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WSU vs. Kansas State basketball: Preview and Game Thread

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Cougs face a huge test away from home.

NCAA Basketball: Barclays Center Classic-Maryland vs Kansas State
Barry Brown
Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

So few are WSU’s non-conference opportunities against high major competition that in another season tonight’s tilt with Kansas State would have been one of the most anticipated games of WSU basketball’s season.

That kind of goes out the window, though, when the team is muddling through at 5-4 with losses to San Jose State, New Orleans and Loyola Chicago.

Still, this is an interesting measuring stick game for the Cougars, who are given a less than 10 percent chance to win the game by kenpom.com — WSU is ranked No. 193, while the Wildcats (8-1) are No. 35.

Are the Cougs really that bad? Do they have the potential to surprise some people this season? In the only other game this season that compares to this one, they were run off the floor by Creighton at the Paradise Jam tournament in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Perhaps they’ve matured and can put up a fight today.

Or, maybe they really are this bad. Either way, this likely will give us a window into what the Pac-12 season — which begins in a few weeks — probably will be like.

Unsurprisingly, the Wildcats do a lot of things well, but the one that ought to give WSU fans the most pause is that they’re No. 10 nationally in opponent turnover percentage, taking the ball away on roughly 1 in 4 possessions. The Cougars, meanwhile, give it up on 1 in 5 possessions, in the bottom half of the country.

Additionally, the one thing KSU is really not good at — defensive rebounding — the Cougs haven’t shown an ability to take advantage of this season, as they are one of the worst offensive rebounding teams in the entire country.

Oh, and KSU ranks in the top 20 nationally in both offensive and defensive effective field goal percentage — including No. 10 nationally in defensive 2-point percentage, which is WSU’s strength on offense — so even if the Cougs somehow take care of the ball, they’re going to have an exceedingly difficult time putting the ball in the basket. The Wildcats simply own the paint on both ends.

Put it all together, and it’s tough to see a path to victory for WSU. But it’s sports, and wacky stuff happens, so who knows?

Go Cougs!