The Washington State Cougars host the Eastern Washington Eagles on Saturday afternoon in Beasley Coliseum as both teams kick off their 2012-13 campaigns. The game will be broadcast 4:30 p.m. PT by Pac-12 Washington and via live stream on Pac-12 Now.
Both teams lost a lot from last season. The Eags graduated four seniors who were in their primary rotation, while the Cougs were hit by graduation and disciplinary action. Fortunately for WSU and EWU, they return their best players, who both were able to remain efficient while carrying heavy loads a season ago. The two stars are today's most intriguing match-up (although it is highly unlikely that they will be guarding each other).
Motum is the more well-rounded of the two stars. He is able to score from all areas of the floor, as well as drive to the basket and draw fouls. Motum also contributes in other areas, as he is the Cougs' best returning defensive rebounder.
Chiverton is primarily a jump shooter. He took 217 threes last season, and hit on 41 percent of them. He would probably be served well to shoot even more from the outside in lieu of taking two-pointers. Chiverton made just 32 percent of his shots inside the arc. For a guy that has the ball in his hands so frequently, he does an excellent job of limiting turnovers. He gave the ball away just 8.9 percent of the time, 12th lowest in the country.
Those two will be taking plenty of shots, and will be the focal point of offenses, but they won't be the only players to have an impact on the game. Let's take a look at how the four factors break down.
WSU was an excellent shooting team last season on the back of Motum. However, the departure of Abe Lodwick leaves a void on the outside. DaVonte Lacy, Mike Ladd, and Dexter Kernich-Drew will be called on to take some of those outside looks, and they will all have to improve to come anywhere close to Lodwick's 46 percent clip.
The Eagles were a poor shooting team, especially on the inside. That will likely be the case again this year unless Chiverton drastically improves on his two-point shooting. Parker Kelly and Jeffrey Forbes were both good from the outside last year, knocking down 45 and 36 percent.
The advantage in shooting goes to the Cougars, as the Eagles are just too one-dimensional. WSU has some solid returning outside shooters, and Motum is about as efficient as they come with his shot.The Cougs should do all the can to deny Chiverton the ball and force him to use the dribble whenever possible.
The Cougars were surprisingly a decent defensive rebounding group last year. With Motum, Ladd, and D.J. Shelton crashing the defensive glass they should be able to duplicate that performance, when they finished 92nd nationally in defensive rebounding percentage.
Where WSU wasn't effective last year was the offensive glass. More minutes from Shelton could mean improvement in that area, as he was the team's best rebounder on that end.
Eastern was bad on the boards, and that area is a big question mark coming into this year. The Eags graduated their entire front line, including above-average rebounder Cliff Ederaine. EWU will take a step back in this department, unless one of their new guys comes in and lights the rebounding world on fire.
While neither team is spectacular, the Cougs get the edge in rebounding. They have more size and strength than Eastern, and likely more skill as well. WSU should be able to take care of the glass.
Washington State began last season as one of the worst turnover teams in the country, but they steadily improved as the year went along and eventually finished just about average in turnover rate. With Reggie Moore gone, WSU may actually improve in this area as Moore was often prone to bouts of turnovers. How Royce Woolridge handles the ball-handling duties will be key. Motum also needs to cut down on his turnovers, as they were his achilles heel.
The Eagles were one of the better teams in the nation at taking care of the ball, as they ranked 23rd in turnover rate. With some of the most turnover-heavy players graduating, there is good reason to expect that Eastern will duplicate that performance. With the stingy Chiverton using the most possessions, that will always help to limit their giveaways.
EWU certainly has the advantage here, as they are excellent in limiting turnovers. If there is any cause for concern in the game for WSU, this is it. The Eags are not going to give the ball away, so if they happen to shoot well they could be in for a good offensive night.
No need to go deep into this one, the Cougs are absolutely favored in this area. The guys that will be taking the shots for Eastern don't get to the line often, while Motum, Shelton, and Ladd are all good at drawing fouls.
It should not come as a surprise that WSU will be favored on Saturday. Eastern has so much to replace, far more than WSU. Not to mention that the Cougars demolished EWU 75-49 last year at Friel Court.
If you've got your Dad in town, take him to this game before you force him to freeze his butt off watching Jeff Tuel get buried in a pile of powder blue and gold. It is likely to be a win, and Beasley Coliseum is heated. Doubly good.