The WSU Cougars are looking to regain some control over a season that appears to again be slipping away when Colorado comes to Beasley Coliseum today.
WSU has lost four in a row, and the losing margin in those games has been 19 points, 30 points, 4 points and 41 points — the last of which came at the hands of the Utah Utes on Wednesday night.
Colorado looks like an inviting opponent; the Buffaloes are tied for last in the Pac-12 with Oregon State at 0-6 in conference play. For a program that has made playing in the NCAA tournament a habit under Tad Boyle, that’s unfamiliar territory.
The record doesn’t tell the whole story, though. The Pac-12 this year has four distinct tiers, with the top one being “really really good maybe even elite” (UCLA, Oregon and Arizona) and the second one being pretty good (USC, Cal, Utah). Then, of course, there are the not very good teams (ASU, UW, Stanford) and flat bad/historically awful (WSU, OSU).
Colorado has had the misfortune of playing four of its first six away from home, plus already playing four teams in the top two tiers, losing to UCLA, Arizona, USC and Utah. Then, they also had the misfortune of picking up a pair of losses to ASU and UW by a combine three points, including Wednesday’s overtime loss to the Huskies.
Thing is, kenpom.com still ranks the Buffs No. 78 overall. They hold wins over Xavier and Texas. Simply put, the Buffs probably are ready to beat someone, and the Cougs better not be “flat” as they were on Wednesday or they’re going to get steamrolled again — this time, by the “last place” team in the conference.
Keys to the game to keep an eye on? Watch WSU’s defensive rebounding. Cleaning up the offensive glass is a staple of Boyle’s attack, and these Buffs are no exception. If the Cougs give up a lot of second chances, it’ll provide a wholly preventable boost to a team that isn’t particularly good at shooting the ball.
On offense, the Cougs likely are going to need to hit some 3s. The Buffs feature a stout interior defense (another Boyle staple) and WSU is going to not only probably going to need to take more long-range shots, the Cougs are going to need to make them at a better than 31 percent clip — their mark in Pac-12 play so far, dead last in the conference.
Kenpom.com predicts this to be a 73-68 victory for Colorado, with WSU given just a 30 percent chance of victory.