Three reasons Drake doesn't scare me ... and a big announcement!

Why is everyone picking the Bulldogs? I don't get it.

In today's newsletter ...

But first, a big announcement

Good morning, Cougs! Before we get on with today’s newsletter, Craig and I have some exciting news to share: We are now offering Premium Memberships to Podcast Vs. Everyone!

In addition to the content you’re enjoying already, upgrading to the Premium Membership comes with some added benefits:

  1. Hanging out with Craig and me on a members-only discussion board (via Slack)

  2. Accessing occasional members-only bonus content

  3. Helping make Podcast Vs. Everyone a sustainable venture for us

  4. Feeling the satisfaction of knowing you’re supporting a couple of swell dudes

The cost of the Premium Membership works out to just a little over $4 a month if you sign up for the annual plan. We are super hyped about setting up the Slack, particularly with the NCAA tournament starting — and the Cougs playing in it. In addition to discussion throughout the day, we’ll have a game thread set up for talking about WSU/Drake.

If that doesn’t sound interesting to you, no worries — you’ll continue to receive what you’re already getting. Thanks for considering!

(If you do upgrade, shoot us an email at [email protected] to make sure we’ve seen it so I can send along the Slack invite — I’m not yet sure if I’ll get notifications each time someone upgrades.)

Join the Podcast Vs. Everyone Bracket Contest

You’ve probably gotten a dozen invitations to join bracket contests, but let me ask you this: How many of them are offering to send the winner a WSU t-shirt of their choice from Homefield Apparel??

Probably just us!

We’re going to host the group at ESPN … but it’s just for our newsletter subscribers. If you’re not yet a subscriber, you can fix that here. It’s free to subscribe!

Win our bracket contest, get a cool t-shirt. It’s that simple.

All about Drake vs. WSU

OK, let’s get on with the actual basketball.

We are now about 36 hours away from the Cougs tipping off against the Bulldogs, and I am a bit of a nervous ball of energy about it. It’s incredibly exciting to be back in the NCAA Tournament after all this time — and at the end of this season that started with so much uncertainty.

One thing I have found amusing in the buildup to the game is just how many folks are picking Drake to beat WSU. This seems to be the prevailing wisdom out there. The Cougs opened minus-1.5 in the betting markets, which also is roughly the predicted margin of victory for WSU at kenpom and barttorvik, where WSU is ranked about 10 spots ahead of Drake.

But that pretty quickly flipped to the Bulldogs minus-1.5. It’s not that the 10 seed in a 7-10 matchup being minimally favored is strange or unexpected — matchups between teams seeded 6 through 11 usually feature teams of similar quality — it’s just that a 3-point swing in one team’s direction sure seems like a lot!

Especially because I’m feeling oddly confident about WSU’s chances in this one.

There are those who would say I’m tempting fate by writing what I’m about to write. And, by nature, I am not a foolhardy man. But this is sports! And who knows when we’ll be back. So let’s have a little fun with this.

Three reasons Drake doesn’t scare me

REASON 1: WSU’s defense routinely shuts down teams with offenses much better than Drake’s.

While the Cougs’ offense has been incredible at times this year, the bread and butter of any Kyle Smith team will always be its defense. And the defense is very good — ranked No. 27 in kenpom’s adjusted defensive efficiency metric.

Drake’s offense is good, no doubt. But it’s only ranked 41st in adjusted offensive efficiency — roughly the same quality as the likes of Oregon, Utah, and Washington. In the last three games against those teams, the Cougs allowed 0.90, 0.88, and 1.03 points points per possession.

You know whose offense is much better than Drake’s? Colorado’s. And the Cougs just held them well under a point per possession to give themselves a chance to win on a night when the offense was uncharacteristically atrocious.

Frankly, Drake hasn’t seen a team like WSU. The Cougs are the first high major team they’ll play this year, and the closest they’ve come to seeing a defense like WSU’s was a non-conference matchup with Nevada. The Wolf Pack own the 36th-ranked defense, and Drake scored just 1.0 points per possession.

To take it one step further: WSU simply has not had issues defending teams that don’t have high-major athletes.

Tucker DeVries is awesome, and he’ll score some points. But Drake’s generally undersized guards have not faced a defense with the length and athleticism that ours has.

REASON 2: Isaac Jones is going to eat.

