Feb 23, 2014; Eugene, OR, USA; Washington State Cougars head coach Ken Bone reacts against the Oregon Ducks at Matthew Knight Arena. Mandatory Credit: Scott Olmos-USA TODAY Sports
Washington State (10-20, 3-15 in Pac-12) stunned everyone except head Coach Ken Bone last Saturday with a well earned upset victory over UCLA in their regular season play. Chances are WSU players were astonished by how well they kept the Bruins off balance for 40-minutes of hoops.
Wednesday night the Cougs will play in the final opening round contest of the Pac-12 Tournament thanks to edging out USC for the 11th seed. WSU drew the Stanford Cardinal (19-11, 10-8) as their opponent. As matchups go, this one is about as tough as it could get for the Cougars.
Tipoff is scheduled for 8:36 pm at MGM Grand Garden Arena at Las Vegas, NV and will be televised on the Pac-12 Networks.
Stanford dominated WSU in their two conference games this season. The Cardinal routed the Cougs in Palo Alto by the score of 80-48. Though Ken Bone was without the services of his best player, DaVonté Lacy, nothing was working for the Cougs that night.
Nov 21, 2013; Spokane, WA, USA; Washington State Cougars guard DaVont Lacy (25) put up a three-pointer against the Gonzaga Bulldogs during the first half at McCarthey Athletic Center. Mandatory Credit: James Snook-USA TODAY Sports
When Washington State hosted Stanford in Pullman, the results weren’t as lopsided, but the outcome was identical.
Why has Stanford easily handled WSU in their two meetings this year? It boils down to one category that isn’t likely to change this time around. Defense. Stanford has more depth in terms of athleticism. They don’t necessarily have to be great on offense when thwarting the Cougs half-court play opens up plenty of Cardinal fast break opportunities.
The only other team in the Pac-12 to truly expose the Cougars weak point guard play was Arizona. In their only meeting of the year, the ‘Cats embarrassed WSU with a 60-25 whopping in Tucson.
Can the Cougs put together back-to-back upsets?
There is a possibility WSU will make it past Stanford. For one thing, it’s tough to beat the same club three times in one season. Only problem putting much stock in that old adage is the requirement to ignore the quickness and size advantage Stanford holds.
While it makes sense to point out the huge, disparaging difference in athletic talent between UCLA and WSU had no effect on the game outcome last Saturday night there is another significant factor at play. Stanford must win if they are to keep their NCAA tournament hopes alive. That’s a much stronger motivation than the Bruins pre-game pep talk in Pullman.
History isn’t on the side of WSU either. The two teams previously have met in the conference tournament three times. Stanford was emerged with a win all three times. If you’re a fan of history, the last time these two teams met in the Pac-12 tourney was in 2008. Both teams would eventually make the “Sweet 16” that season. Hard to believe that was just six years ago…
Then there is the fact Washington State has a history of struggles in the conference tournament. The Cougs are just 5-13 since the tournament was instituted and have lost in the opening round the past four years.
Stranger things have happened than the Cougs playing up to their potential and notching a victory Wednesday night. Perhaps there will be a crazy outcome as we begin March Madness.