Washington State Cougars (8-10)
- Head Coach: Ernie Kent (5th Season)
- Top Performer: Robert Franks (21.5 PPG, 7.8 RPG)
- Points For: 78.6 PPG (T-65th)
- Points Against: 77.3 PPG (299th)
- Last Game/Streak: 78-66 Loss v. Stanford (1L)
Washington State is a program not trending in the right direction.
The Cougars were projected to finish dead last in the league’s preseason media poll and nearly lived up to the hype before league play even began, by dropping contests to Seattle, New Mexico State (twice), Montana State, San Diego and Santa Clara. Overall, they’ve lost seven of their last eight games heading into Thursday’s meeting with Oregon State, outside of a league win over Pac-12 doormats, California.
And yet, head coach Ernie Kent remains on the bench (with thanks from a strange contract situation) and the Washington State program sits in an all-out free fall. So yes, it’d be quite an embarrassment for the Beavers to slip-up against the Cougars and hand them their first victory away from home on the year. Actually, it’d be the exact epitome of everything that has changed about the Beavers for this current campaign.
Although, with the focus of this piece on Washington State, the names to know for the Cougars have to begin with forward Robert Franks (21.5 PPG).
Franks, who spurned the NBA this summer to return to Pullman for final go-round, has actually increased his productivity thanks for some glaring voids on the depth chart around him. Undoubtedly, the 6’ 9” swingman will take most of the shots and be the focal point of Washington State’s offensive attempts, so expect Oregon State to counter his talents with multiple unique looks and match-ups.
Beyond Franks, forward C.J. Elleby (15.8 PPG) has been a revelation for the Cougars through his freshman season, but it should also be noted that the rookie is averaging over 12 shots per contest. A bit of a high-volume player, Elleby makes up for his offensive inefficiencies at times with his rebounding prowess, which shines through on both the offensive and defensive glass.
Besides Franks and Elleby, a myriad of interchangeable pieces in Ahmed Ali (8.2 PPG), Viont’e Daniels (7.8 PPG), Marvin Cannon (7.5 PPG), Carter Skaggs (7.2 PPG), Isaiah Wade (5.6 PPG) and Jervae Robinson (5.1 PPG) all provide depth at the guard and wing spots. Junior center Jeff Pollard (4.2 PPG) is one of the team’s few options on the interior, where he tries to anchor the Cougars defense with any sort of imposing presence.
However, it’s important to remember that Washington State allows 77.3 points per game to opponents on average, situating them as one of the bottom-fifty defensive units in the whole country.
Simply put, if Oregon State comes to play and has a focused approach back in the friendly confines of Gill Coliseum, then a much-improved Beavers team shouldn’t have to claw it out for forty full minutes with Washington State. But if Oregon State is caught feeling bad for themselves, a team with a dangerously lurking talent like Franks is always a concern on any opposing coach’s scouting report.
Player To Watch
Robert Franks (Senior): There’s not much to say about Robert Franks that hasn’t been said before. He’s been one of the most prolific scorers in the Pac-12 over the past two seasons and has even more freedom for the Cougars this year. While every team makes him the focal point of their scouting report, I expect Oregon State head coach Wayne Tinkle to really try to cut off the head of the snake when it come to Franks. Someone else on this Cougars team may have a career night, but I can’t imagine the Beavers allowing it to be a known foe in Franks.
- Date: Thursday, January 24th
- Time: 8:00 PM PT
- Location: Gill Coliseum (Corvallis, OR)
- Coverage: Pac-12 Network