Washington State takes on the Arizona State Sun Devils this evening at 5 pm in Beasley Coliseum. ASU took the first meeting between these two teams down in Tempe, 71-67.
Since that game, the Sun Devils have struggled mightily, with only a home victory over Utah and a few blowout losses. They do have Trent Lockett back from injury. Lockett is likely their best player and will make ASU a little tougher to handle in the stretch run of the season.
This game is being billed as a "Gray Out" for Washington State, as they will be giving away shirts and encouraging people to wear gray. Searching the interwebs indicates that if the Cougs can in fact "grayout" Arizona State, it will be of great benefit to the basketball team.
From Merriam-Webster, the definition of grayout:
: a transient dimming or haziness of vision resulting from temporary impairment of cerebral circulation
Impairing the opponent's cerebral circulation doesn't sound entirely legal, but it should give WSU that extra boost today.
Offense and Defense previews after the jump.OFFENSE
This will be the same thing as the Arizona preview. We'll review the declarations made before the first match-up. First, with the shooting:
The Sun Devils have won a few games they probably shouldn't have - OSU, at Tulsa, at USC - in large part because of their ability to shoot the ball. ASU is second in conference play in 3-point shooting, 4th on 2-pointers, and 3rd in effective field goal percentage.
Freshman Jonathan Gilling almost exclusively shoots threes, as 68 of his 85 field goal attempts have come from beyond the arc. He has knocked down 41% of those shots, so he definitely a player that WSU needs to keep an eye on. Carrick Felix and Chanse Creekmur are also streaky outside shooters than can be very dangerous if they get hot.
Shooting certainly carried ASU to a win at home. The Sun Devils posted a 62.5 eFG%, including hitting on 7 of 15 threes. Felix had one of his best games, going 6-12 from the field for 20 points.
Even as the Sun Devils have shot well throughout the year, they've been frequently doomed by their inability to take care of the basketball, as mentioned in the first preview:
Despite Arizona State's shooting success, they have been the 10th worst offense in Pac-12 play. Why? They can't take care of the ball. ASU is turning the ball over on a remarkable 27% of their possessions and have the ball stolen from them on 13% of possessions.
ASU did turn the ball over frequently against the Cougs, giving it away on almost a quarter of their possessions. What was significant is that this was the first time all season that they turned the ball over less than their opponent.
Free throws were also an important factor for Arizona State. They are typically good at getting to the free throw line, and they were able to do that the first time out against the Cougs.
The Cougar defense does have room to improve here, but how well their offense performs will likely decide the outcome.
ASU has been the best shot-blocking team in the conference with the 7-footers Pateev and Bachynski anchoring the zone. This hasn't translated into good two-point defense, as they've let Pac-12 opponents shoot 52% inside the arc. WSU may be able to take advantage, as Brock Motum and company have shot it well from two. But 7-footers are a rarity, and it will be interesting to see how the Cougs handle the challenge.
Motum certainly handled the challenge well, going for a career-high 34 points. As Nuss detailed here, Brock has become unguardable.
Probably the biggest key to WSU's failure in Tempe was turnover rate. As mentioned before, WSU gave the ball away more than ASU, to the tune of 27% of their possessions.This spoiled what otherwise would have been a solid offensive night. The Cougs shot well, had their best offensive rebounding performance since Santa Clara, and made 14-17 free throws. Still, this was ranked by kenpom as just the 15th best offensive performance of the season (that factors in competition - and the ASU defense is not good).
The Sun Devils have been terrible at forcing turnovers, so the onus is on WSU to take avoid unforced errors. If they can do that, they will have an excellent offensive night.
Kenpom.com predicts this as 72-60 WSU victory with 87% confidence. Can WSU take care of business and cruise to an easy win?