 40% from three?