WSU Men’s Basketball: It’s Pac-12 Time


No question every team in the Pac-12 has improved.

No question the Pac-12 is no better than the third best men’s basketball conference in the NCAA.

WSU Coach Ken Bone aptly pointed out during his presser Wednesday there may be six teams with records to suggest they are the pick of the Pac, but don’t be quick to write off his team. Bone offered the reminder of how Colorado was left out of conference title discussions prior to Pac-12 play last year. The Buffs went on to earn the automatic NCAA bid by winning the Pac-12 tournament. Despite the best conference record in 2011-12, a NCAA snub of Washington sent the Huskies packing to the NIT.

Eleven of 12 member teams have non-conference winning records. If you think USC (5-8) is destined for yet another disappointing campaign, you’ll likely be wrong. The Trojans have athletic talent healthy for a change and worked their way through the toughest non-conference schedule in the league. Cal Coach Mike Montgomery has publicly asserted several other Pac-12 teams would have a record matching the Trojans given their ambitious schedule.

What can Cougar fans expect now that it’s time to play for a Pac-12 men’s basketball championship?

WSU has won 7 of their last 8 and completed non-conference play with an overall record of 9-4.

Of the 4 losses, the Cougs were only completely out of one game when they were routed by Kansas. The difference in the other three losses was coming up short by a total of 5 points. Included in the trio of games where WSU came up a whisker short was a heartbreaking loss to #10 Gonzaga.

Washington State currently leads the conference in scoring defense, allowing a paltry 55.2 PPG. As you might expect, the Cougs rank 11th in team scoring by posting just 64.0 PPG Such stats hearken back to the days of Bennett Ball. And watching WSU play this season, you should note a valid comparison.  This is a Cougar squad comprised of guys who play together as a team.

Leading the way will be senior Brock Motum. Motum has been playing like a senior in every facet of the game. Add to that a level of leadership the Cougs need and you have yourself one of the top five players in the league.

After 13 games, Coach Bone still doesn’t have a standout point guard. The combination of senior Mike Ladd and sophomore Royce Woolridge will continue to share the load as neither has stepped up as “the” playmaker for WSU. An argument could and has been made that by experimenting with both players at PG, Coach Bone has left Ladd and Woolridge unsettled with their role in the Cougar offense. However, non-conference play is the time to attempt sorting out where each player might potentially shine once Pac-12 rolls around. Of the two, Ladd has shined at both ends of the court thus far. When the PG slot is settled on by Coach Bone, look for the play of Woolridge to begin meeting expectations.

Sophomore  DaVonté Lacy is primed to build on a solid freshman season. Lacy looks to be in better condition, a factor which will be important when February rolls around. His outside jumper is smooth and effective. With focus on the defensive end of the court, Lacy could work his way to be one of the better players in the Pac-12.

Supporting play off the bench may well be the deciding factor for this Washington State squad. There have been useful minutes contributed by junior Will DiIorio. The young man from Bainbridge Island brings energy, intensity and focus when Coach Bone rotates him into the game. Best of all, DiIorio is a heady player who doesn’t make mistakes. Freshman Junior Longrus has improved with every precious minute of playing time he’s earned and looks to be a guy who will contribute when called upon.

Fans are ready.

Are the Cougs ready?

It’s looking like a wild ride between now and March Madness. As one of the best x’s and o’s guy around, Coach Bone will have his team prepared. Now is the time for this Washington State Cougar team to hit the hardwood and bring their best for a full 40-minutes every game the rest of the way.