It's time for our usual pregame post. Where we tell you what you should think. Well, not really. It's where we tell you what we think will happen in the game. You are free to disagree – and then never read this blog again. Just kidding. Read on.
• If you worried about this all day, I did buy a cell phone charger today and the phone is up and running. Not that you should really care but, as I mentioned it this morning, I felt it was appropriate to update you on the status (plus I wanted to be a little sarcastic to begin this post). Now on to basketball. ... As we mentioned in the paper this morning and on the blog, DeAngelo Casto is penciled in to start at the 4, or power forward, tonight. The freshman from Spokane has earned that spot the old-fashioned way – or Tony Bennett's way, if you prefer – by practicing well and playing better when given the opportunity. The move means Caleb Forrest will go back, for tonight anyway, to coming off the bench, where he can supply an offensive infusion if need be. It also means Daven Harmeling is probably the Cougars' fourth big right now, though I think he'll be crucial tonight (more on that in a little bit).
The Beavers are the third team in the Pac-10 to rely on a zone pretty much full time (along with ASU and Arizona). That's in a conference that us to live and die with man-to-man until Herb Sendek took over at ASU. The Beavers play a 1-3-1 or a 2-3 matchup, changing looks in an attempt to make the opponent uncomfortable at least a few times a game. (They even play some man, but it's not their base defense.) It's the zone that makes Harmeling so important tonight. The senior can, when he's hitting, stretch a defense from the 4 position. If he can hit two or three long-range shots tonight, the entire OSU defense will have to adjust. That helps Aron Baynes or whoever is playing the post.
The Cougars aren't the only team possibly making lineup changes tonight. Oregon State could move either Lathen Wallace, who scored 35 percent of the Beavers points in Arizona last weekend, or Calvin Haynes, their leading scorer who has come off the bench since becoming eligible academically eight games ago, into the lineup against the Cougars.
So what will happen tonight? Seeing as these two teams are nine (OSU) and 10 (WSU) in scoring offense among conference teams, the consensus would seem to favor a low scoring game. As would the basic patient nature of both teams' offenses. The one stat that favors WSU, however, is shooting percentage defense. The Cougars are the Pac-10's best (36.2 percent, fourth in the nation) while Oregon State is at 43.6 percent, eighth in the conference. So WSU should get good looks – watching the game plan WSU will be using to attack Oregon State's zones, it looks as if the shots will be there; now can the Cougs knock them down? – while the Beavers may not. If the Cougars execute offensively as they did in the second half vs. Stanford, this one won't be close. If they revert to their first-half form, however, then there's a chance OSU will pick up its second conference win of the year.
One last thought. Teams have been gashing the Cougars this season on inbounds plays. This is an area in which WSU was solid last season. It's something that needs to be tightened up because giving up two, four or six easy points could spell defeat for a WSU team that struggles to score.
• That's it for tonight. We touch base with you again at halftime and then, of course, after the game. Till then ...