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Washington State Cougars Game Preview & How to Watch

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The Huskies look for a 3rd straight home win as the cross-state rivals come to town

Washington v Washington State Photo by William Mancebo/Getty Images

The Essentials

Date: Sunday, 1/31/21

Tip-Off Time: 5:00 pm PT

TV: Pac-12 Networks

Radio: KJR 950 AM/KVI 570

Streaming: Pac-12.com/live

Location: Seattle, Washington

Betting line: Washington -2

Washington State Cougars 2020-21 Statistics:

Record: 9-7 (2-7)

Points For per Game: 67.1 ppg (249th)

Points Against per Game: 66.8 ppg (88th)

Adjusted Offensive Efficiency: 98.5 (239th)

Adjusted Defensive Efficiency: 95.2 (56th)

Strength of Schedule: 119th

Washington State Key Players:

G- Isaac Bonton, Sr. 6’3, 190: 18.0 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 3.6 apg, 38.2% FG, 32.1% 3pt, 66.7% FT

I consider Bonton to be a typical bad team, good stats guy. If he’s your primary option on offense then you probably aren’t going to be very good offense even if he puts up stats. And he does put up stats. But he’ll break a few eggs to get them. He averages nearly 4 turnovers per game and is shooting below 40% from the field with the highest usage rate in the conference. If he gets hot then he can put up points in a hurry but it’s not the worst thing in the world if he decides to keep shooting.

Bonton missed Wednesday’s game against Colorado due to a non-COVID illness but I expect he’ll likely be back to play Washington.

G- Noah Williams, So. 6’5, 187: 12.8 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 2.1 apg, 47.4% FG, 48.2% 3pt, 75.6% FT

Williams is the latest in a group of lower rated Seattle players who the Huskies may regret not pushing for harder as the Dawgs essentially prioritized his AAU teammate Marcus Tsohonis over him. The book on Williams in high school was he had great defensive potential and was a plus distributor but couldn’t shoot. Last year he shot 4 of 27 (14.8%) from 3-pt range but all of a sudden is a deadly sniper. We’ll see if it continues but regardless he’s already a potential all-defense pick.

F- Andrej Jakimovski, Fr. 6’8, 215: 6.3 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 1.1 apg, 32.1% FG, 32.9% 3pt, 56.3% FT

To this point the 4-star Macedonian has been almost exclusively a stretch 4 player as 70% of his shots have been from the outside. That may not be a bad thing for the Cougars as he has shot a dreadful 29% inside the paint this season. He’s a solid rebounder for his size but not exactly a monster in that regard.

C- Efe Abogidi, Fr. 6’10, 225: 9.3 ppg, 7.6 rpg, 1.6 bpg, 47.5 FG, 38.2% 3pt, 85.4% FT

Going after international players means occasionally you’ll find a gem and the Cougars got a hold of one in Abogidi. He has been a revelation as a freshman with the ability to make a basket anywhere on the court as well as be a monster on the glass and as a rim protector. His rebound and block percentages are both in Isaiah Stewart territory while he’s shooting from deep and at the line as well as an elite point guard. The only reason he isn’t a potential player of the year is foul trouble and a lack of aggressiveness as he’s only attempted double digit shots in a game once so far.

G- Ryan Rapp, Sr. 6’5, 189: 3.1 ppg, 2.7 rpg, 1.7 apg, 29.4% FG, 23.8% 3pt, 75.0% FT

Rapp missed 6 games at the beginning of conference play but started last game with Bonton out and played 31 minutes and scored 9 points. Both marks are the second best this season. As the percentages suggest, he’s not much of a shooting threat.

Washington State 2020-21 Shot Chart

Synergy Sports

The Outlook

There was a point where the Cougars were 9-1 with a 2OT buzzer beater loss to Arizona as their only blemish. Optimism bubbled over in Pullman as dreams of a miraculous NCAA berth coming out of a projected last place finish popped up in the heads of Cougar fans. There was that pesky little issue of the strength of schedule. None of Wazzu’s wins came against a top-125 team and 5 of those wins were against sub-200 teams. Cougar fans though didn’t want to hear it (read the comments). Alas, WSU is now on a 6-game losing streak now that the competition has gotten tougher and all have been by at least 8 points.

It’s always fun when you get an unstoppable force against an immovable object type of matchup. Unfortunately, this is the reverse. We have the #12 offense in the conference against the #12 defense.

The Cougars have been abominable trying to score the basketball this year. They turn the ball over on almost 1 of every 4 possessions and are also one of the worst in the country trying to score around the basket. That’s not exactly a winning combination. Wazzu is actually a pretty good outside shooting team though at nearly 37% from 3-pt range against Pac-12 opponents. 6 of their 8 highest minute getters are shooting 30%+ from deep.

But it’s not enough to drag the offense to even respectable. The Cougars rank 225th or worse nationally in the following offensive categories per KenPom: Effective FG%, Turnover %, 2-pt %, FT%, Block %, Steal %, and non-steal TO %. Where the Huskies have really gotten killed this year is inside against post-up players and there’s a chance that Abogidi has a monster game for the Cougars but otherwise WSU hasn’t shown the ability to consistently score in the paint or hit that free throw line jumper (just over 1 attempt per game but on a decent percentage).

As bad as the offense has been there’s no question that the Cougars are legitimately a very good defensive team. They rank 12th nationally in average height and as I outlined earlier in the week the Huskies have gotten pounded by teams that meet that profile so far this year. Fortunately though Washington State isn’t a very good rebounding team despite their height which is the main reason that Washington has had problems.

The Cougars are however a very good rim protection team. They rank 29th in opposing 2-pt % and teams really struggle to score around the basket against them as they pack the paint. WSU’s most commonly played lineup over the past 5 games features a pair of 6’10 players and a 6’8 small forward (with 6’3 and 6’5 guards rounding it out). If there’s any bright side for Washington it’s that the Huskies rarely get to the rim anyways and so if their hot shooting at home continues then they should still be able to score the ball.

If you just look at the efficiency statistics rather than the records then these teams are nearly evenly matched. The height across the board of the Cougars does concern me but given their numbers so far this year I don’t think they have the potential to blow up the Dawgs inside the way similarly tall teams like Arizona and USC have. There’s no question the Huskies have been playing better basketball over the last 3 games and this being a home game for Washington pushes it over the edge. Expect a 4th straight nail biter but with a positive result for the third time in a row.

Prediction

Washington Huskies- 72, Washington State Cougars- 68

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