Washington State faces their toughest test of the non-conference schedule as they take on the Baylor Bears in a semifinal match-up at the Diamond Head Classic this afternoon. KenPom predicts Baylor to win 66-63 with 66% confidence.
When Baylor has the ball...
On the outside, the Cougar guards will have to contend with one of the nation's most prolific and efficient scorers in LaceDarius Dunn. Dunn takes the most shots on the team, at 30.0% while he is on the floor. He is lighting it up from the outside, shooting at a 48.9% clip. Surprisingly, he also has an above average free throw rate and 178th in the nation in drawing fouls. This is not expected because he rarely ventures inside the arc to take a shot, as he takes over twice as many threes than twos.
One thing that WSU's guards can definitely take advantage of is Dunn's high TO rate. Hopefully Marcus Capers and crew can continue their trend of shutting down the opposing team's best scorer, doing so may lead to some easy transition buckets.
Inside the arc, the Cougs will face two talented and athletic bigs. Freshman Perry Jones has played very well. He can rebound on both ends of the floor and shoots at 58% from inside the arc. However, WSU does have the quickness to guard Jones with a rotation of Abe Lodwick, Brock Motum, and DeAngelo Casto. The frosh doesn't draw an inordinate amount of fouls, so I am confident the Cougar bigs can stay with him and stay on the floor.
6-7 junior Quincy Acy has been Baylor's most efficient offensive player. He has a 121.9 ORtg largely carried by his 60.3 free throw rate. WSU has to play sound defense on him, or we could see some early foul trouble.
On the whole, turnovers could prove to be a deciding factor for the Cougs in this game. Baylor's biggest offensive weakness is their propensity to give the ball away. As a team, they are 283rd in the country in TO Rate, giving the ball up 23.6% of the time. Those turnovers have come largely against very poor competition. Nothing changed against the two top 100 teams Baylor has faced as they put up 23.9% and 24.2% against Gonzaga and Arizona State respectively. Baylor has been able to overcome their carelessness with the ball to be an effective offensive team, but that may be difficult against a Washington State team that thrives on taking the ball away and is still able to be among the best in the nation at limiting shooting success.
When Washington State has the ball...
Baylor has been one of the best defensive team's in the country so far this season. They are second in adjusted defensive efficiency and sixth in defensive eFG%. They are holding opponents to just 38.9% of two-point shots and just under 30% on three-pointers.
It will definitely be tough task for the Cougs to get going on offense in this one. Baylor is 7th in the nation in defensive rebounding percentage, so second chances will come at a premium. Don't expect Marcus Capers to have a stellar offensive day, as he builds much of his effectiveness off of taking advantage of his own team's misses.
Baylor has been simply outstanding in every single defensive category. Their KenPom page is entirely green. So WSU is going to have to buck the trend in something to have offensive success. One of the best things that Klay Thompson and Reggie Moore could do is get into the lane and draw contact. Baylor plays a very tight rotation, especially with the bigs. It would also help greatly to see the Cougs knock down some outside shots to loosen up the middle. However, don't expect a lot of this to happen, Baylor is that good.
This game should be a defensive struggle the same way that WSU's K-State match-up was. WSU's best chance to pull out a victory is to force Baylor into a lot of turnovers and convert those into some easy baskets, because it is going to be tough to score in the halfcourt. Coug fans should be excited to see what Klay Thompson and company can do against the Bears, because if they are able to compete in this game they can play with almost anyone.
Check out CougCenter's full coverage of the Diamond Head Classic here.