The Washington State Cougars host the Florida A&M Rattlers on Thursday in a game that makes very little sense geographically, but you have to fill out a schedule, right? The FAMU at the very least made the trip to the Pacific Northwest worth it, playing at Portland on Monday and stopping next to play Seattle on Saturday.
If you aren’t willing to pay the $1 prices on some secondary ticket sites and make your way down to Pullman more this matchup, the WSU basketball Twitter account has you covered on how to follow the action.
| 11 |— WSU Men's Basketball (@WSUCougarMBB) December 19, 2019
| 7:30 pm
| Beasley Coliseum
| https://t.co/yQUv4cC9hV#GoCougs | #CougsVsEverybody pic.twitter.com/bnvjISwKkv
The Rattlers are a team on the rise, in that thanks to just a six-point loss at Portland, Florida A&M has risen above No. 340 in KenPom rankings—all the way to No. 334. Despite that success, FAMU is still searching for its first win of the season.
In its defense, Florida A&M has played a pretty tough schedule, with just one team above the top 200, including road games at USC (65), Seton Hall (21), Kansas State (80), and Tennessee (29). So the Rattlers aren’t likely to be intimidated by playing a Power 5 school. Of course, none of those games were close, with the tightest being an 18-point loss to Kansas State.
WSU sits at No. 137 and FAMU nearly pulled off a win against No. 138 South Dakota. So, while KenPom gives the Cougs a 94 percent chance to win with an average score of 77-60, there is a chance the Rattlers make this a game.
If they do, they’ll have to overcome a seriously bad matchup when they have the ball. For a team to get an upset, it often would hope to steal some points beyond the arc. FAMU is the worst 3-point shooting team in the country (22.1 percent) and shoots 3s less often than any other team (which is smart, given the success rate). The Cougs are 72nd in opposing 3-point percentage, and they are in the top-third of limiting 3-point attempts.
So the Rattlers aren’t gonna shoot many 3s. What about inside the arc? They don’t fare much better there, hitting on less than 41 percent of their 2-pointers. Just getting a shot off might be difficult for Florida A&M—WSU is 29th nationally in forcing turnovers, while FAMU gives it away at the 298th lowest rate.
Overall, this is the 124th-ranked defense by adjusted efficiency vs. the 347-ranked offense. Points are going to be tough to find for Florida A&M.
On the defensive end, the Rattlers hang their hats on forcing turnovers and getting steals. That’s not a great matchup against WSU, who is second-best nationally in turnover rate, and third-best in allowing steals.
FAMU’s 3-point defense is decent, but the inside has been a different story. Florida A&M opponents are hitting nearly 55 percent of 2-pointers, allow free throws at a high rate, and are 344th in defensive rebounding percentage.
The Cougs should make a point to go inside. They have been doing that more and more recently, and if they do this time they could find themselves with easy points. If that goes well, it should be a run away for Wazzu. If the offense struggles, WSU should still win fairly comfortably on the back of its defense.