Tomorrow WSU will play at Utah. Tomorrow is also Valentine's Day. The Cougars have a player named Valentine. That's all that needs to be said about that.
Although the Cougars will be away from their sweethearts, it will be well worth it if they can pick up their first win since opening weekend of Pac-12 play. The Utes, who beat the Cougars 92-71 in Pullman, present a tough opponent.
Utah has size – center Jakob Poeltl is a frontrunner for Pac-12 player of the year. Utah can shoot – the Utes' effective field goal percentage of 55.2 is 18th-best nationally. And Utah is experienced, returning three starters from last year's Sweet Sixteen team.
But the Cougars are coming off perhaps their best game of the year: a double-overtime loss at Colorado in which WSU would have won if not for a contested, fade-away 3-pointer by George King.
On Sunday we will see if Ernie Kent does indeed decide to slow down the offense and rely on Ny Redding at point guard, and if Que Johnson can sustain his elevated play from the other night. We'll also see if the Cougars can handle what should be the roughest crowd they've faced since Arizona – as you'll recall, the Cougars were competitive for the first half against the Wildcats despite all the noise.
Here's what we know about the Utes:
Record: 18-7, 7-5 Pac-12
Points per game: 78.8
Opponent points per game: 70.4
Effective field goal percentage: 55.2
3-point percentage: 36.0
Free throw percentage: 71.7
Rebounding margin: +5.4
Steals per game: 5.0
Blocks per game: 4.4
And here are some more detailed statistics, courtesy of KenPom.com.
Adjusted efficiency national rank out of 351 schools (offense/defense): 32/81
Adjusted tempo national rank: 260
Average possession length: 18.0 seconds (No. 259 nationally)
Turnover percentage: 18.3 (No. 176)
Offensive rebound percentage: 30.1 (No. 168)
2-point percentage: 56.2 (No. 9)
Block percentage: 10.1 (No. 115)
FT Rate: 42.0 (No. 61)
Opponent FT rate: 24.3 (No. 4)
So who will win? KenPom gives Utah an 89 percent percent chance of winning and predicts a final margin of 79-66.
G: Brandon Taylor 9.1 ppg, 3.6 apg, 81.4 FT%
G: Lorenzo Bonam 10.0 ppg, 3.2 apg, 3.2 rpg
G: Jordan Loveridge 11.5 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 42.8 3FG%
F: Kyle Kuzma 11.8 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 50.9 FG%
C: Jakob Poeltl 17.5 ppg, 8.7 rbg, 36 blocks
Note: Kenneth Ogbe is not expected to play.