The Washington State Cougars finish off the home portion of their nonconference schedule tonight with yet another lightly regarded opponent, Texas State.
While the Bobcats aren't what anyone would consider a "good" team, this type of game has given WSU problems in the past: Namely, the game that comes at the end of finals week, which typically includes fewer practices and meetings leading up to the contest.
Texas State features the kind of defense/offense schism that will remind you of Dick Bennett's early teams -- the Bobcats are 46th nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency but 329th on the offensive end. Not only are they bad at putting the ball in the basket, they'll take the air out of it while they're down there, too -- Danny Kasper's squad ranks 321st nationally in average length of possession on offense.
This should make for a neat little clash of styles, as the Cougars feature one of the shortest average lengths of defensive possessions (26th), thanks to their gambling on the perimeter, which invites teams to drive into the teeth of the defense, where shot blockers are waiting.
Will the Bobcats be tempted to take quicker shots, or will they be determined to run the clock down every time? No matter what, WSU will need to crash the defensive glass, as Texas State is one of the better teams in the country at picking up offensive rebounds -- and, as one of the worst shooting teams WSU has seen, there will be a lot of opportunities.
Ernie Kent will be looking to see if his team can follow up on its strong performance against UTEP, which was another strong defensive squad. The Cougs lit the Miners up for 1.17 points per possession.
If the Cougs were to be foiled by anything tonight, it might be turnovers: The Bobcats are one of the very best teams in the country at taking the ball away, led by Ethan Montalvo's 2.4 steals per game, and WSU has been known to turn it over in bunches. And this is where it will be interesting to see what Kent does at the point: Will he stick with Charles Callison and Ike Iroegbu as he did on Sunday? Or will he try to work Ny Redding back into the fold? Redding hasn't typically dealt well with teams who aggressively endeavor to take the ball away.
Additionally, Texas State does a great job of limiting 2-pointers, which is where WSU has typically made its hay. It's strength on strength in that regard, and it will be on Josh Hawkinson and Conor Clifford -- 6-foot-10 and 7-feet respectively -- to keep it going against a team that features nobody on the roster taller than 6-8.
And will we see more of Derrien King tonight? The 6-6 sophomore transfer had a breakout game against UTEP when he supplied some much-needed 3-point shooting off the bench.
While Texas State might appear nondescript, don't be surprised if this one is closer than you expected down the stretch. Beyond the break for finals, it just doesn't seem like an optimal matchup for WSU.