Cal At Washington St.: Previewing The Cougars

It was a tough offseason for Washington St. basketball. When you lose your best scorer, your best passer, your best rebounder, your best interior scorer and your best interior defender all at once (Klay Thompson and DeAngelo Casto, in case you were wondering) it might mean a rebuilding year.

And that’s pretty much how things have played out. They have just two wins over teams in Kenpom’s top 100 (Stanford & Oregon St.) and they have head-scratching losses to UC Riverside and Utah. So why does this game scare me so much?

Maybe it’s because Wazzu blitzed Stanford during the last 10 minutes of their Thursday night game in front of a loud student section. Maybe it’s because a sweep of the northwest road trip (during snowmageddon, no less!) seems too good to be true. Maybe it’s because four starters played 34 minutes or more in a high tempo game, and then had to travel to Pullman, which I understand can only be reached via sled dog.

This is still a game that Cal should win, is favored to win . . . but it’s also a game where a loss wouldn’t be a surprise. But taken with the win over UW, boy would it be sweet. There’s a collection of five teams just one game back of the Bears in the loss column, and four of those teams are playing each other today. This is a great chance to build a cushion in the conference standings.

To earn that cushion the Bears need to get past Brock Motum, who easily represents Wazzu’s most important and efficient player. He’s one of those annoying ‘big guy that can shoot’ type. Think a more reliable Amit Tamir if he were a little more willing to play in the post. Based on Motum’s skill set I’m not sure if Monty will have Kravish or Kamp take the defensive assignment.

After Motum . . . well, there’s the mercurial Faisel Aden. Coug Center has written many words about the 6’4’’ shooting guard. Suffice to say that he can score (just ask Stanford) but he’s also prone to shooting Wazzu out of a game. Reggie Moore is your classic pass-first point guard. Marcus Capers is the defensive stopper who I would guess would draw Jorge Gutierrez when Wazzu is on defense. Freshman DaVonte Lacy is the other major offensive threat, but I’ve barely seen him play and couldn’t tell you much about him. He’ll probably score 20.

Tempo Free Chart

Kenpom sez: Cal 70, Washington St. 64, 74% confidence

Chart concept 'borrowed' from Mgoblog.com. One letter equals 10 spot ranking advantage, two letters equals 100 spot ranking advantage, etc. All stats courtesy of kenpom.com.

Category

Cal Rank

WSU Rank

Advantage

Cal eFG% vs. WSU Def eFG%

38

148

CC

Cal Def eFG% vs. WSU eFG%

46

31

W

Cal TO% vs. WSU Def TO%

46

231

CC

Cal Def TO% vs. WSU TO%

177

155

C

Cal OReb% vs. WSU DReb%

134

255

CC

Cal DReb% vs. WSU OReb%

20

188

CC

Cal FTR vs. WSU Opp FTR

250

126

WW

Cal Opp FTR vs. WSU FTR

8

45

C

Cal AdjO vs. WSU AdjD

48

170

CC

Cal AdjD vs. WSU AdjO

13

76

C


The chart says that Washington St.’s only clear advantage is that Cal doesn’t draw fouls much. Everything else is either even or tilted pretty heavily towards the Bears. BUT!

But, it must be noted that these numbers include 13 games in which Richard Solomon contributed somewhere around 20 minutes a game. I don’t want to over-emphasize the impact of losing Solomon – after all, due to earlier issues he played the equivalent of 6th or 7th man minutes off the bench in two thirds of all games this season – but we can’t really be sure about Cal’s long-term statistical profile without him.

The chart says that Cal should have a sizeable advantage on the boards against what is by far the worst rebounding team in the Pac-12. Luckily, the Cougars aren’t a team with the personnel to take advantage of Solomon’s absence. Aziz N’Diaye killed Cal on the offensive glass, but I’m reasonably sure that Washington St. doesn’t have a 7’0’’, 260 pound, athletic monster to punish us inside.

As usual, I’m focusing on WSU’s eFG% offense vs. Cal’s eFG% defense. For all of Wazzu’s many faults this year, they are still an excellent shooting team led by Brock Motum. If Harper Kamp and/or David Kravish can contain Motum it’s hard to see a scenario that doesn’t end with a Cal win. But then again, it’s the Palouse, where there’s a full moon every day of the year. Expect the weird.

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