If Wyoming Cowboys fan Ken "Cowboy Ken Barrel Man" Koretos makes the trip to Pullman, everyone will be better off for it.
The CBI Tournament continues on with a quarterfinal match-up between the Washington State Cougars and the Wyoming Cowboys tonight at 7pm. After winning their opening round game on the road over the University of San Francisco, the Cougs come home to play in front the students who just got back from break and may or may not know there is a basketball game tonight. This will not be televised, but WSU will be streaming it on their Cougars All-Access service for a fee.
The University of Wyoming is located in Laramie, which is about 7200 feet above sea level. Driving through Wyoming on Interstate 80, you would never know you are at such a high elevation, because the land is mostly flat.
During the summer of 2009, when we were moving across the country, the girlfriend and I decided to stop at the Laramie KOA to camp for the night. KOA tends to put their campgrounds in some less-than-desirable locations. This particular one was next to some sort of marsh, which meant mosquitoes. The mosquitoes had taken over our campsite, so much so that in the process of applying bug spray, I was still bitten 46 times. Another five minutes and I may have been devoured alive.
I'm not sure how low of a temperature a mosquito can withstand, but these must have been a particularly resilient breed. At 7200 feet, the weather tends to be pretty extreme.
We arrived in Laramie just before dusk, and the temperature was still hovering around 90 degrees. As we ate dinner and the sun began to go down, we noticed that it was getting a little chilly. By the time nightfall came, the thermometer was reading somewhere in the 40s. Seeing as it was early August, we weren't prepared for temperatures like that. It was a less than pleasant night.
So that is my experience with Wyoming. Bugs and bitter cold nights for which your summer wardrobe cannot suffice. I'm sure this means their basketball players are a bunch of tough S.O.B.s. It could also mean they have malaria. I'm not necessarily hoping for the latter, but that would be beneficial to the Cougs.
Offense and Defense previews after the jump.OFFENSE
Wyoming is going to slow the pace down, as they are 333rd in the country in adjusted tempo. They are also going to take care of the ball, eschew offense rebounding to the benefit of their defense, and shoot an inordinate amount of threes.
That last point may be the most concerning for the Cougs. WSU has had some games where they've allowed opponents to destroy them from three. While the Cowboys aren't particularly dangerous as a team, shooting 34%, their shooters will certainly be able to knock down the open looks that may be given to them.
Leonard Washington, Francisco Cruz, and Luke Martinez will take most of the shots for Wyoming. Washington is primarily a threat inside the arc, as he is hitting on 63% of his twos and boasts a 49.8 free throw rate. Cruz and Martinez are both jump shooters, hitting on 37% and 38% of their threes respectively. Cruz will go inside the arc for shots more often, but Martinez will rarely go inside. 78% or his field goal attempts are threes.
Adam Waddell and JayDee Luster don't shoot as much, but have important roles in the offense. At 6-10, Waddell is adept at drawing fouls and getting to the free throw line, where he is making 73% of his attempts. Luster is the facilitator with a 25.4 assist rate. He will look to drive the lane and find open looks for his teammates, but he also has the ability to draw fouls, as he has shot more free throws than two-pointers this season.
Overall the Cowboys have struggled on offense, especially in conference play where they were scoring less than one point per possession. Even with that they are still to be taken seriously, as a hot streak from the outside could spell doom for the Cougars.
Wyoming's adjusted defensive efficiency puts them among the top 10% of teams in college basketball, so scoring points will be tougher sledding than it was against USF or most Pac-12 teams.
The Cougars don't generally do well on the offensive glass, and offensive rebounds may be non-existent this evening. Wyoming is 11th nationally in defensive rebounding percentage, led by Washington's impressive 28% rate, putting him in the Top 10 among qualified players. His backup, freshman Larry Nance, also does well on the glass, grabbing 20% of opponents' misses while he is on the floor.
Three-point defense and turnover rate are also strengths for the Cowboys. The latter could be trouble for WSU, who has frequently let periods of brilliant offensive play be interrupted by strings of unforced turnovers.
If there is a weakness in Wyoming defense, it may be in allowing the competition to get to the free throw line. In that area, the Cowboys are merely average, giving up about 36 free throw attempts for every 100 field goal attempts. This is an area that WSU can exploit, as they are 29th nationally in free throw rate themselves.
This is a significantly tougher opponent than the Cougs saw in the first round of the CBI and the pace of the game will be dramatically different. Kenpom predicts just 59 possessions (compared to 67 against USF), with the Cougs predicted as a winner thanks to their home court advantage.