Despite a lack of interest from the public at large, the Washington State men’s basketball team will continue playing games this season. The next of those games is today, Sunday, in Eugene against the Oregon Ducks. The game takes place at 5 p.m. PT and will be broadcast on ESPNU. We’ll get into some of the particulars below, but if you are busy I’ll save you some time: WSU doesn’t have much of a chance to beat the Ducks today.
Oregon is coming off of a win over Washington where it took the red-hot Huskies and tossed them straight into a frozen lake, causing longstanding damage that carried over into Corvallis days later. The Cougars got blown out by the Beavers last time out, the fifth-consecutive game in which WSU lost by 10 or more points.
When WSU has the ball, expect the Cougars to give the ball back to the Ducks in any way it can, but more specifically without putting up a shot of some kind. Oregon has a middle-of-the-road Pac-12 defense, but what it does best is take the ball away from its opponents.
The Cougs have no shortage of players that are careless with the ball. Drick Bernstine is unique in that he starts the break straight from a rebound as a big man, and often brings the ball up the floor otherwise. The problem is that his turnover rate looks like a big man who has been charged with bringing the ball up the floor—28 percent of the possessions that end with Bernstine, end with a turnover. That’s not a good number (turnovers happen on 18.7 percent of possessions overall in Division I college basketball this season).
Bernstine isn’t alone, Milan Acquaah turns the ball over one-third of the time and Kwinton Hinson gives it away almost one-quarter of the time.
But during conference play, WSU’s turnover issues have been most impacted by Malachi Flynn’s occasional inability to take care of the basketball. Flynn started the season with just five turnovers in the team’s first six games, and his overall season turnover rate is not bad: 14.9 percent. In Pac-12 play, that number is 16.9 percent—that includes two turnover-free games in Los Angeles. In WSU’s last two losses, Flynn turned the ball of five times each. Those turnovers torpedoed any chance of the Cougs upsetting Arizona State.
If WSU is going to have any chance, Flynn has to be careful with the ball. Plus the Cougs would need to get super-hot from three. Like, blue-flame, liquefying-the beer-can-as-soon-as-you-toss-it-on-the-coals hot. (Looking at you, Robert Franks.)
When Oregon has the ball, well, WSU is the worst defense in the Pac-12, giving up nearly 1.18 points per possession (average is a little under 1.06). The Ducks haven’t been great on offense, but the Cougs aren’t going to punish them for their biggest weaknesses: offensive rebounding and three-point shooting. WSU isn’t a good defensive rebounding team, and its allows the fourth-fewest 3-point shooting attempts by percentage of shots in conference play.
Basically, the Cougs don’t push opponents to shoot 3s because they’d prefer to let them blow-by for layups (Cougar Pac-12 opposition is shooting 59 percent on 2-pointers). Oregon’s Payton Pritchard, Troy Brown, Elijah Brown and Paul White are in line for some fun.
It shapes up to be a stellar day for the Ducks on offense. If they just let WSU turn the ball over like it normally does, it should be as easy win for the home team.