WSU Vs. Santa Clara: A First Look At The Broncos

With all the attention being paid to the Diamond Head Classic -- and, rightly so, I might add -- we've all sort of glossed over tomorrow's game with Santa Clara. To be clear, it's a game the Cougs should win, but, as a true road game after more than a week off, it's unlikely to be a walkover.

In Craig Powers style, here's a quick preview of the Broncos.

Head Coach: Kerry Keating (48-59, fourth year)

Keating was Ben Howland's top assistant at UCLA prior to taking over at Santa Clara, and is largely credited with bringing much of the top talent to Westwood at the height of Howland's glory years. He's considered a top talent evaluator and recruiter, and UCLA's struggles the last couple of years after his departure don't do much to dispel that belief.

The Broncos suffered their worst season under Keating last year, going 11-21. But that was done largely with a roster in which their four top contributors were freshmen and sophomores. He's pumped some young talent into the program, and it's in the process of maturing.

Record: 6-5 (No. 157 Kenpom.com)

Best victory: 66-65 over No. 143 Rice (home)

Worst loss: 78-72 to No. 146 Ohio (neutral) 

The Broncos have lost to the teams you'd expect them to lose to (Arizona, USC) and beat the bad teams you'd expect them to beat. No major surprises in any of their results.

Offense: 102.3 adjusted efficiency (120th); 51.4 eFG% (89th), 23.1 TO% (253rd), 35.7 OR% (88th), 45.9 FTR (42nd)

The Broncos are a solid, if unspectacular, offensive squad. The turnovers really tell the story here -- there's a -.57 correlation of TO% to offensive efficiency, an unusually high figure. Essentially, they're reasonably skilled at putting the ball in the basket, but they shoot themselves in the foot by giving the ball away on nearly one quarter of their possessions. 

One thing to keep an eye on: They also have a +.59 correlation of OR% to offensive efficiency. Defensive rebounding hasn't been a strength for the Cougs. Giving up offensive rebounds won't doom WSU, but if they can defensive rebound better than they have and continue to force turnovers at the rate they have, the Broncos are going to struggle to score.

Individually, the Cougs will always need to know where Kevin Foster (17.9 ppg) is. The 6-2, 220-pound sophomore takes more than one third of the Broncos' shots when he's on the floor (which is about 80 percent of the time), and he's really looking to do one thing: Shoot a 3. He's taken 79 3s this season, but only 49 2s. He's actually shooting a higher percentage on 3s (39 percent) than 2s (38 percent), but that doesn't mean he won't put the ball on the floor; he's got a respectable 35.2 free throw rate, where he shoots an 82 percent clip. 

If you're looking for an x-factor, look no further than freshman guard Evan Roquemore. His FTR is 102.0 (11th in the nation) and he draws 6.8 fouls per 40 minutes (77th in the nation), leading to 11.1 ppg.

EDIT: Neglected to mention Marc Trasolini. He's about the same size as DeAngelo Casto and an effecient scorer in the interior, even though he doesn't take a lot of shots. And he's a good rebounder on both ends of the floor. While he could give the Cougs some issues, he's not the type of player to take over a game. He draws few fouls and is a poor free throw shooter.

Defense: 101.8 adjusted efficiency (202nd); 51.3 eFG% (250th), 21.1 TO% (161st), 30.7 OR% (107th), 46.8 FTR (291st)

Put simply, this is a bad defensive squad. That bloated eFG% figure comes largely from an inability to defend the 3 -- opponents have shot 41 percent against them. But it's not like they're just packing it in and daring people to shoot over them -- they're merely average at defending 2-point baskets and send their opponents to the line a ton. Opponents are scoring more than one quarter of their points from the free throw line against the Broncos, which is 46th most in the country.

If you're looking for something they do well, Santa Clara actually is a pretty reasonable defensive rebounding team, despite a lack of size, and that's fueled by getting rebounds from everyone.

The good news for the Cougs? Santa Clara is weak defensively precisely where the Cougs are strong. They don't defend shooters well, they don't turn opponents over much and they send people to the free throw line. It's hard to imagine any of WSU's players have trouble putting themselves in prime scoring position.

A guy who could be poised to go off is Reggie Moore. With another week behind him to let that wrist heal, if he's healthy enough to go to the basket the way we know he can, he could find himself shooting a ton of free throws. It probably all just depends on how aggressive he wants to be. He wasn't very aggressive against Texas-Pan American, probably to try and protect the wrist in a game they were going to win anyway. 

This is a game where the Cougs should win by a comfortable margin, even if they don't run away with it (which they certainly could also do). About the only thing I see keeping the Broncos in the game is an exceptionally poor shooting night from WSU combined with a hot shooting night from Foster and foul trouble for our bigs. But given Santa Clara's other deficiencies, even that is unlikely to be enough to propel the Broncos to a win. 

The Broncos just don't appear have the -- ahem -- horses to run with WSU.

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