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Washington State Game Preview & How to Watch

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Both teams enter on losing streaks, one will end tonight in the 1st leg of a short turnaround home and home

Washington State v Washington Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images

How to Watch (and bet)

Date: Wednesday, 2/23/22

Tip-Off Time: 8:00 pm PT

TV: ESPNU

Streaming: Espn.com/watch

Radio: Huskies Gameday App & KJR 950 AM

Location: Pullman, Washington

DraftKings Betting Line: Washington Huskies +10

Washington State Cougars 2021-22 Statistics:

Record: 14-12 (7-8)

Points For per Game: 70.2 ppg (171st)

Points Against per Game: 63.0 ppg (24th)

Adjusted Offensive Efficiency: 106.7 (110th)

Adjusted Defensive Efficiency: 92.4 (19th)

Strength of Schedule: 79th

Washington State Key Players:

G- Tyrell Roberts, Jr. 5’11, 175: 11.0 ppg, 2.4 rpg, 2.0 apg, 34.2% FG, 32.9% 3pt, 94.6% FT

Before transferring to WSU, Roberts was putting up absurd stats for D2 UCSD where he averaged 19.2 ppg on 46.3% 3-pt shooting. He has continued to be a phenomenal shooter from the free throw line but the athleticism/length disparity at this level has pretty clearly brought down his 3-pt numbers. Against the Husky zone expect him to take at least 8 shots from behind the line.

G- Michael Flowers, Sr. 6’1, 190: 13.4 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 3.0 apg, 39.2% FG, 37.2% 3pt, 86.2% FT

Meanwhile Flowers transferred from South Alabama and become Wazzu’s only efficient perimeter option. He’s not a pure point guard but is capable of scoring at all 3 levels without turning the ball over and can distribute a little bit as well. Flowers ranks in the top-20 during Pac-12 play in assist rate, 3-pt %, and FT % which is the sign of a quality guard.

G- Noah Williams, Jr. 6’5. 195: 10.6 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 2.2 apg, 34.4% FG, 25.0% 3pt, 73.0% FT

It’s pretty unquestionably a down year for the Seattle native after a breakout sophomore season had him poised for stardom. Williams’ season-long 3-pt percentage has roller coastered from 15% to 38% to 25% so the hopes that he will consistently be a great shooter long-term are probably history now. He’s still a fantastic defensive option with his long arms causing problems on the perimeter and leading to run outs but he prefers to drive the basket now. Williams is 7th in the conference in fouls drawn per 40 minutes so he’ll attack relentlessly both in the half court and in transition.

F- DJ Rodman, Sr. 6’6. 215: 5.1 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 0.9 apg, 45.3% FG, 33.3% 3pt, 78.3% FT

The Cougars have a deep rotation but Rodman (yes, Dennis is his dad) despite coming off the bench has been playing a lot of minutes lately and featuring in closing lineups. Rodman is mainly a 3-pt shooting 5th option on offense but he’s been devastating when he does cut to the basket shooting 63.2% on 2’s. He gets playing time because he’s a solid defender, a great offensive rebounder, and is totally content playing without the ball.

F- Mouhamed Gueye, Fr. 6'11, 210: 7.0 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 0.9 bpg, 49.7% FG, 30% 3pt, 45.8% FT

Gueye is the highest rated recruit in WSU history and has mostly lived up to the hype. He ranks in the top-25 in the conference in offensive and defensive rebounding rate, block rate, and 2-pt FG% which is everything you want in a center. He and Efe Abogidi make for a terrifying interior twosome who generally start together and then trade off at the center position.

The Outlook

If you don’t look any further than the records you would think that the Huskies and Cougars are having almost identical seasons. One is 14-12 (7-8) while the other 13-12 (8-7). The Cougars have one win over a team in the KenPom top-100 right now while the Huskies have that same win (home against Colorado) plus only one more. Wazzu has lost 5 in a row after winning 5 in a row while Washington has dropped 3 straight after winning 6 of 8.

Looking at the actual stats though reveals that’s where the comparisons end. The Cougars have lost a ton of games but when they do it’s almost always by a small margin and when they win it’s usually in a blowout. In games decided by 5 points or less the Cougs are an unfathomable 1-10. Whether you want to call it luck, a lack of toughness, or poor coaching there’s no question that the Cougars struggle mightily to pull out a close game no matter the opponent. On the other end Wazzu is 9-1 in games decided by at least 15 points including blowout wins over Colorado, Utah (x2), at Arizona State, and Seattle U. When everything is clicking they don’t mess around with inferior opponents.

All of the above has meant that the predictive metrics still have Washington State as a top-50 team even though the actual results in the win-loss column have been lackluster. They had legitimate NCAA tournament aspirations entering the season in part because of their depth. Kyle Smith runs a full 9-man rotation and all of those players individually have put up good stats either this year or elsewhere on their resume.

Part of the problem is that the coaching staff’s philosophy doesn’t mesh well with the roster. Kyle Smith is a clear follower of the analytics for what to do in an underdog situation. His teams take a ton of 3-pointers and slow down the pace in order to limit possessions and make it more likely they can secure a win with a good shooting night. Unfortunately this isn’t a great shooting roster and the strength of the team is with their big man depth.

The trio of Gueye, Abogidi, and Dishon Jackson are all at least 6’10 and shooting 50% or greater on their 2-pt attempts. Guards Noah Williams and Tyrell Roberts are 1st and 3rd on the team in 2-pt shots though and both are making worse than 38% of their shots inside the arc. Mike Hopkins would kill to have a set of big men like the Cougars have that he can just throw the ball down to and let them post-up without running an actual offense.

The combination of the lack of a pure point guard and the offensive system means the Cougars are 26th nationally in % of points coming from the 3-pt line and 323rd in assists per field goal made. That combination means there are a lot of instances of players pulling up for deep shots without trying to move the ball much first. That’s good news for the Huskies for which the zone defense tends to be kryptonite when a team isn’t capable of moving the ball well.

That’s about the end of the good news though. By virtue of their athletically dominant centers this is a good offensive rebounding WSU team even if they struggle overall in the paint. Similarly the rim protection they afford allows the Cougars to get away with being undersized on the perimeter and still put up a very good 2-pt defense. Terrell Brown Jr. should be able to handle any matchup with Roberts or Flowers but will find getting shots up over Gueye and Abogidi to be more difficult and require some of his circus shot magic.

In conference play the Cougars have had the top ranked defense in terms of points per possession which will be tough to overcome for a badly struggling Husky offense. With Daejon Davis out of the lineup the ball just hasn’t moved as much as it did when the Dawgs were rolling (relatively) and the next men up haven’t truly stepped up. During UW’s 3-game losing streak PJ Fuller, Cole Bajema, and Jamal Bey are a combined 5/28 on 3-pt attempts with 5 assists and 14 turnovers. There’s just no way that Terrell Brown Jr. and Emmitt Matthews Jr. can carry the Huskies to victory over good teams when the supporting cast is playing like that.

The good news for Washington is that if they can just get into the final 4 minutes with the game close there’s a good chance that WSU will start getting painful traumatic flashbacks and Coug it. The problem will be keeping it close enough to be in striking distance. Washington has completely fallen apart in the middle 20 minutes of their last several games and unless the Cougars surrender 20+ turnovers it’s hard to envision the Huskies scoring enough to remain competitive. This is an odd scheduling quirk with consecutive games against the Cougs in a home and home format this week. I see round 1 going to WSU and UW will have 2 full days in between to make adjustments before the return match in Seattle.

Prediction

Washington Huskies- 58, Washington State Cougars- 69