The Washington State Cougars are coming off of a solid rivalry win against UW, and they look to finish out the home stretch strong with a weekend series against the Oregon schools. Oregon State is coming off of a huge win against USC and their vibe is good despite their record. The Beavers are young and inexperienced, but talented and energetic. The Cougs will look to take care of business against a feisty Oregon State team at home.
The game tips off from Beasley Coliseum at 8:00 PM PST and it can be watched on ESPNU.
Oregon State Beavers
Oregon State is a bad offense, to say the least. They rank 278th in Adjusted Offensive Efficiency and they are 12th in the Pac in the same stat. They are not completely hopeless on that end, as they are shooting 35.3% from deep and they rank 7th in the conference in three-point attempt rate. They are also 6th in the conference in free throw rate, but that is about all there is to be happy about with their offense. They rank 11th in the Pac-12 in two-point percentage, 11th in turnover rate, and 12th in offensive rebound rate. The two-point issues are particularly notable because they run a lot of post-ups, but their bigs are all fairly inefficient and their spacing makes it hard to get clean looks at the rim.
Oregon State runs a surprisingly complex offensive scheme, utilizing a lot of off-ball screens and motion to get the looks they want. The youth on the team hurts their ability to execute this scheme, but it looks surprisingly good when run correctly. This is an example of a box cross set-up that helps them get a good look from deep.
A lot of their offense is built around creating either spot-up threes or post-ups with their off-ball screens. This play acts almost as cyclone play, which WSU constantly ran for Tyrell Roberts last season, but they don’t set an initial fake screen to be rejected like most cyclone plays. Instead, they trust their ball-handler to get to the baseline on his own and set an extra screen for the shooter.
Their other goal with off-ball actions is to create space for pick-and-roll. Here, they use a few screens to empty out a side for a ball-screen.
Oregon State will occasionally just run straight-up pick-and-roll, though this is rarely an effective strategy because the spacing is so poor, but if OSU’s stars are hot, it can work to get them some good looks.
OSU is not a great turnover-forcing team, but the Beavs are great at turning it over, and WSU should be able to take some advantage of that. Could a guy like Justin Powell get his first college dunk in this one? Could be his best chance with the Beavers’ sloppy passing.
Oregon State is a slightly better defense than offense, but they are far from elite on that end. They rank in 104th in Adjusted Defensive Efficiency, which is good for 10th in the conference. They rank 6th in the Pac in opponent turnover rate, thanks mostly to their hard hedges and athletic wings, but their other top defensive strength is luck based. They rank 8th in the conference in opponent three-point attempt rate, but teams are only shooting 31.7% from deep against them. OSU’s biggest weakness is their rim-protection, as their young bigs are incredibly foul prone -12th in opponent free throw rate- and they are undersized down low- 10th in opponent two-point percentage.
The Beavers will throw a lot of different looks at their opponents and try to muck up the game as much as possible. They recognize that they are not the most talented defensive team, but they will force teams into uncomfortable situations by throwing in zone or mixing up their screen coverages throughout the course of a game.
When playing traditional man-to-man defense, Oregon State tends to hard hedge their big. They will tag into the paint hard, hoping to force guards to pick up the ball and make difficult skip passes rather than being able to make simple entry passes to the roll-man.
Players to Watch
Glenn Taylor Jr is Oregon State’s star sophomore who has been one of the most underrated players in the Pac-12 this season. The 6’6 wing is a great downhill driver who finishes strong near the rim and he excels as a playmaker for others. He is always a threat to grab and go off of rebounds and he is great at getting into the lane and firing passes out to open shooters. Taylor is a really impressive wing slasher who can get going and carry Oregon State’s offense.
Jordan Pope is the current front-runner for Pac-12 Freshman of the Year and he is a true spark-plug scorer. Pope is a 6’2 guard averaging 12.9 points and 2.5 assists a game while shooting 39% from deep. He is an incredible shooter already who takes the majority of his jumpers off-the-dribble. It is hard to not get some shades of Michael Flowers when watching Pope, but he is even slightly more explosive and effective near the rim. The sky is the limit for Pope, but he has already proved himself as a valuable bucket-getter in the Pac.
Tyler Bilodeau is one of many freshman on the Beavers’ roster who gets legitimate minutes but is not yet contributing to winning basketball. The 6’9 forward is from Kennewick, Washington and he played his high school ball at Kamiakin. He has some touch in the post, a potentially viable jumper, and he is a solid passer, but he is currently erratic as a decision-maker and defender. The talent is obvious when watching him, but he might have his hands full against the Cougs.
Washington State Cougars
Players to Watch
TJ Bamba has posted two straight double-digit scoring games for the first time since the Cougs went to Hawaii at the end of December. He has been efficient overall in both games and his defense has continued to be excellent. Last season, Bamba put Glenn Taylor Jr in jail in both of their matchups and he will need to do the same again in this one. Bamba’s defense on Taylor becomes even more vital without Efe Abogidi behind him to protect the rim. Hopefully, Bamba can get into double figures on solid efficiency again in this one while also keeping OSU’s star wing in check.
Adrame Diongue has totaled only 6 minutes across his last three games, but WSU could look to lean on him a bit more in this one. Mouhamed Gueye played 40 minutes against UW and the Cougs could really do with giving him a lighter load in this one to help him keep his legs for the Oregon game. Diongue is a solid matchup against Oregon State as well, as they don’t have post players who would really punish him, they could allow him to get going on the roll, and his ability to protect the rim would be useful against the Beavers’ rugged drivers.
Jabe Mullins had his first truly solid shooting game in a while against UW, and it would be nice for him to get a rhythm going against the Beavers. Oregon State is a pretty poor three-point defense and Mullins should be able to get some open looks in this one. Hopefully, it helps him get his jumper right before an important stretch of the season.
What to Watch For
Getting separation early and being able to rely on the bench would be huge in this one. Players like Kymany Houinsou, Dylan Darling, and Diongue could get some real run if WSU is able to go up early. Houinsou and Darling would have some athletic advantages in this one and they could have some utility defending Oregon State’s guards and forcing turnovers. This would also allow WSU to give their high-load players a break while still leaving Beasley with a huge win. It would also be great to see some of the young freshman build some confidence against a mediocre Beavers squad.
Slowing down their stars is WSU’s main key to victory in this one. When Oregon State wins, it is because Taylor Jr and Pope get going as scorers. Bamba is a great matchup for Taylor, but WSU’s lack of rim-protection and strength in the paint could spell issues for the Beavers’ strong slashing wing. Pope could cause WSU some problems, as the Cougs don’t have a great matchup in the starting lineup, but relying on Darling and Houinsou to play major minutes off the bench could be a problem for the offense. WSU’s hard-hedge defensive scheme could help to slow down Pope, but Gueye will need to be on point as a recovery defender to prevent Oregon State from creating good looks with quick passing.
Question of the Game
Will WSU win by double digits against the Beavers?