Fresh off a reasonable showing against No. 13 Gonzaga, the Washington State Cougars look to get back to their winning ways in the non-conference schedule today with a home matchup against Portland State.
The Vikings -- rated 244th by kenpom.com -- come to Pullman with a 3-3 overall record, but they are just 1-3 against Division I competition, with the lone victory coming over lowly University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. (Yes, that's a real school -- it used to be called Texas Pan American. Wait, never heard of that one either? Never mind.)
WSU is pretty much the worst possible kind of matchup for Portland State; the Vikings are primarily an interior oriented team, and the Cougars' strength is its interior defense.
The Vikings are led by senior forward Cameron Forte, who uses a whopping one third of his team's possessions when he's on the floor -- eighth most nationally. He's solely an interior threat, as about two thirds of his shots come at the rim. Only about half of his makes at the rim come off of an assist, meaning most of his shots are going to come with him isolated or off of an offensive rebound (which he's good at); that's great news for WSU, a team with large men in the frontcourt who block a lot of shots. He also shoots poorly on shots away from the rim.
The one thing WSU might have to watch out for? Forte is a superb offensive rebounder -- part of an offense that ranks 16th nationally in offensive rebounding percentage -- and the Cougars have been not great on the defensive glass. The good news is that PSU has been surprisingly bad at converting those second chances into points.
Forte also draws a lot of fouls, but with 10 fouls between Conor Clifford and Valentine Izundu, that shouldn't be too big of a factor, even if he does get to the line a bit.
On the flip side, it would be pretty stunning if the Cougs had a hard time putting up lots of points today. Teams don't shoot particularly well against Portland State, but the Cougars aren't perimeter oriented. PSU also has been pretty decent at packing it in and keeping teams away from the rim, but the Vikings have yet to face a team with the size and athleticism of WSU. That's where the Cougars excel, and if WSU is able to what it has done all year, it's going to be a long day for PSU, because the Vikings don't do anything else particularly well. They don't force turnovers, which should give WSU a chance to get right on that front, and they give up a ton of offensive rebounds, which WSU is actually good at this year.
Kenpom.com predicts a nine-point margin of victory for WSU.