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WSU VS. ARIZONA: Preview/Open Game Thread

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When the Cougs have the ball...

Remember back in the non-conference schedule when this team was seemingly unstoppable from the three point line? Guys like Faisal Aden, Patrick Simon, and Reggie Moore were shooting at Klay Thompson-esque levels from beyond the arc. During conference play, things have most certainly changed.

In Pac-10 games, Washington State is shooting just 31.8% from beyond the arc, good for 8th in the league. Aden, who was once over 50% from three earlier in the year, has dipped all the way down to 34%. Simon is at a pedestrian 32% and Reggie has seen his percentage fall from the mid-40s to 36%. This team just isn't the outside threat that they looked to be.

Against Arizona, don't expect it to get any better. The Wildcats are allowing Pac-10 teams to shoot just 25% from deep. Over the course of the season, they are second-best in the nation limiting teams to just 27.5%. On top of that, UA only allows opponents to shoot threes 28% of their field goal attempts, 38th lowest in the country.

So if you are hoping for a three-point barrage for the Cougs to pull the upset, I suggest you search elsewhere. That elsewhere can be found in Jeff's writeup just a few hours ago (linked above).

Aside from the bigs, it probably wouldn't hurt for Reggie to go back to the Arizona-killing version of Reggie he was last year.

When the Wildcats have the ball...

WSU did a good job making Derrick Williams take difficult, contested looks in their first match-up, but they did a terrible job of keeping him off the free throw line. Not really anything to hang their head about, as Williams is third in the country in free throw rate.

Something that may be surprising to you is that WSU has been the best team in Pac-10 play at keeping the other team off the foul line. As BigWood pointed out in an earlier thread, this team's tendency towards stupid fouls doesn't hurt that often because they usually are far away from the basket. If WSU can somehow keep Derrick Williams at a more human free throw rate, that could limit his offensive game greatly. Wazzu has been the best in the league at defending the two-point shot, so they definitely have the ability to slow down Williams.

One thing that is very scary for WSU is Arizona's shooters. They have a lot of them, and the Cougs have been terrible at three-point defense in the conference schedule. They are allowing Pac-10 teams to shoot 36.7%, which puts them at 9 out of 10 teams. That was obviously a huge difference down the stretch in the first meeting, as Arizona was able to catch fire from three and overcome a second-half deficit.

Overall...

This will be a tough game for the Cougs. KenPom says they would win just 17% of the time. However, WSU should come out with no fear and, as Nuss said earlier, take some chances. There really is nothing to lose in this game. They can greatly improve their "resume" by winning and it really is no harm done if they lose. This is an opportunity for a marquee win.

I'm sitting courtside at Belmont-ETSU tonight for the next leg of my magical journey. So if you see some random mid-majorish tweets from me (@TheCraigPowers), don't be alarmed.

Go Cougs!