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Washington State Game Preview & How to Watch

Can the Huskies hold serve at home hosting the MBB Apple Cup in Pac-12 play for the last time?

NCAA Basketball: Washington State at Washington Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

How to Watch (and bet)

Date: Saturday, 2/3/24

Tip-Off Time: 6:00 pm PT

TV: Pac-12 Networks

Streaming: Pac-12.com/live

Radio: Huskies Gameday App, Sports Radio KJR

Location: Seattle, Washington

Betting Line: Washington Huskies +1

Washington State Cougars 2023-24 Statistics:

Record: 15-6 (6-4)

Points For per Game: 75.8 ppg (105th)

Points Against per Game: 66.9 ppg (51st)

Adjusted Offensive Efficiency: 113.4 (61st)

Adjusted Defensive Efficiency: 98.2 (40th)

Strength of Schedule: 77th

Washington State Key Players:

G- Myles Rice, Fr. 6’3. 180: 15.6 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 3.6 apg, 46.1% FG, 32.9% 3pt, 79.3% FT

Rice is one of the best stories in the country as he missed all of last year while undergoing chemotherapy but his cancer is now in remission. He has been one of the best freshmen in the country and made my midseason 2nd team all-conference picks this week. He’s not exactly a true point guard but is capable of scoring from anywhere on the floor and also gets it done on the defensive end with a lot of steals.

G- Jaylen Wells, Jr. 6’8, 205: 9.9 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 0.8 apg, 40.7% FG, 40.3% 3pt, 81.8% FT

The JUCO transfer is huge for a shooting guard and has ben incredibly efficient shooting nearly 43% on 3’s through the first half of conference play. He’s a good rebounder but gets almost no steals or blocks for someone with his length. Wells started off slow but has now scored in double figures in 8 straight games during which WSU is 6-2.

G- Andrej Jakimovski, Sr. 6’8, 220: 10.4 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 1.6 apg, 38.5% FG, 33.9% 3pt, 51.1% FT

This is year 4 in Pullman for Jakimovski and at this point he kind of is what he is. He’ll shoot ~35% from deep which is where he takes the vast majority of his shots. He’s a good rebounder but doesn’t add a lot else on the defensive end. He’s at a career low in turnovers and isn’t trying to do too much with the ball but otherwise is having a very similar season to the last few years just while playing about 50% more minutes.

F- Isaac Jones, Jr. 6’9, 245: 15.6 ppg, 7.8 rpg, 1.6 apg, 58.1% FG, 7.7% 3pt, 72.8% FT

Jones was a star in the Big Sky at Idaho and has been almost the same player in Pullman so far. He can’t really stretch the floor all the way out to the three-point line but is a very good rebounder and efficient post scorer who gets to the line. Jones isn’t an elite shot blocker but is good for nearly one per game. He also made my 2nd team all-conference this week.

C- Oscar Cluff, Jr. 6’11, 255: 8.5 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 0.9 bpg, 55.9% FG, 68.4% FT

Cluff is an Australian JUCO transfer who averaged nearly 18 and 10 at a lower level last season. He’s a great offensive rebounder and can score the basketball down low efficiently. Against Oregon State last month he had 20 points, 8 rebounds, and 3 blocks so he’s capable of big games.

The Outlook

Washington State is trending up at the same time that the Huskies’ arrow is pointing down. They’ve gone 6-2 since also getting swept on the road against Utah/Colorado to start off Pac-12 play compared to UW’s 4-4 mark. That includes winning 5 of 6 with the only loss coming in overtime at California. The Cougars are now a legitimate bubble team with wins over Arizona, Utah, and Colorado all though all came at home.

It’s not uncommon for teams to struggle away from home but Washington State is one of them. They are 3-5 in games outside of Eastern Washington this year with no wins over teams ranked better than 90th at KenPom (and 2 sub-110 losses). Washington’s best hope in this one likely comes from a sold out environment providing great energy.

The Huskies enter this game bruised and battered. This is the deepest team of the Mike Hopkins era and that depth is getting seriously tested. It doesn’t appear that Franck Kepnang will be ready to return from his injury and both Koren Johnson and Braxton Meah were still out as of Wednesday and are likely questionable at best. It’s possible that the Huskies enter this game with Wilhelm Breidenbach as their only available scholarship big against a team that starts 4 players who are 6’8 or taller.

You might expect a very big team like Wazzu (2nd tallest in the country) to suffer with their ball handling and that’s only partly the case. In general, the Cougars don’t beat themselves. They’re top-30 in the country avoiding turnovers and blocks on offense. However, they don’t get very many assists and rely on a lot of individual drives to the basket. They’re 300th in 3-point rate and 34th in the % of their points coming on 2’s.

All that length though has been fantastic for their interior defense and opponents shoot just 44% on 2’s against them which is 12th in the country. That goes hand-in-hand with their 14.1% block rate (17th nationally). If there’s a negative to what is a very good defense it’s that they have trouble sometimes against opposing guards. They commit a lot of fouls on the perimeter and have trouble getting steals. If Sahvir Wheeler has his layup game on point then he could potentially have a big game even if a few get blocked.

If there’s one upside to a potential injury to Braxton Meah, it’s that the Huskies should put up plenty of points. Their offense with Breidenbach on the floor this year has been fantastic and UW can nearly match WSU’s size at the wing with Mulcahy, Brooks, and Wood. The problem is that they are liable to get torched all night in the paint by a Cougar team that loves to score inside.

I fell more confident about taking the over in this one but see the Cougars coming out on top in the end.

Prediction

My record this year: 14-7 Straight Up, 8-12-1 Against the Spread

Washington Huskies- 80, Washington State Cougars- 87