Be sure to check out our previews of each of these teams, linked above. Stay with us all day, as we will have a thread up for the later Diamond Head Classic games as well.
This is a game Washington State should win going away. KenPom predicts the Cougs to win 72-62 with 85% confidence. Mississippi State's best asset is the three-point shot, and WSU has put together some stifling three-point defense. MSU doesn't have the offensive rebounding prowess to exploit WSU's weakness in that area.
Ravern Johnson does pose a threat. He is a 6-7 wing player who shoots very well. WSU's guards won't be able to simply use their length to bother him. However, I'm confident that either Marcus Capers or Klay Thompson can do a fine job in keeping Johnson in check. Johnson's minimal 6.1 assist rate tells me he probably doesn't do a lot of "creating," so stopping him may be a manner of denying the ball and halting penetration from guys like Brian Bryant and Twany Beckham.
MSU has taken care of the ball overall so far this season against lower competition, but that changed against Virginia Tech, who forced them into turning the ball over 23.8% of the time. I am confident the Cougs can continue to force turnovers in this match-up.
Of course, a lot hinges on how well the Cougs shoot the ball. Mississippi State has done a fine job by keeping opponents to a 46.0 eFG%. However, they allowed VT to a 57.5 eFG%. The Hokies have only shot 50.1% for the season. WSU should be able to find good looks, let's hope they put them down.
As Jeff said in his preview, this game is important because of what opportunities will present themselves if the Cougs win. Win and they will likely play Baylor then Florida State or Butler. Lose and they will probably find themselves without a chance for a single resume win, as Hawaii, Utah and San Diego loom in the consolation bracket.