The Washington State Cougars are off to a 3-0 start in the young men’s basketball season, but the competition level gets ratcheted up a number of notches when they take on the Saint Joseph's Hawks today at the Wooden Legacy in Fullerton, California.
Tip off is slated for 3 p.m. PT today, and the game will be broadcast online only via WatchESPN. (If you have a cable subscription to ESPN, you have access to the broadcast.)
The Cougs faced three teams rated worse than 250th in the kenpom.com rankings during their initial home stand; the Hawks are ranked 67th — roughly the quality of Utah, Arizona State or Stanford. They're one of the favorites to win the Atlantic 10. They'll almost certainly contend for an NCAA tournament berth.
This game is very likely to come down to whoever shoots best from beyond the arc.
The Cougs shoot the three more frequently than all but two teams in all of Division I — more than 54 percent of their field goal attempts are threes, and they make 40 percent of them. St. Joe's, meanwhile, allows more three-point attempts than all but five teams in the Division I.
On the flip side, Saint Joseph's is a good three-point shooting team that is going to put WSU's defense to the test; the Cougs have had some success so far with their 1-3-1 zone, but St. Joe's takes very good care of the ball and possesses the ability to make shots. If the Cougs decide to try and gamble and trap, as they've had a propensity to do so far this year, they could get burned badly.
Can the Cougs make enough of what ought to be lots of long range shots to hang with the Hawks? Can the Cougs rotate quickly enough in their zone to challenge shots? Those two things probably will determine the outcome.
Kenpom.com sees this as an 80-70 game that the Hawks win about five out of six times.