February 9, 2013; Los Angeles, CA, USA; UCLA Bruins guard Larry Drew II (10) steals the ball from Washington State Cougars guard Mike Ladd (2) during the second half at Pauley Pavilion. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
It’s not often you can say that the best thing for your basketball team is to lose the most consistent guard you have, especially 14 games into the conference season. But that’s the predicament the Washington State Cougars find themselves in and it is never easy, but it’s possible it’s just what the team needed. Let me explain.
The Cougs have a top 5 conference scorer in Brock Motum, their multi-faceted big man. They also found a reliable second senior option at point guard in Mike Ladd, who has been around the 14-17 point production mark in nearly every conference game. But there just hasn’t been a reliable 3rd option who’s stepped up, so when it comes down to the last 5 minutes of the game, if Ladd and Motum can’t get open or find a one on one matchup the Cougs seem to go dead in the water.
Last week Mike Ladd’s left leg (more specifically his knee area tendon) ended up forcing him out of the lineup. Luckily, it doesn’t look like it’s related to a high school injury that left screws in his knee, but it was strained enough that he simply couldn’t play. As of Monday, he couldn’t practice due to the pain but it’s been confirmed that the damage really can’t get much worse, so when it starts feeling better Ladd could possibly play with it.
So hopefully he gets back before the all important Pac-12 Tournament, or maybe not. Regardless, something great seems to have come out of this extra disaster. DaVonte Lacy and Royce Woolridge have realized they can play star roles and they’ve each broken out of their shells in back to back games for career highs. It’s giving the Cougars some added confidence in some other players besides their top two.
Should Ladd come back and be able to contribute at some point, Washington State becomes even more dangerous with these other two guys being even more aggressive. There may not be anyone who actually wants a piece of a team like this come tournament time, if the Cougs can finish out the schedule in competitive fashion. It’s doesn’t even necessarily matter if they get a win or not in the final 5, it’s all about staying competitive, adding confidence in those extra scorers and getting Ladd back.
In no way do I give the Cougars a shot to win it all, but if that all happens by season’s end, it’s possible that WSU could make a little run in the tournament if the bracket lines up correctly. Two or three wins there could be really huge for confidence going into next season. It’s been a few years since WSU actually did anything worth mentioning in a conference tourney.