The Washington State Cougars basketball team caps off a jam-packed WSU sports day by hosting the Lamar Cardinals on Saturday night (early Sunday morning for those out East). This will be the Cougs' second game of the season after an eight-day layoff. WSU took down CSU Bakersfield in the opener.
If there has been any defining defensive characteristic of the Ken Bone era (besides the fact that it has been pretty bad), it may be how frequently WSU opponents have taken 3s under his watch. This has introduced an extra bit of randomness to the Washington State basketball experience, as the defense's success has been predicated on how well the opponent was knocking down jump shots.
Enter Lamar, which has done all it can to avoid taking 3-point shots under head coach Pat Knight. The Cardinals took three-pointers on just 11 percent of their shots a year ago--against a national average of 33 percent. So, no matter what the WSU defense does, these guys will not shoot 3s.
Of course, it didn't really matter where Lamar shot the ball last season. Knight's crew finished 318th in 3-point percentage and 330th in 2-point percentage.
That played a role in a dreadful year for a team that had reached the NCAA tournament in 2011-12. Lamar won just three games, and not much more is expected this season.
There are two newcomers to which WSU should pay extra attention and one of them is a Nimrod.
That's right, Lamar's best player is named Nimrod Hilliard, a name for which he has most likely never received any flack for whatsoever.
By the way, nimrod originally meant "skillful hunter," and Hilliard is actual "Nimrod Hilliard IV." His name is a relic of a bygone time, when nimrod had a positive meaning.
Hilliard spent a year at South Dakota before a year at the JC level. He's been the Cardinals' go-to guy through two games, using 27 percent of the possessions while playing 87 percent of possible minutes. Despite the load, he has still managed a solid 104.6 offensive rating.
The "skillful hunter" is one of the few guys that Knight allows to shoot from beyond the arc. He is 3 of 7 from three so far.
Southeastern Louisiana transfer Donovan Ross has also made an immediate positive impact. The 6'5 wing is off to a hot start, hitting 15 of 19 shots.
With Ross and Hilliard in the fold, Lamar could be an improved offensive team. However, with Knight's interesting decision to not shoot the shots that count for more points, it's hard to tell how much could actually change.
As for the team overall, KenPom has the Cardinals pegged at No. 341 out of 351 teams. Despite those low expectations, Lamar did hang with a decent George Mason team at home on Tuesday, staying within single digits for much of the contest.
The Cardinals shot an inordinate amount of 3s against George Mason--11 on 42 overall shot attempts. But the result probably won't inspire Knight to keep that trend going. Lamar hit just two of those shots.
With very little size in the primary rotation, WSU should be able to control the inside against the Cardinals, and that is paramount against their style. This should be an easy win for the Cougs. KenPom predicts a 73-56 victory on 65 possessions.
Game time, TV schedule: 9:30 p.m PT, Pac-12 Networks (read this for important info on the broadcast)