Posted on March 29, 2022
Washington State’s NIT run has altered the perception of its season in just three games.
Once viewed as a disappointing under-achievement, the Cougs march to Madison Square Garden has set the program up for a strong 2022-23.
A healthy Dishon Jackson and a bold coaching decision to limit Noah Williams’ role has arguably made WSU a deadlier team, while its defense has been elite through the first three rounds.
Yet, it’s a different ball game when the bright lights of New York City are shining.
Texas A&M is the toughest challenge the Cougars have faced in the tournament, and it will take another complete performance to move on to the Championship Game.
I preview the matchup here, and my pick along with Stephen Vilardo’s appear at the bottom.
No. 4 Washington State vs. No. 1 Texas A&M
Madison Square Garden, New York, NY
Tuesday, March 29
6:30pm PT, ESPN2
The Aggies have won all three of their NIT games by double digits, handling Alcorn State, Oregon, and Wake Forest en route to New York City.
But Washington State is playing its best basketball of the season. Kyle Smith’s team has utilized elite perimeter defense throughout the run, holding opponents to a combined 10-for-63 (15.8 percent) from deep.
Defending the three will continue to be important, yet limiting offensive rebounds might be the golden ticket to the Championship Game.
The Aggies have snagged 39 offensive boards in their three matchups, allowing them to compensate for 35 turnovers over the stretch.
If WSU can dominate the defensive glass and force TO’s, it should limit the number of possessions Texas A&M has enjoyed.
That will put pressure on the Aggies’ offense to become more efficient, potentially making its players hesitant and less confident.
The Cougars can take advantage of the vulnerability with dagger threes from Michael Flowers and Tyrell Roberts, while generating offensive rebounds with the trio of Efe Abogidi, Dishon Jackson, and Mouhamed Gueye.
In a game where momentum figures to shape the outcome, a run in the first or second half could be enough to make the difference.
And with a fully healthy roster for the first sustained stretch of the season, Wazzu has the firepower, confidence, and motivation to get the job done.
Semifinal NIT Game Picks
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