Seattle U hosts Portland State on Sunday afternoon.
Riley Grigsby and Seattle U can become the first WAC school with two Division I wins when the Redhawks host Portland State on Sunday afternoon. Courtesy Sarah Finney/Seattle U Athletics.

Seattle U Hosts Portland State in Homecoming Matchup

Last season’s co-WAC regular season champions, Seattle U Redhawks are still building off of last season’s momentum. Head coach Chris Victor has high hopes for his program in his second year in charge in Seattle. Four returning starters and a solid recruiting class have them set to challenge for another WAC title in 2022-23.

A beginning step in that journey comes Sunday against a regional foe the Redhawks don’t play hardly enough, the Portland State Vikings and their own second year head coach Jase Coburn. These two programs have met for a grand total of 16 matchups. The series is tied at 8-8, with each side holding a 7-1 record in games played on their home floor. The last time these two programs met was back in 2012, when the Redhawks claimed a 94-93 win at KeyArena.

Of all of the WAC men’s basketball action in college basketball’s opening week, this mid-afternoon Sunday treat of a game should prove entertaining for fans around the conference.

Seattle U 2-0 (0-0 WAC)

Seattle U is looking to build off of their first-ever regular season WAC championship in 2022-2023. The Redhawks are looking to start the season 3-0 with a win at home on Sunday. Seattle U has an impressive double-digit (85-71) road win at UC San Diego to open the season on Monday on its resume. And an absolute lopsided 106-55 win over D-III Puget Sound on Friday.

With those two very different victories under their belts so far this season, their end of the week matchup hosting nearby foe Portland State should give fans a true gauge of what to expect from Victor’s program this season. Preseason media polls peg the Redhawks as 6th place finishers come March. Just outside what is primed to be a very competitive WAC race for the top spot.

Keys to a Redhawk win:

Take and make the 3, Draw fouls offensively & Keep your stars fed

The Vikings team philosophy this season is defense. They had 33 fouls called on them in their loss to Portland, sending their opponents to the line 44 times. A complete turning point in the game’s closing minutes and possibly the reason for the loss. And it wasn’t a sloppy night by any means. That’s just how head coach Jase Coburn wants it. Seattle U will need to find the right mixture of made threes and fouls called from attacking the basket. The Redhawks also need to make sure it’s Cameron Tyson and Riley Grigsby getting as many touches as possible on each possession.

Portland State 0-1 (0-0, in the Big Sky)

Second year head coach Jase Coburn has reloaded his Viking program for another uphill battle in the Big Sky Conference. Portland State is projected to finish in the second half of the conference this season. Roster turnover continues to be the theme in the Rose City. Coburn is experiencing this in year two, welcoming nine transfers and one freshman to campus this offseason.

Most recently Portland State fell 98-91 on the “road” to crosstown rivals Portland Friday night. Six different Vikings reached double digit scoring and overall the team shot 43.2% from the field. A horrible night from beyond the arc (11-41 from deep) and some overaggressive defense cost Portland State the win. To secure the win Sunday, the Vikings have to switch the plan of attack just slightly to adjust to one of the WAC’s best scorers.

Keys to a Viking win:

Defend the three, Make the three & Play solid defense

Seattle U is going to take plenty of 3-point shots (34.5 3FG attempts through first two games). So, embracing that defensive stalwarts identity on the perimeter will disrupt a big way the Redhawks make their money. But, making the host team uncomfortable and forcing them to drive inwards can’t result in fouls every play. Especially for stars like Cameron Tyson, who shot 85.1% from the free throw line last year. Lastly, Portland State will have to find their rhythm from behind the arc. The Vikings took nearly twice as many 3-point attempts in their last game against Portland. Only making two more shots than their opponent but taking more risks on lost made shots.

Players to Watch

Seattle

RS-Junior Guard-Cameron Tyson

By now it’s no secret that Cameron Tyson is an absolute bucket getter. With the keys to the Redhawk Kingdom in his senior year, the 6-2 senior sniper and Seattle native is hot-handed at the moment. Tyson had 35 points in Seattle’s season opener at UC-San Diego Monday night. With a slight break in the action Wednesday night against a D-III opponent, Sunday’s regional contest is another chance to see the preseason First Team All-WAC selection displaying his scoring ability. Tyson is a sharpshooter from deep, draining over 100 3-point field goal shots last season. But he can really do it all. Scoring at all three levels while also finding contact to get to the rim. Maybe, the main player to watch going into this one.

Senior Guard/Forward-Riley Grigsby

Grigsby is a 5th year starter in the Redhawk program, with career averages of 10.7 PPG, 4.0 RPG & shooting 42.1% from the field in that time. A 6-6, 220-pound mismatch who can play multiple positions and can light it up from the perimeter.

Portland State

Senior Guard-Cameron Parker

The 2021-2022 Big Sky Sixth Man of the Year returns home to Portland after stints at Sacred Heart and Montana. The 6-2 floor general has enjoyed success at his previous stops as a primary ball handler and scoring option. With career scoring averages of 8.3 PPG, 5.8 APG & 3.3 RPG, Parker has always been an impact player. Though in Portland he will take the reign as the go-to player for Jase Coburn this season. Already displaying that potential against Portland on Friday night, logging 23 points while shooting 61.5% from the field. Also dishing out 6 assists with 0 turnovers as a little bonus.

While Parker has always been a great floor general, his scoring abilities are fairly new. More of a mid-range specialist, few of his points in the past came from beyond the arc. With a 37.1% career average from deep, on less than 176 attempts over four years. Still, we are likely to see the ball in Parker’s hands on Sunday. Whether he is shooting it or passing, he is a top priority defensive assignment nonetheless.

Junior Guard-Isiah Kirby

The junior college transfer from Tallahassee Community College might be the Vikings’ secret weapon off the bench this season. Kirby was a defensive specialist at both of his previous stops, averaging 1.3 SPG at Tallahassee and 0.9 at SELA in just 20.5 MPG. Last time out, Kirby managed to contribute 14 points, 3 rebounds and 1 assist in just seventeen minutes off of the bench. Where he could really help his team on Sunday will be to stay out of foul trouble. Against the Pilots, he fouled out in those 17 minutes. But three other teammates did the same and another two were in danger of the same fate in Coburn’s defensive high intensity system. So Kirby will just have to find the right mix to make the most of his time on the floor.

What’s on the Line?

Sunday’s matchup provides Seattle U fans a chance to see their team against another Division I opponent since their dominant 51-point win over Puget Sound on Wednesday night. Also up for grabs is taking the lead in this all-time series.

Prediction

The KenPom ($) line in this one is Seattle favored by 12 points. But WAC fans are well aware, nothing is a given in college basketball. I think the Red Hawks have enough fire power to hold off a Vikings squad with defense imbedded in their DNA this season. But it will take a solid team effort from all involved to make that happen. And Wednesday’s tune up game, played mainly by Seattle’s reserve players, may have been just what was needed to provide confidence and light a fire in this squad to begin a run in non-conference play. Still a win won’t come easy. Just ask the Portland Pilots about their absolute dog fight Friday night.

Seattle 80, Portland State 75

Tip-off for this must watch Cascadia matchup is scheduled for 3:00 PM PT and can be watched live on ESPN+.

Larry Muniz covers college basketball as a writer for Mountain West Wire and WAC Hoops Digest. Also as a co-host of the college basketball podcast “Hoops Talk W/Jay & Larry”. He is also a USWBA Member.

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