It is senior day on the Palouse and WSU is once again taking on Oregon for their last game of the year. WSU got the best of Oregon in last year’s matchup, pulling off an impressive 20-point win and making Beasley erupt for a Will Burghardt 3, but they were bested by Oregon earlier this season. Both teams are far healthier than they were for their last meeting and both teams are hungry to secure better seeding for the Pac-12 tournament.
The game tips off from Beasley Coliseum at 4 PM PST and can be watched on Fox Sports 1 or the Fox Sports app.
Oregon is a formidable, if inconsistent, offensive team. They rank 4th in the Pac-12 in Kenpom’s Adjusted Offensive Efficiency- 31st in the country- and it is mostly thanks to their ability to finish near the basket. They are first in the conference in two-point percentage and 4th in free throw rate, resulting from their bruising post-players and their perimeter slashers. Their biggest issue on offense is carelessness, as they rank 8th in the conference and 247th in the country in turnover rate. A lot of these turnovers are live-ball ones as well- 8th in the Pac in opponent steal rate.
The Ducks are a high volume pick-and-roll team. They have a few guards who they trust to operate those sets and a collection of bigs who all want to do something different and interesting to as roll-men.
Dana Altman likes to mix in a couple pick-and-roll variations as well. This is a double drag set, where one screener pops and the other dives, opening up a lot of options for their playmakers. They will also mix in some Spain actions with varying frequency.
Altman also likes to mix in more specialized sets to generate specific looks. This is a horns Flare play, where both bigs set up at the elbow, one catches the ball, and the other then screens for the guard.
This another interesting set play. The Ducks rarely run chin, but they set up in chin on this one and the cutter turns to set an up screen for the big in the high-post to catch a lob.
Oregon also loves to get 4-around-1 post looks. Dante is an excellent post-scorer and they will look to get the ball to him with good spacing around him.
Oregon is a solid statistical defense on the season, but they have struggled in conference play. They rank 9th in the Pac in Adjusted Defensive Efficiency. They don’t force turnovers- 10th in the conference- and teams are shooting an impressive 34.8% from deep against them. However, they are good at suppressing 3s- 3rd in the conference in opponent three-point attempt rate- and they protect the rim solidly- 5th in opponent two-point percentage. Some of their defensive woes are luck based- 12th in opponent free throw percentage- but there are also some major holes in their defensive strategy.
Oregon’s go-to pick-and-roll coverage is a deep drop. They like to keep their big-men near the rim and force opposing guards into the mid-range. N’Faly Dante and Nate Bittle are not the most effective rim-protectors, but their size is intimidating.
This drop defense leaves the mid-range area vulnerable and heady guards can take advantage. They can either get to pull-ups or floaters or occupy the big on drives and get the ball to the big or force a help rotation and kick the ball out.
Oregon will plug the paint pretty aggressively, showing help on post-ups, going under a lot of ball-screens, and sagging off perimeter players. They will closeout aggressively to prevent open 3s, but they are vulnerable to quick ball movement and good pull-up scorers.
Finally, Oregon goes to a show press pretty consistently. They like to bring try and prevent easy in-bound passes, but they are rarely trapping ball-handlers. Instead, their goal is mostly to slow the opponent down and make weak ball-handlers stress to cross half-court.
Players to Watch
Jermaine Couisnard did not play in the last matchup against the Cougs, but he has had a solid season since coming back from injury. He is averaging 13.3 points on 55.7% true shooting and he brings a lot to the table as a versatile scorer at the wing. The 6’4 guard is always hunting his own shot and he can get buckets at all three levels.
Kel’el Ware was the prize prospect of the Pac-12 coming into the season, but he has struggled to find a consistent role for the Ducks. Still, even while struggling to find minutes, he shows a lot of promise with his size, athleticism, and touch. NBA teams are still intrigued by his upside and he could get up for some big dunks in this one.
Keeshawn Barthelemy is a transfer from Colorado who is best known for his lockdown defense. He has struggled a lot with offensive consistency, but he can lock dudes down at the point of attack and hit open shots when they are given up.
Washington State Cougars
Players to Watch
Andrej Jakimovski missed the last meeting between these two and his absence was greatly felt on both ends. WSU shot 3-14 from deep in their last meeting and not having Jakimovski there to be a reliable third shooter was a big part of that. WSU playing lineups with Jaki at power forward opens up so much for their offense because they can play a true four-out style. He should also have an advantageous matchup against Nate Bittle if he was going to run some pick-and-roll. Jakimovski has also proven himself to be the most valuable part of WSU’s defense. Oregon shot 29-44 from two in the last matchup between these teams and not having him as the low-man was the major reason for that. WSU’s defense has drastically improved since Jaki returned to the lineup because he provides a lot of help near the rim.
In their last meeting, Justin Powell had a rough game against Oregon in their last meeting, but he should be set up for success if he is willing to hunt his shot a bit more. Oregon drops their bigs deep, leaving a lot of room near the elbows for pull-up jumpers and floaters if the big sets a good screen. Powell is not always the offensive aggressor his skillset makes him capable of, but WSU might need him to be consistently looking for shots in that area. If a defender goes under, he should be looking to pull from behind the screen. If they go over, he should be probing into that mid-range area and looking to either create a shot for himself or read the backside help for a pass. It is understandable that he struggles some with more aggressive hedges and high-catches, but a drop is the perfect scheme for him to exploit as a pick-and-roll player.
Mouhamed Gueye had a great offensive game in the last matchup. He scored 19 points on 8-12 shooting while also grabbing 4 offensive boards. He did have 6 turnovers and 0 assists, but there were plenty of positives with how he played. WSU’s chest-based scheme is built for Gueye to dominate against centers like Dante. Dante is slow-footed and he doesn’t like to leave the paint, but when Gueye catches at the elbow, Dante has to step up or he will knock down 17-footers all day long. Gueye should be aggressive trying to get to his shots today, as forcing Dante out and making him guard in space is a great strategy against the Oregon big. This game will also be where Gueye is forced to execute as a roll-man. Gueye has played poorly as a pick-and-roll finisher in general this season, preferring to pop rather than role to the rim. However, against Oregon’s deep drop, rolling to the rim, getting behind the big, and either forcing backside help or catching and finishing down low is vital for the Cougs to consistently generate good looks.
What to Watch For
Protecting the rim is the main key for WSU in this one. Oregon is a ruthlessly efficient two-point scoring team and WSU will need to be in tune with that to slow down their offense. Gueye should do fine guarding one-on-one in the post, but Oregon has a bevy of drivers who excel at getting downhill and Gueye struggles to combat that as a defender. Jakimovski and DJ Rodman will have to provide resistance near the rim on these drives and forcing Oregon into a jump-shooting contest would be the preferable path to victory for the Cougs in this one.
Taking what Oregon gives on defense is an easy path to a good offensive outing. Oregon is not a bad defense, per se, but they are a defense with obvious and exploitable holes. Dante’s slow-feet on the perimeter force him into a deep drop, leaving the middle of the floor open for attack if a ball-handler can shake the initial defender. Playing the likes of Nate Bittle and Quincy Guerrier at the four gives some easy pick-and-roll or chest targets for WSU’s screening actions because they trust Jakimovkski or Rodman to attack in those situations. WSU will not have to change up much of what they do offensively to top the Ducks, but they will have to be sure to not overthink and overpass, instead taking the good looks afforded to them.
Question of the Game
Will WSU hold Oregon below 53% from two?