The Washington State Cougars were picked to finish last in the conference by a wide margin. In fact, there are unconfirmed rumors of write-in ballots featuring the number thirteen as a vote. But sorry team or not, they're still a Pac-12 foe that has to be taken seriously. Tread with caution lest ye be Coug'd. Colorado almost learned this the hard way before escaping with a one point victory in overtime.
Coach Bone vowed to re-work the offense into a more uptempo attack this year to take advantage of more depth at guard. Good intentions aside, these Cougs still plod rather than pounce. It looks like they've taken a page from the Ben Braun School of Offensive Play; they pass it around the perimeter for most of the shot clock before someone hucks up a three. Generally speaking, they don't shoot it well and don't get themselves to the line. It all adds up to the least efficient offense in the conference...which means vintage Cal fans are expecting someone to go off for a career high.
Surprisingly, Wazzu's defense is much stouter this year. They're alternate between a match-up zone and man to man with a focus on packing it inside. The flip side is that they'll give up open threes and foul more than any other team in the Pac-12.
We'll need to look beyond the records and be sure to stay focused. This is a good opportunity for our young players to demonstrate that they're starting to understand what it takes to be successful at this level.
CGB Reader and hoops expert Reef isn't concerned:
WSU won’t be able to get to 60 on us. It’s over.
There, I just wrote the preview.
C Jordan Railey(Jr), 7'0, 245 lbs, 3.5 ppg, 2.7 rpg
F DJ Shelton(Sr), 6'10, 250 lbs, 7.9 ppg, 7.9 rpg
G Dexter Kernich-Drew(Jr), 6'7, 190 lbs, 7.4 ppg, 2.2 rpg
G Que Johnson(Fr), 6'5, 205 lbs, 9.1 ppg, 2.1 rpg
G Royce Woolridge(Jr), 6'3, 180 lbs, 9.8 ppg, 3.1 apg
F Junior Longrus(So), 6'7, 240 lbs, 3.8 ppg, 3.9 rpg
G Ike Iroeqbu(Fr), 6'2, 190 lbs, 6.7 ppg, 2.2 rpg
G *DaVonte Lacy(Jr), 6'4, 215lbs, 17.7 ppg, 4.7 rpg (will start if not injured)
Jordan Railey might start, but actually platoons with Junior Longrus who is the more effective player. Neither offers much offense and are primarily there to rebound. DJ Shelton is their strongest inside player. Naturally, Coach Bone will often drag him outside as a stretch-four. Dexter Kernich-Drew is their designated sniper and three-point ace. He went off for 24 points against Colorado and almost led his team to an overtime upset.(6-8 from downtown) Que Johnson is an athletic true frosh who was a one-time top 100 recruit. For a youngster, he's a surprisingly good shooter. He also put the team on his back and carried them to their upset win over Utah. Royce Woolridge, on the other hand, does not have much of a jumpshot. He's a decent set-up man and ball-handler. DaVonte Lacy had been playing the Klay Thompson/Brock Motum role of do-everything scorer. However, he's been struggling with a rib injury and may not be able to go. Ike Iroegbu has played the role of their 6th man. He might think he's a microwave, but at 37.8%, he's more of a chafing dish.
This is a game we should control from start to finish. Let's not come out flat and let the Cougars hang around.
2) Close out.
Cal has been greatly improved with the speed of their close-outs as well as being disciplined about not jumping at shooters. Some of that has been all about Powers and Behrens. If we're going to be a contender, we need to see Mathews, Bird, and Singer do a better job of staying with shooters on the defensive end.
Our team is greatly diminished when Cobbs/Kravish/Solo aren't on the floor. If we build a decisive lead, can our young bench sustain it?
Tip-Off: Saturday, Jan 18th, 1pm
Television: Pac-12 Network
Radio: KGO 810 AM