Boise State vs. Washington State: Series Preview
Both squads are looking for a win to close out non-conference play.
Broncos look for quality road win against Cougars in Spokane.
WHO: Boise State Broncos (8-4, 0-0 in the MWC) vs. Washington State Cougars (8-4, 1-1 in the Pac-12)
WHEN: Wednesday, December 22nd, 6:00 PM MT, 5:00 PM PT
WHERE: Spokane Arena-Spokane, WA
TV: Pac-12 Network
Line: KenPom, Cougars are favored by 4
SERIES RECORD: Washington State leads all-time series 4-2
The Broncos head north to take on what has been a very hot and cold Washington State Cougars team this season. For a Cascadian matchup, that takes place once every few decades or so.
— Boise State MBB (@BroncoSportsMBB) December 22, 2021
Washington State, who has been built up by third-year head coach Kyle Smith has been through some ups and downs this non-conference slate. A November loss to always feisty in-state foe Eastern Washington was the Cougars first loss of the season. Followed by down to the wire losses to USC to kick-off Pac-12 play and equally painful single-digit losses to mid-major challengers South Dakota State and New Mexico State.
They still find themselves in the national picture, ranked 50th in the NET and 44th per KenPom despite those setbacks.
Boise State on the other hand is riding a five-game winning streak, most recently against Montana Tech at home on Sunday afternoon. Where the Broncos won 88-57, which is a testament to their offensive rhythm of late. Averaging 78.8 PPG, winning by 22.2 PPG, shooting 50.7 percent from the floor and 42.1 percent from deep over those last five games.
And for a Boise State team that struggled mightily with knocking down shots early in the season. Standing on the eve of conference play, they are heating up at the right moment.
The last time these two teams met was fifteen years ago, on November 13th, 2007. When the Cougars won 86-74 in what was then known as Taco Bell Arena in Boise. They’ll mark the end of their non-conference play when they host the Broncos on Wednesday night in Spokane.
As does Boise State, both hoping for a win before the holiday break and the full start to conference play next week.
Element to watch: Battle of the charity stripe
If things get physical in this one and the refs feel whistle friendly, the stats tell a tale of two very different squads when it comes to the free ones. Washington State boasts some of the best percentages from the free throw line across the country. With a top-40 ranked FT% at 76.3% and 16.1 made attempts a game, good enough for 20th overall.
For Boise State it is a bit of a different story. If shots aren’t falling from the floor, they normally don’t fall from the free throw line either. With a bottom tier percentage of 58.2% (356th in the country) and only 10.9 made attempts a game (253rd overall), the Broncos could be up for a rough night. As Washington State averages 19.1 fouls a game (38th in the country) and heads to the foul stripe 21.1 times a game (39th in the country).
Yes this would make for a boring night, a game decided by free throws but it could be just what the Cougars need heading into conference play.
The Broncos have won five games straight, maybe in part because of the added firepower of freshman forward Tyson Degenhart. The current Mountain West freshman of the week has been stellar in his new role as a starter. Averaging 15.3 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 1.5 SPG, 1.5 BPG while shooting 57.1% from beyond the arc.
The Spokane native is just one of many Broncos who may feel a homecoming experience on Wednesday. For Degenhart, a big performance and the win at home would be just the right gift before the holidays.
For a Cougar squad that can get points from multiple positions any given night, the hot-hand at the moment is junior combo-forward DJ Rodman. The 6-6 son of NBA Hall of Famer Dennis Rodman is coming off of the bench for Kyle Smith as a super sub. Having dropped a double-double against Northern Colorado, with 21 points and 10 rebounds while notching 6 made threes.
The junior wing is one of the most offensively efficient players in the country, with an offensive rating of 141.4 Per KenPom. While shooting 49.1% from the field and 35.3% from deep with his best shooting form displayed of late.
Washington State is averaging 77.7 PPG at the moment, but any offensive hardships by the starting five would bridge the gap between these two squads. And a perfect defensive performance by Boise State would broaden it further, Rodman could be the piece to that puzzle that ensures a Cougar win.
Prediction: Boise State 74, Washington State 72
Though Wednesday night’s game in Spokane may feel a little more like a home game for the Cougs then some would like to admit. It may truly be a neutral contest as Washington State is 18-18 inside Spokane Arena after their loss to South Dakota State several weeks ago.
Despite the Cougars favorited by KenPom, the Broncos have all of the winning momentum of late and could really use this win on an already weak tourney resume. I say Leon Rice and his team pull this one out, and in turn add themselves to mid-majors upsetting Kyle Smith’s squad this season. But just barely if they do.
Larry Muniz covers college basketball as a writer for Mountain West Wire and WAC Hoops Digest. Also as a co-host of the college basketball podcast “Hoops Talk W/Jay & Larry”. He is also a USWBA Member.