Pac-12 Team Previews: Washington State

Posted by Connor Pelton on November 7th, 2011

Over the next two weeks, we’ll be previewing each of the Pac-12 teams as we head into the season.

Washington State Cougars

Strengths.  The Cougars return four starters from last year’s NIT Final Four team in junior guard Reggie Moore, senior guard Marcus Capers, and senior forward Abe Lodwick. However, the biggest contributions could come from the three incoming guards, Mike Ladd, DaVonte Lacy, and Dexter Kernich-Drew. Those three will be needed at the two guard since both Moore and Capers will be at the point. Coming into the season as a Top 50 shooting guard, Lacy is the star of the group. In their exhibition on Saturday against Lewis-Clark State, Lacy proved his value with a 21-point performance. The frontcourt will be held down by Lodwick (when he returns from a left foot injury), junior power forward Brock Motum, and junior center Steven Bjornstad. With Motum and Bjornstad at 6’10” and 6’11”, respectively, opposing defenses will have trouble matching up in the post.

Lacy has proved early on that he is the go-to guy at shooting guard

Weaknesses.  The Cougars lost two of their three best players from last year in forward DeAngleo Casto and guard Klay Thompson. Those two accounted for 45% of the 2010-11 Wazzu offense. The team will be tested early on with six of their first nine games away from Pullman. For a team that is looking to rreutrn to the NIT, that is a very tough start.

Nonconference Tests.  The Cougars have a relatively easy OOC slate, with only three games that should really challenge them. The first is their regular season opener at Gonzaga. The game will be played at 9:00 PM PST and is the first game of ESPN’s annual 25-Hour Tipoff Marathon. The next challenges will come in the second and third rounds of the 76 Classic down in Anaheim during Thanksgiving weekend. On Nov. 25 they will most likely meet New Mexico in the semifinals, and on Nov. 27 a championship meeting with Villanova looks to be in the cards.

Toughest Conference Stretch. The 12-day stretch of Jan. 15-Jan. 26 will be a rough one. After a road game against Washington in Seattle, the Cougars come home to host the Bay Area schools. Then the next week it’s on to the desert, where they will face Arizona in the first game of the weekend. If they can pull out a 2-2 record in those four, it would be huge for a team that is sure to be on the NIT bubble come March.

If Everything Goes Right…  The Cougars go storming through the 76 Classic en route to a 11-1 OOC record. But desipte their lackluster 10-8 Pac-12 record, they still earn a one seed in the NIT. After a blowout victory in the first round, they get upset in the round of sixteen. Still, for a team that many thought wouldn’t even make the NIT, this is a successful season.

If Nothing Goes Right…  Inuries haunt Washington State all year long, leading to lost confidence and some terrible play. The Cougars only win 12 regular season games but are able to pull off three wins in the Pac-12 Tournament. They lose on a three point buzzer-beater against Washington in the championship game but are invited to play in the CBI after their hot finish. Unfortunately, the success in Los Angeles does not carry over and they are bounced in the second round.

Projected Starting Lineup

  • PG Reggie Moore (Jr, 6’1″, 180 lbs, 9.1 PPG, 3.4 APG)
  • CG Marcus Capers (Sr, 6’4″, 185 lbs, 5.8 PPG, 1.9 APG)
  • SG Faisal Aden (Sr, 6’4″, 185 lbs, 12.7 PPG, 1.4 APG)
  • PF Brock Motum (Jr, 6’10”, 230 lbs, 7.6 PPG, 0.9 APG)
  • Charlie Enquist (Sr, 6’10”, 235 lbs, 0.5 PPG, 0.7 RPG)

The Cougars might be the only team in the conference that have three great guards, yet two less-than-stellar forwards. Motum is a solid option down low, but due to the injury of Lodwick, former walk-on Enquist will have to play a huge role that he might not be ready for. The one thing they do have going for them is the size of the two forwards, which opposing defenses will have trouble matching up with.

Key Reserves

  • SG DaVonte Lacy (Fr, 6’3″, 202 lbs)
  • SG Mike Ladd (Jr, 6’5″, 190 lbs, 0 PPG, 0 APG)
  • SG Dexter Kernich-Drew (Fr, 6’6″, 180 lbs)
  • Steven Bjornstad (Jr, 6’11”, 240 lbs, 1.3 PPG, 0.7 RPG)
  • Patrick Simon (So, 6’8″, 214 lbs, 3.2 PPG, 1.5 RPG)

Once again, we have a solid three-guard rotation and a not-so-solid post presence. Lacy is the class of this group, with Ladd close behind him. I have a good feeling about Bjornstad, but he needs to stay healthy if he is to contribute every night. Simon should see a bigger role this season after showing flashes of greatness his freshman year.

Connor Pelton (300 Posts)

I'm from Portland. College basketball and football is life.

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