Head Coach: Kyle Smith
Location: Pullman, WA
Mascot: Butch T. Cougar
KenPom rank: 151
Previous history: Nebraska 6-2 vs the Cougars all-time (The Cougars and Huskers had a home and away series in the 60s where the visiting team played two games in a row)
Notes: Nebraska 6-2 vs the Cougars
Line: Washington St by 1
Players to watch: CJ Elleby
The 6'6" sophomore SF is quite the local product recruited by the recently replaced Ernie Kent. Elleby set the freshman record for scoring with 471 points last year, passing another Cougar player of note, Klay Thompson. Elleby can shoot from anywhere on the court and can also function as a point forward. When he isn't busy scoring a ton of points he finds time to also lead the team in rebounds and steals. The Huskers should focus on making someone else beat them tonight and whomever is guarding Elleby is probably whom we consider our best defender.
Players to watch: Isaac Bonton
Washington St brought in a few JUCO players and former Montana St to Juco guard Isaac Bonton is the one currently scoring in double digits. Bonton has been fairly dynamic, leading the team in assists as well as shooting a lot. He's currently personally dragging down the Cougar's 3pt shooting numbers so turning Bonton into a guy that jacks 3s (assuming he doesn't start hitting them) seems like a way to slow down an already sub-par Cougar half court offense.
The Skinny: Seems like Washington St might now have the right kind of coach to succeed in a place that makes Nebraska basketball look successful. New coach Kyle Smith is noted for his commitment to analytics and ability to flip up under-recruited prospects. Smith has leaned into the analytics thus far and his guard oriented team has focused on generating turnovers moreso than any other that Smith has led. NU and WSU are similar in the sense that they're both programs under a new coach with a lot of new faces, they both struggle to rebound (WSU does a lot better job on the defensive end than Nebraska), and they both have struggled from outside this year. Nebraska seems more primed to win the FT battle in this one. How much is Washington St going to concentrate on crashing the defensive boards vs stopping transition?
I expect both teams to try and correct their last game bugaboos. Nebraska will most likely concentrate on rebounding and making FTs. Washington St should focus on shot selection and not taking half of their shots from 3. We know a lot about Nebraska's adversity issues but Washington St is in the same boat. Let's hope our boat is sturdier today. Thinking this will be relatively low scoring but there is no outcome here that would surprise me.
Prediction: Nebraska 74 - Washington St 69