Washington State hosts Seattle U as both teams look for a 2-0 start.
Washington State men’s basketball continues its non-conference slate when it hosts the Seattle Redhawks on Friday night (7 pm PT, Pac-12 Networks) inside Beasley Coliseum. Both teams are coming off season-opening wins over Alcorn State, making this the championship game of the Washington State-Alcorn-Seattle Round Robin Classic.
Seattle escaped late against Alcorn with a game-winning 3-pointer, while WSU cruised in its opener. The Redhawks have faced head-coaching drama this season, as head coach Jim Hayford resigned after using a racial slur in practice. Former assistant Chris Victor is now serving as the interim head coach.
With that grain of salt, let’s look at the players and trends that might impact the Cougs vs. Redhawks.
When Seattle has the ball…
Sophomore point guard Darrion Trammell runs the show for Seattle. He played more than 90% of available minutes as a freshman and has demonstrated the ability to penetrate and find teammates or draw fouls and get to the line. Trammell is also a solid 3-point shooter, hitting on 36% of his 119 attempts last season.
Trammell is joined in the backcourt by Cameron Tyson, who comes to Seattle after a season each at Houston and Idaho. As a freshman at Idaho, he shot 41% on 224 3-point attempts. He’s very much a three-heavy player—last season with Houston, 68 of his 72 field goal attempts came from beyond the arc. It’s much of the same so far with Seattle, as Tyson took 13 3s on 15 field goal attempts against Alcorn. WSU’s perimeter defenders definitely need to keep tabs on Tyson’s location at all times.
On the inside, Seattle runs small outside of former WSU big man Brandton Chatfield. He played limited minutes against Alcorn, but it will be interesting to see if he gets more run against a bigger Coug frontline with which he is familiar. Seattle frequently ran a lineup with 6’6 freshman Viktor Rajkovic at center in its opener. Kobe Williamson, 6’8, also got plenty of run at center and power forward. Neither made a big impact offensively.
Riley Grigsby is a significant contributor at the three or stretch-four. The senior is an adept 3-point shooter, and will often prefer a mid-range jumper over going all the way to the rim. He can make shots if given the opportunity, so WSU can’t leave him alone. Emeka Udenyi is Seattle’s primary interior presence, at 6’6 he took 75% of his shots at the rim last season (via hoop-math.com). He made 64% of those shots, but WSU might be better off just fouling him—he is 11-30 from the free-throw line in his career.
Overall, Seattle will likely take good care of the ball and shoot a lot of 3s. WSU likes to limit 3-point attempts, so that will be an interesting battle to watch. The Cougs will have even more incentive to sell out and push shooters off the line, given their major size advantage on the inside. Wazzu should dominate the defensive glass, and don’t expect Seattle to shoot many free throws.
When WSU has the ball…
Turnovers are vital to Seattle’s defensive success. Coming off a season when WSU struggled taking care of the ball, it seems almost purposeful that the Cougs are playing a defense for the second-straight game that is good at forcing opponents into mistakes.
Trammell is the biggest factor in Seattle’s thievery, he posted an impressive steal percentage as a freshman. Otherwise, if you are curious how the Redhawks get pressure, check out this tactical preview from Bryce Hendricks.
A byproduct of Seattle’s quest for turnovers is that the Redhawks foul frequently—they were 332nd in free throw rate allowed in 2020-2021. With the tendency for referees to call games tighter early in the season, there might be a free throw fest for WSU, especially if it goes inside to exploit its size advantage. Williamson is the only true shot-blocking presence for the Redhawks, so as long as WSU’s guards can avoid him, the Cougs should be able to thrive in the paint.
Still, WSU likes to shoot 3-pointers, and this game won’t change that. Even if that’s the case, WSU is going to have plenty of second chances—Seattle is a below-average defensive rebounding team, even when facing similarly-sized teams.
The Bottom Line
KenPom predicts a 78-63 win for WSU with the Cougs winning in 91% of simulations. Bart Torvik thinks more highly of Seattle, projecting a 74-65 Washington State win with Wazzu winning 83% of the time.
If WSU can limit turnovers, and keep that tally pretty even with Seattle, it’s going to be difficult for the Redhawks to win. WSU could mitigate a turnover deficit by dominating rebounding on both ends. Otherwise, Seattle’s 3-point shooting, particularly from Tyson, is a wildcard that could swing the contest to an upset.
The best way for the Cougs to prevent a 3-point barrage? Prevent 3-pointers in the first place. That’s part of their philosophy, and taking that away from Seattle is taking away its best offensive weapon.