The Washington State Cougars head to the Bay Area this weekend for their first road trip of the Pac-12 season. They get the week started with a tilt at Stanford on Wednesday evening at 7 p.m. PT. The game will be broadcast on Pac-12 Networks.
This game is likely to be described as ugly after all is said and done. Both teams rank in the top 50 nationally in adjusted defense, and the Cougs are 313th in adjusted tempo. Stanford is fast, but the slower team usually wins out when it comes to "controlling" the pace.
Niether team is particularly good on offense. The Cardinal are an awful shooting team, posting just a 45 effective field goal percentage. With WSU allowed just about the same percentage on defense, it looks like the Cougs will be able to hold down the Cardinal on the road.
The problem for Wazzu will likely be the other end, where the Cougs have struggled to find consistent scoring out of anyone not named Brock Motum. WSU is just slightly above average in adjusted efficiency, while Stanford is allowing less than 0.90 points per possession. The little success that the Cougars have had has come on two-pointers, where they are hitting over 50 percent. Stanford has done well in that department, limiting opponents to 44 percent.
Stanford has been grabbing offensive rebounds, a key component as it has struggled from the field. The good news for WSU is that it has been excellent at cleaning the defensive glass (33rd best DR% nationally). If the Cougs can shut down that part of the Cardinal attack, then they have a chance to hang tough in this one.
If the Cougs are to pull off the win on the road, they are going to need to overcome Stanford's solid interior defense. Motum is obviously the key there, but he will need help. DaVonte Lacy has been excellent at converting two-pointers when he goes inside, but he is often reluctant to drive. Mike Ladd and D.J. Shelton will need to convert the easy opportunities, while Dexter Kernich-Drew would be served well to return to his non-conference form, when he was using his length to get baskets inside the key.
As for Stanford, Dwight Powell offers a solid matchup for Brock Motum. He has been excellent on the defensive glass, which shouldn't hurt a WSU team that typically eschews the possibility of a second chance in order to get back on defense. Powell does draw 5.5 fouls per 40 minutes, so he could get WSU's thin front line in trouble. They must be careful.
In the backcourt, Chasson Randle will be the man to watch for the Cardinal. He hasn't been particularly efficient with his 26 percent usage, especially from the field, but he is a threat to create opportunities for himself and others.
KenPom predicits a 64-57 Stanford victory on 65 possessions. This will likely be a game within one or two possessions for most of the way, as neither team is potent enough on offense to go on long runs. Because of their slow pace, and because this will be a defensive battle, this is WSU's best chance on the road trip to steal a win. To do so, they will need Motum to get his and get a hot performance from one of their many role players.