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What to Watch For: WSU vs. Idaho

WSU takes on the Vandals in the Battle of the Palouse.

Trevante Anderson transferred from San Francisco and has taken the lead guard role for the Vandals.
| James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

Washington State is set to take on the Idaho Vandals in the Battle of the Palouse, and it should be a raucous crowd in Moscow. Idaho is a lowly ranked team, but they are scrappy and can really shoot the ball. They always play against the Cougs with a chip on their shoulder, and it should be a fun game against two teams with a long history.

The Cougs are coming off an impressive win against UC Santa Barbara and they want to continue that momentum against an Idaho team they should be able to take it to. The defense has looked really impressive thus far, anchored by star big Efe Abogidi, and the offense has been really solid too. WSU is looking to continue their nonconference win streak in Moscow tonight.

Idaho Vandals

Offense

Idaho 2021-22 Synergy Offensive Efficiency

If we’re trying to be charitable, we can call Idaho a middle-of-the-road offense. They are a good spot-up team, mostly due to their shooting prowess, and it is their most frequent play type. They are a solid transition team and a lot of that is due to their shooting, as well. They rely a lot on their shooting to make everything on offense work.

Idaho relies a lot on lead guard Trevante Anderson, a transfer from San Fransicso. He is their leading scorer and only reliable playmaker on offense. They run a few sets like this with him and Philip Pepple Jr. operating on the empty side with space.

Idaho is a solid shooting team and they’re going to take advantage that. The Vandals are full of willing shooters and it makes discipline key on defense. Here, they set up a pick-and-roll from the wing, but instead of using it to get downhill, Anderson fans out and fires to the corner for a solid shot. Early helping off the corner shooters will open up windows for Idaho.

Every play Idaho runs is generally trying to create a look from 3-point range because that is the only way their offense can reach high enough levels to win consistently. They know their strengths and they don’t get too fancy. They run a simple baseline out of bounds here with a couple options to find shooters and it gets them an open look despite the simplicity.

Idaho likes to run a play that WSU has run a few times this season: the Spain pick-and-roll. This is where a shooter backscreens for the roll-man and pops, making another defender make a decision and leading to open looks. Here, it fails because Idaho does not have the ball-handlers to handle a hard trap, but if WSU plays it honest, they could get some shots out of this action.

Defense

Idaho 2021-22 Defensive Efficiency

The Vandals are a pretty poor defense. They lack the size and athleticism to compete with a lot of teams. This deficiency leads to poor transition and semi-transition defense. On the play below, someone like Noah Williams likely gets a bucket in transition. To make up for their lack of size, they will double the post consistently and that’s also seen on the play below.

In pick-and-rolls, they are generally going to hard hedge and then recover to make up for their lack of size. This often brings another player into the action and can open up passing lanes, but it makes ball-handlers uncomfortable and can bog an offense down. It could be effective against the Cougs due to the lack of elite passers on the WSU roster.

Players to Watch

Gabe Quinnett is the only returning starter from last year’s team, and he can really shoot. The Moscow native has had a slow start to this season, but at 6-foot-4 he has good size and a clean jumper that he can hit in a few different ways. He is due for a breakout game and the Cougs will have to make sure to stick to him on the perimeter.

Anderson is a Washington native who didn’t play much for San Francisco last season, but he has stepped into a huge role for the Vandals thus far. He is their leading scorer, averaging 17.3 points per game, and he is the engine for their offense. He is a good athlete and finisher who is going to try to get downhill and challenge our bigs.

Pepple Jr. is the Vandals’ only healthy big and he will have a lot to handle in this game. He is only about 6-foot-8, but he is an excellent rebounder, screener, and post-defender. He is a throwback big who does a lot of dirty work for Idaho and he does it well.

Washington State Cougars

Players to Watch

Efe Abogidi has had an incredible start to the season. He has answered every question we had about him going into the season and he looks like he is making that sophomore leap. He could be the best rim-protector in the Pac-12, he is moving well on the perimeter, he has taken advantage of his speed in the post, and he has made good decisions as a passer.

Dishon Jackson has had some issues with taking care of the ball and fouling so far this season. He had a good game against Seattle, but he only played 6 total minutes against UCSB. He will have major size advantages against the Vandals and he needs to get himself into a rhythm this year.

Andrej Jakimovski has had a bumpy start to the year, but he has flashed some moments. He has had some turnover issues, but he’s also had some really nice passes that flash the point-forward potential he entered the program with. The shot needs to fall for him, but Idaho is a team where he doesn’t face an athleticism deficit so he could have a nice game if it clicks.

What to Watch For

Three-point shooting from the Cougs is going to be really important going forward. They have had an up and down start to the season from deep. They are only shooting 25.9% from three this season and that will have to take a major jump to compete. Tyrell Roberts can really shoot, Michael Flowers has had a slow start but the shooting should jump, but some other guys are still question marks. Williams, Mouhamed Gueye, Abogidi, and Jakimovski all have major questions as to what level of shooter they actually are. There should be some open looks created against the Vandals and they need to capitalize on them in this game.

How WSU guards shooting specialists is going to be an interesting story to watch here. There are a number of elite shooters that the Cougs are going to have to contend with in the Pac-12 and this game should be a good practice for that. Seattle U was a good shooting team that the Cougs held to 33% shooting, but Nate Robinson got loose for a lot of open threes that he canned. Three point defense is a tough thing to truly quantify, but the Vandals will be a good test.

Question of the Game

Will Abogidi have more than four blocks?

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