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NCAA Basketball: California at Washington State James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

What to Watch For: Scouting WSU vs Stanford

The Cougs look to break even in the Pac-12 against Stanford

The Cougs are looking to continue their momentum and move to 4-4 in conference play with a win over the struggling Stanford Cardinal. Stanford has dropped four straight games and they are the last ranked team in the Pac-12.

The game tips off at 5:00 PM PST from Beasley Coliseum and can be watched on the Pac-12 Network.

Stanford Cardinal

Offense:

The Cardinal are about an average offense, especially in conference play. Over the course of the season, they rank 100th in Adjusted Offensive Efficiency, but they rank only 7th in conference play. Their biggest issue is their poor shooting from deep. They rank 90th in three-point attempts rate but 302nd in three-point percentage. They also turn it over at a high-rate, ranking 271st in turnover rate. They are an alright two-point scoring team, but this is the only real solid positive in their statistical profile.

Stanford is a creatively coached offensive teams and their sets reflect that. This is a go-to set for the Cardinal and it is a fun twist on normal middle ball-screens. The point guard passes to the big at the top of the key and then screens away for another guard. That guard then gets a running head start into a handoff, which helps them get downhill.

This play opens up a lot of corner threes, as the low-man sitting in help is often tuned into both screening actions and thus sags into the paint to provide help defense.

If the low-man defender doesn’t stick in the paint, it leaves left-handed drives open for Stanford’s guards.

Stanford is always looking to get their guards going toward the middle of the floor and opening up shots from deep. The Cardinal will run a variety of ball-screens with the intention of breaking the paint, forcing help, and hitting a three.

Stanford will also mix in some specific off-ball screening actions. This is a simple down-screen that opens up a nice shot of the Cardinal.

Stanford likes to isolate some of their players on the baseline. They set up these isolations with cross-screens at the baseline and it opens up solid isolation matchups.

Finally, Stanford is great at mixing in some counters as well. If they run a play successfully a couple times, they will adjust as a defense does to create other good looks. This is pivoting out of a general 1-4 high-set by adding a back-cut.

Defense:

Stanford has been the worst defense in the Pac-12 through 6 conference games. They have a few big strengths, especially thanks to their communal size, feel, and athleticism. They rank 97th in opponent turnover rate and 34th in defensive rebound rate. However, they allow teams to shoot a good number of threes- 157th in opponent three-point attempt rate- and teams are shooting 35% from deep against them. They are also awful at protecting the rim, ranking 245th in opponent two-point percentage. The Cougs should be able to get the looks they want against Stanford.

Stanford will mix up their ball-screen coverages all the time. They hard-hedge, they switch, they drop, and they’ll even zone up. They find strength in their versatility and size. Here is a look at their hard hedge, where the big gets out on the floor and then recovers back to the paint after the pass.

Here is a switch possession for the Cardinal. They will switch below the screen, trying to encourage a potential pull-up and preventing a slip to the rim by the screener.

While it’s not all that weird for a hard hedging team to switch occasionally, it is rare for them to mix in drop. This is a look at the Cardinal dropping their big-man to the paint in order to protect the rim.

Stanford will also mix in zone looks at time. Much like WSU’s zone, the wings are deeper out to prevent corner threes and the big sticks to the paint.

Players to Watch

Harrison Ingram was Pac-12 Freshman of the Year last season and someone that a lot of people already thought would be in the NBA. He decided to return for his sophomore year and he has gotten worse in just about every aspect statistically. Still, he brings a point guard skillset with plus size and an NBA-caliber body.

Spencer Jones is another fringe NBA prospect on the Stanford roster. He is an elite defender at 6’7, posting an impressive 2.3% steal rate and a 5.8% block rate. He is also generally known as a sniper from deep, though that number has fallen a bit short of his career average this season. Still, Jones has the upside to be a major part of a good team.

Brandon Angel is another wing who has gotten NBA looks, but has struggled in his junior season. Angel is a great mover on defense with feel as a passer and driver. If the shot can ger to a more respectable place, he is worth monitoring.

ashington State Cougars

Players to Watch

Justin Powell has had a very solid and efficient start to Pac-12 play. He has put up double figures in each of the last four games and he has been incredibly efficient from deep. He is up to 40.2% from deep on the season and he has mixed up the versatility on them a lot. He is hitting shots off movement, off the dribble, and in transition with ease. He has also played well as a playmaker in his slightly limited role. WSU has moved him out of the pick-and-roll point guard spot, but he has still managed to make a lot of plus reads as a passer.

Andrej Jakimovski has had some struggles since coming back from injury, but he is due for a huge game. He still does all the little things well, playing hard on defense and getting on the boards, but the scoring has not been there. He has clearly had some frustrations with himself and with the refs, but he is still an elite shooter and that jumper will come back. Stanford should present an advantageous matchup for Jakimovski to take and make some open looks.

Kymany Houinsou stepped up nicely into the starting lineup in the absence of TJ Bamba and that will likely still be the case against Stanford. Houinsou has proven effective as a transition scorer and he has some decision-making chops, even if he can be erratic. WSU also found a lot of value in using him in the post offensively, because he is bigger than most point guards and quicker than most wings. WSU’s spacing allows him consistent one-on-one matchups in the post.

What to Watch For:

Plugging the lane will be key for WSU in this one. Stanford struggles to shoot, but they are solid at getting into the lane and finish in the paint. Expect to see a good amount of zone in this one, as Stanford will struggle to shoot over it and it will allow WSU to prevent easy penetration.

Ball movement has been the main key to WSU’s offensive success so far this season. They are generally running out lineups with three or four plus passers and it has led to a lot of easy buckets for the Cougs. It shows up a lot in transition, but they have also found ways to maximize that passing in the half-court. Expect a high assist game against Stanford.

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