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WSU travels to Oregon State for latest Pac-12 tilt

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They’ll probably lose badly. But maybe not. Sports!

NCAA Basketball: Stanford at Washington State James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

The Washington State Cougars hit the road for the third time in Pac-12 play, and they’re sure hoping this weekend’s trip through western Oregon goes a lot better than trips to Seattle, Boulder and Salt Lake City, where they lost all three by a combined 68 points.

Robert Franks didn’t play in any of those games, so maybe that alone will give the Cougs more of a chance when they take on the Oregon State Beavers tonight. Tip off is at 8 p.m. PT and the game will be broadcast on Pac-12 Networks. You can also stream it on your favorite device via Pac-12.com or the Pac-12 Now app.

But after WSU lost at home to the Stanford Cardinal on Sunday — the Cardinal are ranked 60-plus spots below the Beavers in kenpom.com’s adjusted efficiency margin — it’s fair to wonder how much of a chance the Cougs have in this one.

Kenpom gives them just a 12 percent chance, but that’s a chance, and if the Cougars are going to take advantage of their chance, they’re going to do at least a few things better than they normally do.

WSU struggles to stop any offense, so it’s only natural that they’ve struggled mightily with every non-Cal Pac-12 offense. OSU has been one of the better offenses in the league on the whole this season (which isn’t saying much, but work with me here), and that’s largely because they combine above average shooting with excellent offensive rebounding. We’ve covered the value of “shot volume” in the past, and this could spell real trouble for WSU — the Cougars are not good at preventing other teams from shooting well (12th in the Pac-12 in effective field goal percentage against), and they’re merely so-so at defensive rebounding (although it’s much, much better when Franks plays).

If WSU is somehow able to come up with an unusually dominant effort on the defensive glass, that would be a really good start to slowing down the Beavers. Tres Tinkle, Stephen Thompson and Ethan Thompson probably will still get theirs since they’re all matchup nightmares for WSU, but hey ... gotta start somewhere.

(For what it’s worth: It will be interesting to see if or when Ernie Kent puts Franks on Tinkle. Franks could answer some questions about his defense at the next level with a strong performance tonight.)

The other thing that might help WSU: OSU isn’t a great three-point shooting team, and WSU will offer the Beavers lots of enticing looks from deep. Packing the paint and playing the three-point lottery is probably the Cougs’ best strategy.

Speaking of the three-point lottery, WSU’s offense probably has a chance on that front, too — OSU is only meh at preventing threes, and teams shoot a high percentage on the ones they take. The Beavers’ strength — they’re fourth in the nation in two-point percentage against — probably won’t affect WSU a whole lot.

So, to recap ... for WSU to have a chance at winning, the Cougs should ...

  • Surround the other team’s basket with lots of defenders;
  • Try to get OSU to take a bunch of threes;
  • Hope they miss the vast majority of them;
  • Defensive rebound much better than normal; and
  • Take and make a bunch of threes on their own end.

You never know!

SPORTS!