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WSU basketball vs. San Jose State: Preview and game thread

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The Cougars should win this one!

NCAA Basketball: San Jose State at St. Mary's John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports

The WSU Cougars continue the non-conference portion of the schedule with a post-Thanksgiving matchup against San Jose State at Beasley Coliseum. Tipoff is set for 3 p.m. PT with Pac-12 Network broadcasting the game.

The Cougs are coming off a 6th place finish at the Paradise Jam in the U.S. Virgin Islands last weekend, in which they went 1-2 in the kind of showing you’d expect from this team: starting with a blowout loss to a really good Creighton team and then following it up with a split over a pair of midmajors (win over Montana, loss to Loyola Chicago) that are probably about as good as WSU.

The good news is that WSU returns home to face a team that’s pretty terrible. The Spartans are 1-3 on the season, with their only win coming over something called “West Coast Baptist” which is a member of the National Christian College Athletic Association and not the NCAA or NAIA. The Spartans already have double-digit losses to Portland, Denver and Saint Mary’s.

The Spartans have the kind of offense that should make WSU’s defense look pretty good — they’re 264th or worse nationally in shooting (eFG%), offensive rebounding percentage and free throw rate. About the only thing they do sort of well is take care of the basketball.

That said, there’s one area where WSU could find itself presented with a problem: The SJSU defense isn’t half bad, and its best characteristic is its ability to force turnovers. Unfortunately, committing turnovers is WSU’s biggest problem; it’s what sunk the Cougs against Loyola, a game in which they shot the ball well but neutered their efficiency with giveaways.

SJSU’s best player is sophomore forward Brandon Clarke, who is long and athletic and very active on the defensive end while being a credible threat on the interior. And while the team shoots poorly overall, Ryan Welage and Jalen James are two guys WSU will need to find on the permeter — they are shooting 14-for-28 combined from 3-point range.

In all likelihood, this will be a game that’s hard on the eyes, full of bad shooting and miscues. But WSU probably will prevail — kenpom.com gives the Cougs a roughly 80 percent of winning.