The writers over at Autzen Zoo have worked hard on previewing the Pac-12’s upcoming basketball season. Using the team name as a link, read their WSU preview first and then read what we have to say about it.
For the most part I think this preview is pretty right on. The Cougs aren’t expected to do anything once conference play begins, because they are short on superstars, or even players that could be considered “very dangerous” in the way of scoring the basketball. Of course Motum gives you 18 a night, but beyond that it was supposed to be Reggie Moore and then everybody else. Reggie’s gone, so the bulk of the scoring load will be on Motum (who will need to put up 5 more a game for WSU to stay competitive) and probably an improved D.J. Shelton on the inside.
For reference on just how bad that is, D.J. is supposed to provide defensive integrity, not necessarily a whole lot of offense. So somebody else, be it Woolridge or Lacy or Ladd, will really have to assert themselves as a viable second scoring threat on a nightly basis. The other option (and it sounds like coach Bone might be leaning a little in this direction), is to rewind the tape a few years and play Bennett-ball, grinding out games defensively and giving you a true shooters’ chance in the end. The Cougars do possess some scrappy defenders (though maybe not in the mold of a graduated Marcus Capers), but I don’t know how well it will mix with Bone’s belief in scoring. Tough to tell.
On the scheduling front, I don’t necessarily agree that the only team on the ‘preseason’ schedule that jumps out is Kansas. Look, Texas A&M and St. Louis are very, very good squads. The Bilikens were a 9 seed in the NCAA tourney last year, while A&M missed it for the first time in a few years, if memory serves. Both are physical, suffocating defensively and play for 40 minutes, so neither one of those teams will be an easy game to “manage” (even though the Cougars will only play 1 of the 2 teams depending on who wins/loses). Then of course, there’s always Gonzaga, who just creamed WSU last season.
In the long run, it’s going to be a very interesting years’ test for Wazzu. They will be the underdog all season, no matter how the non-conference goes. Realistically, the Cougs will need 3-4 guys that score in the double digit range nightly to compete. Two just isn’t going to be enough anymore with the loss of Moore, unless Motum improves as much from last year to this year as he did from 2 seasons ago, which is a lot to ask. It’s absolutely imperative that they stay relatively, if not completely healthy all year long because the bench lacks any viable size. I expect the Cougs will finish around the 8-9 range, possibly lower. However I’ll be pulling for them to surprise me and everybody else all season and return to any postseason tourney.