Rex Walters is rocking essentially the same haircut, possibly slightly scaled back, as he did in the 90s.
The Washington State will take part in their first CBI Tournament as they travel to the Bay Area to take on San Francisco at 7:00 pm on HDNet. USF is a member of the West Coast Conference and will be the fifth WCC team to play the Cougars this season.
WSU is 3-1 in games against the WCC. The wins came over Portland, Pepperdine, and Santa Clara, while the loss came to Gonzaga in the Kennel. The bulk of USF's WCC wins came on the backs of those first three teams, as they went a combined 5-1 against the trio. They were also able to steal a win at home against the Zags.
The Dons and their fans will be amped up for this match-up. Head Coach Rex Walters spoke of how important it is for them to have a Pac-12 school coming to visit. Either USF will use this emotion to come out to a quick start, or it will force them to play tight and make mistakes. WSU better be ready to match the intensity, or it could easily become the former.
Offense and Defense Previews after the jump.
The San Francisco offense is led by two talented big men in Perris Blackwell and Angelo Caloiaro. Blackwell is the low-post presence, as he hasn't taken a single three-pointer all season. He hits 58% of his shots, gets to the free low line with regularity (49.5 FTA per 100 FGA) and is a terror on the offensive glass, pulling down almost 14% of his team's misses while he is on the floor.
Caloiaro spends much more time on the outside, as he takes nearly as many threes as twos. He is dangerous from all areas of the court, knocking down 40% from beyond the arc and 58% inside. He appears to have the ability to attack the basket, with an excellent 54.9 free throw rate. With Caloiaro and Blackwell to guard, it is going to be tough for the WSU bigs to stay out of foul trouble.
The Dons play a three-guard lineup, with Rashad Green using the highest number of possessions. His ORtg is low at 93.8, and that is due in no small part to turning the ball over 27% of the time. Cody Doolin in the distributor, but has been efficient when give the chance to shoot. Michael Williams is primarily a catch-and-shoot guy.
In all, there are four starters that will not hesitate to shoot from the outside, and that has spelled trouble for the Cougs on more than one occasion this season. With the Dons ability to make shots and the high pace they play, this will likely be a high-scoring affair.
For the first time since conference play began, the Cougs may actually face a defense worse than their own. USF is ranked 219th in adjusted defensive efficiency. They have allowed opponents to post a 54% effective field goal percentage, 327th in the country. The opposition has shot well from the inside and the outside.
Some of that hot shooting is mitigated by the Dons' solid performance in other areas of defense. They do well on the boards, allowing opponents to grab just 27% of offensive rebounds. They were the best in the WCC at forcing turnovers, forcing opponents to give the ball away 23% of the time. USF also doesn't allow the opposition to get to the free throw line often.
Those last two points are key for WSU. The Cougs usually shoot well, so there is reason to believe that they can exploit San Francisco in that area. However, they also rely on getting to the free throw line, something that makes up for their lack of second chance opportunities. With USF's ability to avoid fouls and the game being on the road, the Cougs may not get as many free throw attempts as they are used to.
The turnovers may be the most important aspect. The Cougars have had stretches in the season where they have taken care of the ball well, but that hasn't come lately. High turnover rates and low free throw rates have led the Cougs to four straight bad offensive nights. In that time, Reggie Moore has seen his personal offensive rating plummet to 95.4, just after he had finally climbed over 100 for the season. Moore's ability to take care of the ball and put his teammates into positions where it easy for them to do the same will be key to whether or not WSU can be efficient.
KenPom predicts a 75-71 win for USF with 62% confidence, largely because of the home court advantage. WSU will have to come out focused in what should be a hostile environment. Can they do that and extend the careers of their seniors? Or will the season end on a WCC floor for the second time in the last four years?