Coming off an impressive win over number seven Kentucky, the UCLA Bruins now open conference play against the Washington State Cougars. Washington State has a record of 8-4 through twelve games but have yet to play a top twenty team.
Washington State was one of the worst teams in the Pac-12 last year, finishing with a 13-18 record, including two losses to the Bruins last year. Washington State, a team which hasn’t had a winning season since 2010 and hasn’t appeared in the NCAA tournament since 2008, has started the season stronger than most expected.
The Cougars, who lack post presence, rely on the extreme shooting range of most of their guards (15th in the nation in three pointers made). The Cougars’ defense, which is lackluster at best, thrives on creating turnovers when possible but lacks physicality.
The Cougars are led by breakout Junior forward Robert Franks and Sophomore guard Malachi Flynn. Franks is averaging 18.1 points per game while making more than 50% of his shots. Flynn averages 15.8 points per game despite standing only 6'1'' and weighing 170 pounds.
Other notable players for Washington State include guard Viont’e Daniels who hits 46% from behind the arc and leads the team in minutes played and Senior forward Drick Bernstine who leads the team in rebounds.
The Cougars are a small team. They lack a true center and typically play with three guards. We could see a big game from UCLA center Thomas Welsh, who is four inches taller and thirty-five pounds heavier than Washington State's biggest starter.
UCLA 80, Washington State 73
This will probably be a tough game for Washington State. UCLA boasts a larger, longer, and more athletic team. Washington State has pretty limited scoring options and I'll be surprised if they don't struggle with UCLA’s bigger players, Thomas Welsh and Kris Wilkes especially are matchup nightmares.