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What to Watch For: Scouting WSU vs. South Dakota State Jackrabbits

The Cougs travel to Spokane to take on an elite offense that can get hot from deep.

The Cougs look to add another solid win to their resume this week as they take on the South Dakota State Jackrabbits in Spokane. The Jackrabbits enter Washington with an 8-3 record, with losses to Alabama, Washington, and Idaho. They are known for their fast paced, explosive offense that plays a very run and gun style.

The game tips off at noon PT and will be on Pac-12 Network and Pac-12.com (with a subscription).

WSU is coming off of a rousing victory against the previously undefeated Weber State Wildcats. The Cougs’ defense has been incredible during their last four games and their effort has really stood out. They are looking to continue their momentum north of the Palouse.

South Dakota State Jackrabbits

Offense

2021-22 SDSU Synergy Offensive Efficiency

The Jackrabbits are a really impressive offense that can win in a lot of ways. The spot-up numbers are the obvious standouts, as they are one of the best shooting teams in the nation. Transition plays are their second-most frequent play type and at the 88th percentile in those play types, they are always running and doing it effectively. They are only in the 50th percentile in post-up plays, but they play through the post a lot and it leads to a lot of the spot-up possessions in which they are so deadly.

The Jackrabbits really like to get to their post-ups early. Here, they run the first play of the game as a weave into a post-up. Most of their posts are finesse scorers who excel with touch and footwork. Douglas Wilson runs this one and shows off the athletic pop and power.

They will run quite a few different sets with the purpose of keeping the guard and wing defenders occupied and opening up post touches for their bigs. Here, they run a sort of pistol set on the wing, but without bringing the big up to screen like would normally happen in pistol plays. Instead, the big gets deep positioning and gets the touch SDSU is looking for.

Their offense is greatly boosted by their transition play and they will take advantage of any ill-prepared defense. They will run on any steal, but they will also run on a lot of defensive rebounds. WSU will have to especially careful because they like to send bodies to the offensive boards, but they will have to be prepared to get back and prevent run outs. Here, Idaho doesn’t even try to offensive rebound, but they are slow to get on defense and South Dakota State makes them pay.

Something that stands out about SDSU is that they are not particularly full of great athletes, and that effects what they can run on offense. They will run pick-and-roll a lot and out of various different offensive alignments, often looking to get one-dribble pull-ups or to open up skip passes to open shooters. Here, they run a pick-and-roll on the weakside, pass to the strong side, and get another one over there. This is a defendable set, but Idaho miscommunicates on the strong side and the ball-handler gets all the way to the rim.

This is the type of pull-up the Jackrabbits love to get to out of pick-and-roll. The roll man gets below the defensive big and gets in good offensive rebounding position and the guard gets a pretty good look at a shot they can hit. A lot of their offense is found on these early clock pull-ups because the Jackrabbits are full of elite shooters.

Defense

2021-22 SDSU Synergy Defensive Efficiency

South Dakota State’s defense is not a bright spot for them at all. They are poor in a lot of areas despite the weak competition they have played so far, and there are a lot of areas that the Cougs can exploit for easy points. They are allowing an entire point per possession on post-ups and they have not faced post players like Dishon Jackson, Efe Abogidi, or Mouhamed Gueye yet in their early season.

The major weakness that permeates the whole roster for the Jackrabbits is their lack of size and athleticism. They allow a lot of easy paint touches and they do not have the shot-blockers to compensate for that. Guards with an average or above first step can live at the rim against SDSU and this could mean huge games for some of the Cougs’ most athletic wings.

Often times, the Jackrabbits’ lack of athleticism can lead to them overplaying drivers and giving up good looks. This can be seen off-the-ball occasionally, though the Jackrabbits are not often overhelping and consistently give up rim attempts rather than helping off of shooters. More often, it is seen as an on-ball defender simply overplays a drive or a hand for a particular player — here it opens up the easy step-back for Idaho.

Finally, their defensive communication is not very consistent. They get back cut a lot and they can get lost when in rotation. Here, two guys go to one perimeter shooter and the big is left wide open below the rim. The Cougs proved effective in looking off a defense against Weber State, and it could look even better against SDSU.

Players to Watch

Noah Freidel is the Jackrabbits’ leading scorer and go-to guy when they need a bucket. He is averaging 19 points per game and he can get his shots in a variety of ways. He can hit jumpers from outside, but he can also get into the lane to finish or get to the line.

Baylor Scheierman might be SDSU’s best all-around player. The 6’6 guard leads the team in assists at 4.2 per game, while also averaging 14 points and 9 rebounds. He does a lot of playmaking out of the pick-and-roll and in the post while also hitting most open shots he is given.

Douglas Wilson is certainly the Jackrabbits most explosive player. He does not stretch it out much, but he is averaging an efficient 14.7 points per game. He primarily plays in the post or out of the roll, but the former JUCO player really pops as a two-way force for the Jackrabbits.

Washington State Cougars

Players to Watch

TJ Bamba was a major success in his first start against Weber State and he looks to continue that success against SDSU. His defense has taken a massive leap from where it was last season, and the shooting also looks much better. He is rounding into a very solid all-around player who fills a lot of gaps in WSU’s starting lineup.

Tyrell Roberts had a solid game as the 6th man against Weber State. He is basically a shooting guard when he plays off the bench and Noah Williams takes on a lot more of the ball-handling duties. Roberts’ efficiency needs to reach borderline elite territory for him to return real value on the floor, and SDSU could provide an opportunity to get some of his rhythm back.

Mouhamed Gueye is in for a big game in Spokane. He had his first career double-double in the last game, and there is no one on SDSU that can give him trouble in the post. He is starting to find his rhythm and niche, and this could be the game where he gets the confidence to knock one down from outside.

What to Watch For

The Cougs continuing to run players off the three-point line will be a huge point of emphasis in this game. The Jackrabbits are a team that can catch fire from deep, but they are not particularly adept at finishing around the rim. It will be a major boost if the Cougs can force SDSU to finish over players like Abogidi and Gueye rather than letting the Jackrabbits fire from deep.

The pick-and-roll chemistry really started clicking against Weber State. The guards were finding the bigs rolling a lot more frequently and that is going to be huge going forward. All three of WSU’s bigs are potentially elite roll-men who just haven’t had the guards to get them to their spots. The pick-and-roll becoming a demonstrably positive play for the Cougs will be a major boost to their offensive ceiling going forward and they could get those same plays going against SDSU.

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