Washington State Cougars Preview
Date: Monday, November 25th
Time: 6:30 pm CST/7:30 pm EST
Location: John Gray Gymnasium, Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands
2018-19 Record: 11-21 (4-14 Pac-12 Conference)
2019-20 Record: 2-2 (0-0 Pac-12 Conference)
All-Time Series Record: 6-2 Nebraska, Huskers on a 3 game winning streak and last met November 21, 1998
Coach: Kyle Smith (1st Season)
Odds: Nebraska +1
How To Watch: This game will only be available streaming online via Flohoops which requires a pricey subscription. FYI, the $12.50/month price tag they show is NOT one you can cancel at anytime. It’s for an entire year at once, which equals out to $12.50/month. The monthly subscription that you can cancel whenever before the next month’s bill is for $30.
My immediate take-away looking at their results for last season is that their biggest margin of victory was over the Delaware State Hornets, which is sadly the only opponent I’ve seen Nebraska play at PBA. So a fun coincidence there. Oh, and the Cougars were pretty terrible last season to put it kindly. WSU finished 11th in the conference, managing just 4 wins. To be fair, this included impressive back to back road wins at Arizona State and Arizona, but only otherwise included home wins over Cal-Berkley and Colorado.
Their overall SOS was 140 and their non-conference had a mere two teams with an RPI inside of 100. This meant in the end that they lost to #36 New Mexico State twice, once on the road and again on a neutral court, and had a neutral court loss to #79 San Diego. After that, their highest rated opponents resulted in a loss to #184 Santa Clara and a win over #194 Rider. This upcoming season will include a common opponent in the non-conference in UC-Riverside, but not until after the tournament. Cougcenter has its own brief non-conference preview here.
The Cougar squad ended up with almost as many roster changes as the Huskers, seeing just 6 players return and 8 newbies via transfer and signings. They also suffered 3 departures, 4 transfers, and 3 decommits. Gone to the NBA is leading scorer and rebounder, forward Robert Franks, who also saw the second most minutes. Along with him, other key players who won’t be seen in Pullman again include guard Viont’e Daniels who averaged 6.2 points a game and 2.7 assists over 24.5 minutes, guard Carter Skaggs and his 6 points per game over 16.8 minutes, and forward Isaiah Wade with his 4.7 rebounds and 14.4 points a game in 14.4 minutes.
The Cougars are beginning their 1st season after Ernie Kent—Bill Moos’ truly mind-boggling hire—finally got the long deserved pink slip in Pullman. New head coach Kyle Smith begins with the Cougars after coaching 3 seasons at San Francisco and 6 seasons at Columbia before that. Coach Smith has a respectable resume with only two losing seasons and an overall record of 164-122.
Currently they sit at .500, going 2-2 so far including a blown 15 point lead over the Omaha Mavericks last week. They are ranked at 309th in RPI right now and 151st overall in KenPom; with offense at 165th, defense at 160th, and tempo at 155th. Their opponents include a road loss to 106th in RPI Santa Clara Broncos 70-62, a home loss to 44th in RPI Nebraska Omaha Mavericks 85-77, and home wins over 273rd RPI Idaho State Bengals 72-61 and 320th RPI Seattle Redhawks 85-54.
As for players to keep an eye out for, 6’6” 200lbs sophomore forward CJ Elleby leads the team in scoring and rebounds, averaging 21.8 points and 6.5 rebounds per game in his 33.5 minutes per game average. He is also shooting 35.7% fro three for the season, and getting 2.8 steals per game. 6’9” 240lbs senior forward Jeff Pollard is another player the Huskers will need to get a body on in the game as he’s the second leading rebounder and third leading scorer, averaging 5.8 rebounds and 9.3 pointer per game.
Junior guard Isaac Bonton is the second leading scorer on the team, averaging 16 points per game. Bonton also leads the team in assists with 4.5 per game. He’s not much of a threat from deep so far, going 5-28, good for only 18% thus far. Starting point guard, senior Jaylen Shead missed the game against UNO and is still questionable for tonight.
It really just depends on the Huskers for how this one will go. They’re playing a similarly patched together roster, possibly with less talent overall on it. If they show up on defense and stay focused on the game, then this should extend the current win streak to three games in a row, even struggling from the court on shooting (to a reasonable degree of course, sub 20% from 3/sub 40% from the field won’t get the win). If they play distracted or without maximum effort then this likely will end up a loss within 10 points. If they play like they did against Southern U for large chunks of the game, then this could be an ugly blowout we all will be glad we didn’t witness with our own eyes.
If I had to pick one, I’d say this is a close game with the Huskers pulling out the win down the stretch, 72-65.