The student voice of Washington State University since 1895

The Daily Evergreen

The student voice of Washington State University since 1895

The Daily Evergreen

The student voice of Washington State University since 1895

The Daily Evergreen

WSU men’s basketball to begin season against the Vandals

Cougars should have a layup to start things off
WSU forward Andrej Jakimovski makes his entrance before an NCAA basketball game against Oregon State, Feb. 16, 2023, in Pullman, Wash.

The WSU men’s basketball season starts at home, against an opponent from close to home: University of Idaho.

The Cougs and the Vandals have a storied history in all sports but have not matched up on the hardwood since a 2021 Cougar victory. Since the turn of the century, the Cougs have won 18 of the 22 matchups between the teams, and they hold a 74-49 lead all time.

WSU will likely see fifth-year senior Isaac Jones starting at power forward, who transferred to Pullman after years as a star for the Vandals. While the move was not far, it put him on the opposite side of a state border and the opposite side of a very old rivalry. It will be a good opportunity for Jones to show what he brings to the Power Six table for the Cougs.

On the topic of starters, fifth-year head coach Kyle Smith seems to have mostly solidified a starting lineup.

Joseph Yesufu will be the starting point guard. The Cougs haven’t had a true pure point guard to distribute the ball in a while, and they still don’t. Yesufu is a scorer, often labeled a combo guard in size alone. He has never averaged two assists per game, even when he was near the top of the Drake roster in usage in 2020. A change in playstyle is certainly possible, but it seems more likely that this will be yet another year of point guard by committee for the Cougs.

Starting at shooting guard will likely be Jabe Mullins. Mullins shot 43.8% from outside last season, leading the Pac-12. He saw some spot starts last year, averaging 11.6 points in those games. If Mullins shoots even close to how he did last year he should be the perfect complement to the interior dominance of Yesufu and Jones.

Starting at small forward should be Andrej Jakimovski. Jakimovski has been here longer than anyone else on the team, and he has done it all. While he is a natural forward, he can play down to shooting guard easily with his outside presence. Last year, he played many long stretches at center, and actually looked good in those minutes. However capable he is as a small big, the move back to full-time small forward should be a welcome change for the senior from North Macedonia.

Finally, starting at center alongside Jones should be Oscar Cluff. It was suggested earlier in the offseason that the power forward could see spot starts at center if the matchup was favorable. As the season quickly approaches, it is seeming more and more likely that Cluff will be the starting center with freshman Rueben Chinyelu taking on the bench role.

On the Idaho side of things is a team with 12 new players and a first-year coach. The Vandals are projected to finish last in the Big Sky conference, and there are not many reasons to doubt that projection. The last winning season in Moscow was 2018.

This game should be a layup, even with a lot of new faces for the Cougs. WSU is starting the Vandal’s best player from last year, and they have not entirely replaced him yet. The team is deep, deeper than last year at least, and that should pay off in these early season games if the Cougs can get big leads. 

Having rested stars going into conference play is a huge boon. If the Cougs can stay hot through out-of-conference play they should be able to avoid the December slump that made the end of last season such a climb.

Before you can stay hot, you have to get hot. The Cougs will start that process against the Vandals at 8 p.m. Monday at Beasley Coliseum. The game will be broadcast by the Pac-12 Network.

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About the Contributors
HAYDEN STINCHFIELD, Evergreen sports co-editor
Hayden Stinchfield is a senior in Criminology from Washougal, WA. He is considered by some experts to be the greatest to ever spot birds. Hayden began working at the Evergreen in fall 2022, and became Sports Co-Editor in summer 2023.
COLE QUINN, Evergreen Sports Photographer
Cole Quinn is a photographer and columnist for the Daily Evergreen. Cole primarily shoots sports for the Daily Evergreen and writes album reviews in his spare time. Cole is a junior broadcast production major and sports communication minor from Snoqualmie, Washington. Cole started working for the Evergreen in the fall of 2020 as a photographer. Cole was the Photo Editor during his sophomore year and Deputy Photo Editor for the fall 2022 semester.