Beach's Bits - SJSU Preview

The Washington Huskies are finally catching up. After losing their first week of practice to the flu, the 3-0 Huskies are finally back to full strength after a stellar opening weekend of games by winning the Athletes in Action Basketball Classic. Friday night's opponent, the 1-0 San Jose Spartans, are a potentially tough match-up. They are led by UW transfer Adrian Oliver.

A former top-50 recruit nationally, Oliver never adjusted to life at Washington, transferring early during his sophomore campaign. After becoming eligible a month into this past season, Oliver quickly made his mark for the Spartans, averaging 17.1 points a game during an injury plagued season. Finally healthy now, Oliver leads a lineup that features four returning starters, including All-Conference preseason pick, C.J. Webster.

Webster is a bruising 6-foot-9, 255-pound Texan who averaged 12 points and 6.5 rebounds a year ago. He'll be joined up front by fifth-year senior Chris Oakes, a 6-foot-10, 235-pound center who averaged 8.2 points and 7.6 rebounds per game last year.

The biggest thing that stands out about the Spartans is their size, and not just up front. The Spartan backcourt averages 6-foot-4, and head coach George Nessman has pinned much of the season's hopes on the development of standout freshman Chris Jones, who was also recruited by Miami and Nevada. When paired with Oliver and guard Justin Graham, the trio makes for an imposing group of players that will require constant attention from Washington's defenders.

Oliver's emergence as a top player is no surprise, but as far as the playmaking goes, the Modesto, Calif. junior has a ways to go. Oliver continues to be a turnover machine. He averaged 3.7 miscues last season and coughed up seven more in the Spartans' season-opening win over William Jessup, an NAIA school. Oliver isn't alone in his turnover travails either. Justin Graham equaled Oliver's penchant for turning the ball over last season, which neutralized much of the Spartans' potential. As big as The Spartans are, Washington can go even bigger should they choose, with Scott Suggs, Elston Turner and Justin Holiday.

The Spartans will run into a hornet's nest of pressure on Friday, the likes of which they haven't faced since a New Year's Eve matchup against Duke in 2007. While Washington lacks their opponents' size in the front court, they have a massive advantage athletically, and the Spartans will be hard-pressed to keep up with the quicker Huskies. Expect Washington to defend the error-prone Spartans mercilessly, while pushing the tempo at every opportunity and encouraging SJSU to try and keep pace.

Like most mid-majors, San Jose State's roster is top-heavy. With little depth on the bench, Washington will do everything they can do to exploit that. As usual, the Husky guards will attack the basket at every opportunity and coerce Webster and Oakes into fouling. Oakes in particular is a personal foul magnet, fouling out of four games last season and earning four or more fouls 10 times. Webster, who struggles with his conditioning, wasn't much better in the foul department, and they'll have their hands full staying in the game.

The Huskies won't need to concern themselves with SJSU's 3-point shooting either. The Spartans were one of the worst outside shooting teams in the country last year, and that isn't likely to improve that much this season.

On paper, San Jose State has the potential to give the Huskies problems, at least for the time it takes Washington to adjust to their size. At some point though, probably in the latter part of the first half, the Spartans will tire out and wilt under the Huskies' constant pressure. Teams that turn the ball over are susceptible to opponent scoring runs. Against the Huskies, that's a death sentence.

Washington should win this one in a rout.


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