A handful of Washington State’s opponents have faced a Cougars team at less than full strength this season. This week, Kyle Smith’s group will encounter a pair of Pac-12 opponents dealing with roster attrition of their own.
Two teams picked to finish near the bottom of the conference, Washington State (8-1, 1-1) and California (5-6, 0-4) meet at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at Haas Pavilion. The first road game of the season for the Cougars will air on the Pac-12 Networks.
WSU’s Bay Area trip will continue on Saturday when the Cougars square off with Stanford (6-3, 2-1) at 2 p.m. in Santa Cruz at Kaiser Permanente Arena, home of the G-League Santa Cruz Warriors. Because of COVID-19-related health and safety protocols in Santa Clara County, the Cardinal have been forced to play home games away from Maples Pavilion this season.
Five Cougars have missed time this season due to injury, and four players were unavailable (COVID-19 protocol) for WSU’s 86-82 double-overtime loss to Arizona on Saturday.
Of that quartet, at least one player, starting center Volodymyr Markovetskyy will be with the Cougars in Berkeley, but Smith was unsure about the other three – Ryan Rapp, DJ Rodman and Brandton Chatfield – on Tuesday when he met with reporters on Zoom.
The Golden Bears are expected to be shorthanded on Thursday and it’s possible the Cardinal won’t be in much better shape when WSU visits the California coast on Saturday.
Cal’s best player, forward Matt Bradley, suffered what coach Mark Fox described as a “significant” knee injury during the team’s last game against Oregon State and is questionable for Thursday’s contest against the Cougars. Bradley, an All-Pac-12 performer last season, is Cal’s top scorer at 17.8 points per game and also gives the Golden Bears good size in the backcourt, standing 6-foot-4 and 220 pounds. Bradley’s also averaging 4.7 rebounds per game.
It’s possible the Golden Bears will be without two double-digit scorers as Grant Anticevich, a forward who averaged 10.3 points and 5.9 rebounds in his first seven games, has yet to return after going through an emergency appendectomy procedure on Dec. 17.
“I think probably the best thing they do is they compete really at a high level at both ends of the floor,” Smith said Tuesday. “They have a lot of different ways to play. … Obviously I don’t know what the status is on Bradley, but he’s a big part of what they do. Coach Fox is a good coach and going back to when I was an assistant at Saint Mary’s playing him at Nevada, they’re well-coached, well-schooled and it’s beating a system. If you beat them, you’re going to have to beat what they do.”
One way or the other, Stanford should be more difficult to beat than Cal, but Jerod Haase’s team could thin, especially in the backcourt, after recent injuries to guards Daejon Davis and Bryce Wills. Davis, a Seattle native who averages 13.8 points and 3.8 assists, was a game-time decision for Stanford’s game against OSU, and Wills, who averages 9.3 ppg, injured his leg during an 81-71 win over the Beavers. Stanford’s game against Washington on Thursday should provide more clarity on whether the guard duo will be available to play against the Cougars on Saturday.
Colorado game added
WSU and Colorado will play in Boulder on Jan. 27 after the teams’ originally scheduled game on Dec. 5 was postponed because of COVID-19 developments for the Cougars. The game will tip off at 6 p.m. and air on ESPNU.
As a result, WSU’s rivalry game at Washington the same week was pushed back to Jan. 31. The Cougars and Huskies will tip off at 5 p.m. on the Pac-12 Networks.
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