Washington St. Cougars vs. Drake Bulldogs Pick & Prediction MARCH 21st 2024

Myles Rice began keeping a journal while missing last season due to a cancer battle, periodically listing future goals.

One was playing in March Madness.

Rice places a checkmark next to that item when he leads No. 7 seed Washington State (24-9) into the NCAA Tournament for Thursday’s East Region first-round game with 10th-seeded Drake (28-6) at Omaha, Neb.

Rice has recovered from Hodgkin’s lymphoma and was named Pac-12 Freshman of the Year. He also helped the Cougars reach the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2008.

“Since I finished my chemotherapy, I wrote down in my journal and on my iPad all the things that me personally, I wanted to accomplish and team-wise,” Rice told reporters on Sunday. “Making the NCAA Tournament was one of the things I wanted to get done this year. We got a couple more things we can check off.

“Yeah, it feels great to be in this tournament, and we just gotta keep doing what we do.”

Rice averages 15.1 points per game and leads Washington State in assists (3.9 per game) and steals (53). Isaac Jones paces the Cougars with a 15.4 scoring average and 7.4 rebounds per game.

Jaylen Wells (12.2) and Andrej Jakimovski (10.0) provide outside shooting with 65 and 64 3-pointers, respectively.

Wells is in his first campaign with the Cougars after being a Division II All-American last season at Sonoma State.

“Honestly, I can’t say that I saw myself being here in this moment,” Wells said. “I’m just so happy and glad for this coaching staff. We’re so blessed that we have this opportunity. I think it’s a credit to my hard work but also credit to the coaching staff for believing in me.”

Washington State split its last six games and faces a tough challenge from a Drake squad that has won five straight games and 10 of its last 11.

The Bulldogs were thrilled that Omaha was their destination as the city is just two hours away from their home base in Des Moines, Iowa.

“Excited about the 10-seed, excited to be in Omaha,” Drake coach Darian DeVries said. “It should be a place that our fans can get to easily, and we’re excited about the fan support that’s going to be there.”

The Bulldogs are led by two-time Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year Tucker DeVries, son of the coach.

The younger DeVries leads Drake in scoring (21.8), assists (3.6), 3-pointers (86) and steals (53). He has exceeded 30 points on four occasions. DeVries also ranks second in school history with 1,853 career points.

The Bulldogs complement DeVries with three other double-digit scorers in Atin Wright (13.9), Kevin Overton (11.4) and Darnell Brodie (11.3). Wright has made 63 3-pointers and Overton has hit 60.

Drake qualified for the NCAA field by defeating Indiana State 84-80 in the MVC tournament title game.

Last season, the Bulldogs lost 63-56 to Miami in the first round of the NCAA tourney. The Hurricanes ended up in the Final Four.

The winner plays either No. 2 Iowa State or No. 15 South Dakota State on Saturday.

–Field Level Media

Docsports, The most trusted name in sports handicapping