The Washington State basketball team thinks they found themselves in Florida over Thanksgiving break, according to shooting guard DaVonte Lacy.
“I think we kinda learned what our identity needs to be for us to be successful”, Lacy said after the final loss of the tournament. “If we want to be as good as we need to be, then we need to work harder and compete.”
That’s great, except why is this just now becoming a reality? This is year five of the Ken Bone era, he should have instilled this concept in his team year one! That’s part of the reason why Ken Bone is roasting over the hot coals of the fire pit right now, but that’s for another discussion.
For now it’s not like the team can just quit on the season, it’s hardly begun. Instead the best thing for them to do would be to actually find their new identity and it’s starts against Idaho on Saturday at 7 pm inside the Kibbie Dome.
First task; this is a must win and it needs to be dominant. Idaho is far below the level of talent of any Pac-12 team right now. All, that is, but maybe WSU. The Cougs need to quash any fears that point to the Vandals being able to compete. It doesn’t matter if this is a rivalry game, it doesn’t matter that the Vandals will give the Cougs their best shot and it doesn’t matter that it’s in Moscow. Unlike the previous few years, the Cougs need to run the Vandals off the floor.
Second task; get D.J. Shelton to keep his big booty in the paint offensively. Enough of this 4-out stuff where he is allowed to roam and make tragic decisions to shoot the ball beyond the arc. I’ve said this before, the Cougs are best when Shelton is doing his job as a big, not when he’s posing as a swing man. He’s athletic, but the teams with identities have a 4 that dominates his position game in and game out.
Third task; turn up the defensive pressure. Still, the Cougs are too inconsistent on the defensive end. The problem is that they are too scared to just do what they know they need to defensively. Extend the defense already! Obviously Bone knew he needed to accomplish this, he said so in the preseason. But since game play started it’s been excuse after excuse on why he’s not willing to let it rip. It’s time for the Nike slogan to take place for this ‘new’ Cougar pressure defense. Just Do It!
I’d like to believe Lacy’s sentiments that the Cougs figured out what they need to do. Idaho is their (first) chance to prove it. I don’t know that many chances exist after that. There’s only five non-conference games left and if the identity doesn’t take hold before conference play the team will be sitting right where pundits suggested they’d be, or worse.
The level of opponent doesn’t look to get better to truly test WSU’s resolve after Idaho and the Cougs start conference play with a trip to the Arizona’s to begin January. We all know that won’t go well if the Cougs aren’t significantly improved by then.