There hasn't been much time for the Washington State men's basketball team to sit back and enjoy their undefeated start. The Cougars are 3-0...preparing for their fourth game in ten days. WSU already beat Mississippi Valley State, Fairleigh Dickinson, and Sacramento State...next up is Canisius College on Tuesday.
Canisius is a private college located in Buffalo, New York. The Golden Griffins (What is a Griffin? It looks like a half eagle/half lion crossbreed) play in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference. Iona, Fairfield, and Siena (they won the conference title last year) are some of the other schools that also play in the MAAC. The most famous basketball alumnus (with an athletic background) is former NBA player Michael Smrek (played for six teams in seven seasons).
The Griffins return all five starters (eight players altogether) from last year's team that finished 6-25 overall and 2-16 in the MAAC. They are currently 1-2 on the year, coming off a 76-63 win against Long Island. Their losses have come against Akron (56-46) and Buffalo (69-64).
Even though they return some experience, Canisius is a young team. There is only one senior and one junior on the roster. The rest (obviously) are sophomores (seven) and freshmen (two).
The Griffins are led by junior guard Frank Turner. He leads the team in minutes played (104...that's nearly 35 minutes per game) and is second in scoring (16.0 ppg). On the other hand, Turner also leads the team in turnovers with 17...compared to just seven assists. Canisius' top scorer is center Chris Gadley (he's a brick house...6'9" 320lbs.). He almost averages a double-double per game (17.3 points and 9.7 rebounds per game). It's weird though...he's only started one of their three games. Canisius also gets scoring from forward Greg Logins (8.3 ppg) and lots of minutes out of guard Robert Goldsberry (29 mpg, but only 2.0 ppg).
I don't think the Cougars are going to have any trouble on Tuesday night. Just like Wazzu's first three opponents, Canisius lacks size. The Griffins have only two players on their roster taller than 6'7". Expect to see more inside dominance from Aron Baynes (he's shooting 65% from the field so far)...he hasn't looked challenged yet this year.
Baynes leads WSU in scoring (11.7), but freshman Klay Thompson isn't far behind (11.3). They are the only two that average in double figures. Watch out for Taylor Rochestie. He's coming off his first career double-double (17 points and 10 assists against Sac State on Friday). If Tuesday's game doesn't get out of hand early and Rochestie gets enough minutes...he'll get some big numbers.
Wazzu allowed 55 points in their last game. It's not a big issue at all, but the players noticed a problem (Baynes said the team "lapsed" on defense). The Cougars will live and die by their defense, so it's important for them to make improvements against Canisius. The schedule gets much more difficult starting on Friday. The Cougars play Mississippi State in the Legends Classic in Newark, New Jersey (they then face the winner or loser of the Pittsburgh/Texas Tech battle).
I don't want to look too far ahead...
Tip-off is scheduled for 7pm Tuesday at Beasley Coliseum. I'll be at the game if I don't have to work. If I'm there or not...I'll have a full postgame wrap-up.