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Washington State Cougars Game Preview/Open Thread

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UW plays their 3rd consecutive game away from Hec-Ed for the 1st and only time this year

NCAA Basketball: Washington State at Southern California Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Essentials

Date: Saturday, 1/6/18

Tip-Off Time: 1:00pm PST

TV: Pac-12 Network

Radio: KOMO 1000

Location: Pullman, Washington

Betting Line: Washington -2

Washington State 2017-18 Statistics:

Record: 8-6

Points For per Game: 76.6 ppg (104th)

Points Against per Game: 75.6 ppg (228th)

Adjusted Offensive Efficiency: 106.1 (119th)

Adjusted Defensive Efficiency: 105.4 (212th)

Strength of Schedule: 116th

Washington State Key Players:

C- Drick Bernstine, Sr. 6’8, 235: 6.3ppg, 7.6rpg, 2.1apg, 50.8% FG, 60% FT

The grad transfer from North Dakota has been the leading shot blocker and rebounder down low. He’s a good interior passer and he could find open cutters if he gets the ball in the middle of the zone.

F- Robert Franks, Jr. 6’7, 225: 17.6ppg, 6.9rpg, 2.4apg, 48.5% FG, 86% FT, 41.3% 3pt

Franks has been the biggest reason for the Cougars surpassing (low) expectations to this point. He’s even gotten himself into NBA draft conversations. He was a 28% 3-point shooter entering the year so we’ll see if the shooting is sustainable; although he’s attempted as many shots from deep this year as he had in the previous 2 combined.

F- Carter Skaggs, So. 6’5, 215: 10.0ppg, 2.6rpg, 0.6apg, 51.2% FG, 93.3% FT, 52.1% 3pt

Skaggs will be the guy to watch in the zone as he’s taken 84% of his shot attempts from beyond the arc and is hitting over half of them. He shot 41% at Chipola College last season and is 7th all-time in Indiana high schools in 3-pointers so it isn’t a complete fluke.

G- Viont’e Daniels, So. 6’2, 160: 8.0ppg, 2.6rpg, 2.8apg, 47.3% FG, 72.2% FT, 47.9% 3pt

Daniels is another mad bomber as 80% of his shots have come from behind the arc (if you’re detecting a pattern, you’re doing well). However he basically never touches the ball unless it’s in a catch and shoot situation.

G- Malachi Flynn, So. 6’1, 177: 15.6ppg, 3.3rpg, 4.3apg, 41% FG, 84.1% FT, 36.4% 3pt

Flynn has taken a giant leap in his sophomore year as his assist percentage is almost doubled and his turnover percentage almost cut in half. Last year he was a good stats bad team guy but this year he’s been a certain net plus.

The Outlook

The Cougars have faltered since their impressive 6-0 start with double digit losses at the L.A schools as well as slip ups against Idaho, UC Davis, and UTEP. However, Wazzu has the capability to beat just about anyone on any given night because of their reliance on the 3-point shot.

Washington State is 3rd in the country in the % of 3-point shots taken (more than half of their shot attempts) and are 1st nationally in the % of points that come from behind the arc. Especially playing against a zone they will happily sit behind the arc and launch away. Expect Hopkins to extend the Washington zone and force those attempts to come from NBA range rather than with their toes on the line. We’ll see if Wazzu can counter and work the ball inside to force rotations and still find open looks or if they’ll settle too much.

Because of their proclivity for launching 3-pointers it’s not surprising that Wazzu is one of the worst offensive rebounding teams in the country and also one of the worst at getting to the free throw line. If the Huskies can keep them to one and done then it will help.

On defense the Cougars are extremely vulnerable. They’ve played about a quarter of their possessions in zone this year and I’d expect them to pull it out here given UW’s struggles shooting the ball from distance. Their rotation bigs are all 6’9 or smaller so they’ll try to double Dickerson and Timmins and live with the long ball. It’s a generally conservative defense though. They don’t gamble for steals, they don’t foul, and they make the opponent pass the ball to find an open guy. However, if the Huskies stay patient that guy will eventually be open.

This is the ultimate basketball cliche but this game will come down to Wazzu’s ability to make shots. In UW’s wins, opponents are shooting 30.9% from behind the arc. In their losses it’s 48.1%. In Wazzu’s wins they’re shooting 42.1% from deep. In their losses it’s 35.6%. I think that Washington has shown enough improvement defending the arc since the Virginia Tech debacle that they’ll get this done on the road but it won’t surprise me if Wazzu catches fire, goes 16/35 from 3-point range, and wins it.

Prediction

Washington Huskies- 76, Washington State Cougars- 71

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