Beyond the fact that Drake’s defense is fairly mediocre by NCAA Tournament standards (74th in adjusted defensive efficiency), the Bulldogs simply do not have a defensive answer for Jones. Their starting frontcourt of Darnell Brodie and Tucker DeVries each have limitations that Jones should be able to feast on.

Brodie is 6-10 and 275. He will not be able to keep up with Jones’ quickness, and his minimal block percentage — WSU has four players who block more shots than he does, including Kymany Houinsou — indicates that he’s not exactly a rim-protecting force in the paint.

DeVries, meanwhile, is 6-7 and 210. He doesn’t have the size to contend with Jones (6-9/245). He also only commits 1.9 fouls per 40 minutes, which you normally would think is a good thing. But for a guy playing more than 80% of the time as the team’s 4 (per kenpom), you’d expect more than that. Which tells me that he either will give up some buckets rather than take a foul (which makes some sense, given his critical role in their offense) or that Drake will engage in some pretty extreme measures to keep him from getting singled up.

However you slice it, Jones is going to be a problem for Drake. And if they sell out to double and triple team him … well, we’ve got plenty of other guys to make the Bulldogs pay.

REASON 3: Drake very likely isn’t as good of a defensive rebounding team as it seems.

When flipping to Drake’s kenpom page, the very first thing that sticks out is that the Bulldogs are the best defensive rebounding team in the country as measured by defensive rebounding percentage. On average, they allow opponents to grab just 22% of their misses.

But … I think that’s at least a bit misleading.

While teams do have control over their defensive rebounding rate, it’s also highly influenced by whether the other team is even trying to secure offensive rebounds. And Drake plays in a conference that ranks 32nd out of 33 leagues in offensive rebounding percentage. That, my friends, is a league filled with teams who don’t even try for offensive rebounds, which is going to inflate every team’s defensive rebounding rate.

You know who does try for offensive rebounds? Washington State.

You know who is pretty damn good at getting them? Washington State.

The Cougs rebound 33% of their own misses, which — if my math is correct — is a lot more than 22%. The two key figures in Drake’s defensive rebounding are Brodie and DeVries, who pick up 26% and 20% of opponents’ misses, respectively. The vast majority of Drake’s opponents’ misses end up in those two guys’ hands.

Will Brodie be able to keep Oscar Cluff (12.2% offensive rebounding against Pac-12 bigs, 3rd in the league) at bay? Will he be able to keep the far more athletic Rueben Chinyelu (13.3%) from soaring above him?

Will the smaller DeVries be able to keep Isaac Jones (7.6%) from getting his hands on balls?

Will every other rotational guard — all of whom stand 6-5 or shorter — be able to keep Andrej Jakimovski (6-8), Jaylen Wells (6-8) and Kymany Houinsou (6-7) from crashing the glass?

Color me skeptical. Even if the Cougs have a rough shooting day, they can still shot volume their way to a good offensive day against a mediocre defense.

If they are have a good shooting day … this could be a blowout.

One reason Drake does scare me a little

OK, fine. Let’s talk about DeVries.

He’s really good. Like, good enough that he’ll probably at least get a shot at the NBA. He’s an elite shooter who can get to all sorts of different spots on the floor and score in all sorts of different ways. He hits 3s. He hits in the midrange. He draws fouls.

While I do think he’s very likely to find the going much tougher against WSU’s length and athleticism on defense — he hasn’t faced the likes of Jakimovski, Wells, and Kymany in the MVC — he’s going to score. That’s just how it goes with guys who use more than 30% of their team’s possessions on offense. He will get his, one way or another.

Those guys are always dangerous, because there’s always a chance they get on a ridiculous heater, even if you force them into the shots you want them to take. And if the game is close at the end, having a bucket getter who can create something out of nothing is a huge weapon to have.

There’s a chance he could go off and this turns into an absolute shootout. I don’t think it will happen, but … that’s why they call it March Madness.

Before we sign off, we want to remind you that we’re promoting one of our favorite newsletters: Extra Points by Matt Brown.

Extra Points features original reporting and analysis of the off-the-field stories that shape college sports — recently, Matt tackled the expansion of the NCAA Tournament field in a thoughtful, entertaining way.

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After you’ve done that, you can read all about how teams prepare for an NCAA Tournament opponent on such short notice. It’s worth your while!

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