OOD GAME TRAVELS
It was first reported by Jon Rothstein that the University of Washington Men’s Basketball team will face Tennessee in Toronto at Scotiabank Arena, the home of the Toronto Raptors.
Sources: Tennessee will play Washington, Rutgers will face St. Bonaventure, and Harvard will face Buffalo in a tripleheader at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto on November 16th.
— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) May 28, 2019
“We’re very excited to face Tennessee at the James Naismith Classic in Toronto,” said head coach Mike Hopkins. “As a program, we have prided ourselves in building a strong non-conference schedule and this event is exactly on par with that mindset. Tennessee is a great program and bringing NCAA basketball to Toronto is going to be a fantastic experience. They have amazing basketball fans there and we’re looking forward to being a part of this event.”
The inaugural James Naismith Classic is a one-day tripleheader on November 16th that features two other contests that look like the undercard to the Washington vs. Tennessee main event — Rutgers vs. St. Bonaventure and Buffalo vs. Harvard.
Tickets for the James Naismith Classic went on sale to the general public on Friday, May 31st via all Ticketmaster locations and the Scotiabank Arena box office.
By the time the Washington Huskies head for Toronto, this new version of the Huskies roster should be well-tested early from playing four games during their August 2019 trip to Italy against Italian Series A teams.
EBUILDING OR RELOADING?
However, the bad news for the Volunteers is their loss of two key players to the NBA Draft, point guard Jordan Bone and forward Grant Williams, as well as the loss of seniors Admiral Schofield and Kyle Alexander.
How big of a blow is this to the Tennessee program? Well, that’s 4 of 5 Vols starters gone from last year that accounted for its top 3 scorers and top 3 rebounders.
The Volunteers’ cupboard won’t be entirely bare next season, as Barnes signed 2019 McDonald’s All-American 5-star point guard Josiah James and 4-star Olivier Robinson-Nkamhoua.
Another development to keep an eye on, Tennessee is seeking a waiver for 7-foot Arizona State transfer Uros Plavsic. If the waiver is successful, the Huskies should expect to get a heavy dose of Plavsic in Toronto.
NHERIT THE OFFENSE
Last season, the Volunteers ran one the nation’s most efficient offenses, ranking 3rd in adjusted offensive efficiency — 122.7 points scored per 100 possessions (adjusted for opponent) — per KenPom.com.
As a result, Rick Barnes’ Volunteers had a 19-game win streak, the school’s longest win streak ever; won the regular season SEC title; were ranked No. 1 nationally for multiple weeks; and earned a No. 2 seed in the 2019 NCAA Tournament.
Although the Volunteers will look to push tempo and find early opportunities, in half-court situations Tennessee runs a highly efficient version of the Davidson Motion Offense, a (mostly) 4-out 1-in continuity offense that can be used to attack the middle of a defense.
If it is possible that the inexperienced Volunteers can run this offense effectively by their November matchup with Washington, it could seriously test the defensive awareness of the young Huskies.
CLASH OF THE 5-STARS?
Although Tennessee will return two senior guards that saw significant minutes last season, Lamonte Turner and Jordan Bowden, expect the 6’6″ freshman PG Josiah James to play big minutes against the Huskies either at point guard or off the ball.
Josiah James Highlights
The Huskies will hopefully secure themselves an NCAA transfer eligibility waiver by November for Quade Green, their former 5-star point guard and transfer from Kentucky.
If eligible, it would setup a fast-paced point guard matchup between Green and the Vols’ James that may be worth the price of admission alone.
However, if the Huskies’ Green is ineligible for the Naismith Classic, expect the Huskies to play at a more deliberate pace and not engage in a track meet against young James and the Vols.
With an inexperienced point guard filling in for Green, expect the Huskies to focus more on execution of their half-court offense against Tennessee’s inexperienced frontcourt roster, either by attacking the lane off-the-dribble or with post-up actions.
You would expect the Huskies own 5-star super frosh, Isaiah Stewart and Jaden McDaniels, to have their way inside against the lesser talented Volunteers.
Although, it will be an interesting challenge for Coach Hop and staff to game plan how best to use Washington’s two national top ten recruits without an experienced point guard.
Facing a team in rebuilding mode after a great season will be a good test for the Huskies. It will be a good early test of their ability to play with the intensity they will need to go far and meet next season’s high expectations of postseason success.
Ultimately, Washington should beat Tennessee, add a solid nonconference win to their resume, and give a nice boost to UW’s NET (NCAA Evaluation Tool) ranking.