The Omaha Mavericks will make the journey out to the Great State of Washington to take on some Cougars.
I have a lot of friends who follow the Pac-12, so I regularly follow the Pac-12 as well for conversation purposes. A big time sports fantasy of mine is to go to Las Vegas for the Pac-12 Tournament. It sounds like a real fun time.
Anyway, I can tell you with 100% certainty the Washington State Cougars are regularly the laughing stock of the conference. It wasn’t until the football program hired Mike Leach that Pac-12 fan bases actually respected them in something. With that said, I have a lot of Washington State friends, and I’ve witnessed them sitting around screaming “WE’RE NOT THAT BAD, JUST GIVE US A YEAR OR TWO!”
As far as basketball fan hood goes, they are the Nebraska of the Pac-12. Just to bring that home and find a relate able comparison for you.
The Cougars finished last season at 11-21 and 4-14 against the Pac-12. In their non-conference schedule they suffered losses to Seattle, Montana State, New Mexico State (twice), San Diego, and Santa Clara.
They’ve already dropped a game to Santa Clara so far this season. Like Omaha, they lack depth, and have similar characteristics to any other inconsistent basketball team trying to find themselves.
As of this morning, the Cougars are favored by 7 points. I would take Omaha to beat the spread and beat the Cougars…if this game was played one day later.
The Cougars will have 2 extra days of rest over the Mavericks, and the Mavericks most recent game was in Dayton, Ohio. After losing to Colorado State, the biggest problem for the Mavericks seemed to be not having enough time to prep for the Rams after playing Bethune-Cookman two days before.
So what can the Mavericks do to win?
The Mavericks will have their hands full with 6’6″ sophomore forward CJ Elleby, who is averaging 20 points per game and shooting 54% from the field. Elleby did struggle in WSU’s road loss to Santa Clara, shooting 4-of-14 from the floor. It will be up to Zach Thornhill, Marlon Ruffin, and Wanjang Tut to spend their energy guarding and slowing down Elleby if the Mavericks want to win.
The Cougars really don’t have anyone to match up against Matt Pile. The Cougars’ main offensive post threat, Jeff Pollard, has been struggling shooting 41% from the field so far this season, so hopefully Pile can stay out of foul trouble and make a difference for the Mavericks down low. The Cougars are currently last in the Pac-12 in blocks per game, averaging just 2.3 per game. Please, just throw Matt Pile the ball!
The Mavericks could have a chance to win this game if Ayo Akinwole AND KJ Robinson are both on it this game. With JT Gibson likely to guard WSU’s second leading scorer Isaac Bonton, Akinwole and Robinson will be needed to step up on offense and hit big shots. The Mavericks can’t afford an off night from either of those two.
Washington State has been atrocious shooting threes so far this season. They’ve shot 25% from behind the three point line. They also have somehow attempted 25 threes per game, like it was a good idea or something. Hopefully, Omaha can force the Cougars to the outside.