How to Watch (and bet)
Date: Saturday, 2/11/23
Tip-Off Time: 7:30 pm PT
TV: Pac-12 Networks
Location: Pullman, Washington
DraftKings Betting Line: Washington Huskies +7
Washington State Cougars 2022-23 Statistics:
Record: 10-15 (5-9)
Points For per Game: 67.4 (255th)
Points Against per Game: 65.8 (58th)
Adjusted Offensive Efficiency: 110.7 (70th)
Adjusted Defensive Efficiency: 98.7 (58th)
Strength of Schedule: 5th
Washington State’s Key Players:
G- Justin Powell, Jr. 6’6, 197: 10.9 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 2.7 apg, 41.5% FG, 41.7% 3pt, 82.8% FT
At Auburn Powell went from playing as a jumbo backup point guard to strictly off the ball and he subsequently transferred to Washington State. The one thing that hasn’t changed through all of it is his shooting as he’s a career 40%+ sniper. He leads the team in assists but WSU’s scheme doesn’t really lead to a lot of ball movement so his assists rate is one of the lowest for a nominal starting point guard in the Pac-12. But he also doesn’t turn it over.
G- T.J Bamba, Jr. 6’5, 215: 14.4 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 1.5 apg, 41.3% FG, 32.7% 3pt, 70.0% FT
Bamba was the breakout start for WSU but missed 3 games due to a hand injury and hasn’t quite been the same since returning. In the subsequent 5 games he’s averaged 11.6 points per game on 21% 3-pt shooting. While he shoots a decent number of 3’s per game he still prefers to drive to the rim and is adept at drawing fouls and getting to the free throw line.
G- Jabe Mullins, Jr. 6’6, 192: 9.3 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 1.6 apg, 43.6% FG, 42.4% 3pt, 96.0% FT
The Mt. Si graduate went to Saint Mary’s out of high school and couldn’t break through to be more than a reserve. He transferred to Pullman and is now challenging UCLA’s David Singleton for the title of best shooter in the Pac-12. In conference play he actually leads the team in assist rate despite entering the game in a bit of a shooting slump (13.6% on 3’s over last 7 games). He hardly ever gets to the free throw line but has only missed once, once there.
G- D.J Rodman, Sr. 6’6, 215: 9.2 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 1.2 apg, 41.6% FG, 38.5% 3pt, 77.1% FT
The son of the famous NBA star missed WSU’s last 2 games due to illness but is expected back tonight after a week between games. His shooting from the 4 position has been key for WSU’s offense as he is 2nd in the Pac-12 in offensive rating during conference play by shooting 44% on 3’s and 84% from the FT line. He’s a solid rebounder as an undersized power forward but nowhere near what his dad was.
C- Mouhamed Gueye, So. 6’11, 210: 13.7 ppg, 8.2 rpg, 0.9 bpg, 46.2% FG, 18.8% 3pt, 67.3% FT
Gueye is in the running for most talented player in the conference. The problem for Washington State is that he tries to do too much. Gueye is shooting 34% on midrange or long 2’s and 19% on 3’s this season. Those aren’t good shots in general although last week Gueye was feeling it and couldn’t miss while putting up 31 and 12 on USC. KenPom compares Gueye’s season most closely to names such as Ivan Rabb and Domantas Sabonis. He’s a dominant offensive rebounder but a surprisingly underwhelming shot blocker given his physical gifts. Where Gueye has really made strides this season is as a passer raising his assist rate from 4.7% to 13.7%.
Washington State currently ranks 361st out of 363 teams in KenPom’s “Luck” metric which shows the discrepancy between a win-loss record and how good the analytics think a team should be. That’s before you get into the fact that the Cougars this offseason had 2 scholarship players miss the season with non-basketball injuries including expected starter Dishon Jackson. Even during the year there have been missing bodies with only 3 of WSU’s 10 primary rotation players appearing in more than 22 of their 25 games.
The discrepancy between wins and computer numbers in the Kyle Smith era is likely getting a bit frustrating for Washington State fans. Last season Wazzu finished 338th in the “Luck” metric by finishing with a 2-9 record in games decided by 5 points or less. The late game execution hasn’t been much better as they’ve gone 2-5 in games decided by 5 points or less (plus another pair of 6-point losses). The Cougars have played the 5th toughest schedule in the country which helps explain the losing record but this is a team that should seemingly be much better than 10-15. But a 4-13 record versus top-100 teams will do that.
Kyle Smith tends to play a style of basketball is designed to maximize the possibility of springing an upset. Washington State is 324th nationally in pace of play. That limits the total number of possessions in a game and increases the chance that the game comes down to a fluky shot or two. He also maximizes 3-point shooting as WSU is 19th on offense in % of their points coming on 3’s while their opponents are 336th. The gameplan at all times is take as many 3’s as possible and keep opponents from taking 3’s.
Against UW, that kind of plays into their hands in both respects. The Huskies are 19th nationally in 3-pt% defense and still are 5th in that regard in Pac-12 play. Finding the open holes in the middle of the zone and overloading UW’s center around the rim with precise passing is usually the easiest way to score on Washington’s defense instead. Meanwhile Washington is not a great 3-point shooting team and are at their best working it inside with Meah and Brooks. WSU lets teams get inside and their only shot rim protector is a true freshman that plays 7 minutes per game. Great.
The most certain way to beat the Husky zone though is through ball movement. If you just stand around and dribble or only provide half-hearted passing along the perimeter you’ll be relying on jacking up a ton of contested 3-point attempts. That’s also not one of WSU’s strengths. They rank 229th nationally assisting on just 49% of their made baskets. During Pac-12 play UW opponents have assisted on 56% of baskets during Husky wins and 69% during Husky losses. Not nice.
Relying on the 3-point line does mean that occasionally you’re going to shoot the lights out and coast to an easy victory. In wins against USC, ASU, and Arizona this year the Cougars made at least 13 3-pointers while their opponents combined to make just 12 shots from deep. If Washington State ends up +27 from the 3-point line that’s going to be difficult to overcome. If instead they go something like against USC last week (8/23 from deep, 35%) and UW makes 5 of them then the Cougars’ big advantage goes away.
Last year these two teams bizarrely played a home-and-home back-to-back with identical 78-70 victories for the home team. When WSU won in Pullman it was with Mouhamed Gueye taking nothing but open foul line jumpers and finishing with 25 points. The difference was that WSU also had Efe Abogidi who had 21 points and 14 rebounds on just 9 attempts rebounding and dunking every Gueye miss. That’s unlikely to be the case this time around as the tallest player around Gueye is usually 6’8 Adrej Jakimovski who doesn’t really rebound and prefers to shoot 3’s.
As I mentioned above there’s a chance for Wazzu to shoot 45% on 30+ 3-point attempts and win this one by 15+ points. It’s not the most likely scenario though and I do think this is a good matchup for the Huskies. Pair that together with WSU’s poor showing in close games compared to UW and I’m going to go out on a limb and predict a win in a nail biter even though I think the Cougars are an objectively better team and playing at home. Sometimes you’ve got to risk it to get the biscuit.
(p.s: expect a little extra heat on both sides with Noah Williams switching sides in the rivalry)
Max’s Record this Year: 19-6 Straight Up, 14-10-1 Against The Spread
Washington Huskies- 64, Washington State Cougars- 62