Washington State Week: Breaking Down The SchedulePosted by Connor Pelton on August 5th, 2012
Washington State released their 2012-13 schedule a week and a half ago, and while dates and opponents are finalized, all but seven times still need to be set. Today we’ll take a quick look at their slate and figure out which games we’re most excited about.
Early-Season Tournament: After five fake games in Australia, then one real fake game against Saint Martin’s, the Cougars will play in the CBE Hall of Fame Classic to start the regular season. Washington State should roll over its first two opponents in the regional round, Eastern Washington and Utah Valley, but they are placed into the Championship Round no matter what happens in the first two games. Unfortunately for the Cougs, they draw the toughest opponent in Kansas for their first game, only made tougher by the fact that the games in this round will be played in Kansas City. They will face either Saint Louis or Texas A&M in the Championship or Consolation game, two teams that match up well with Wazzu. Overall, this will be a good way to start off the year. They should be able to snatch three wins, and playing a top-five team in a virtual road game will impress the selection committee come March.
Toughest Non-conference Game: Kansas without question. The Jayhawks return Jeff Withey and Elijah Johnson and will add four incoming freshman who will be ready to contribute immediately and ease the losses of Thomas Robinson and Tyshawn Taylor. Guard Royce Woolridge will get a chance to play against his former team in this one. It will be just his fourth regular season game after transferring from Kansas.
Easy Stretch: After hosting a Top 25 team in Gonzaga, the Cougars will then welcome Fresno State and Jackson State before facing Buffalo and Idaho State at neutral sites. Both of those sites, however, are in-state, meaning the Buffalo game will be played in front of a full crimson and gray fan base, while the Idaho State competition will be about a 90-10 split.
Toughest Conference Stretch: Right out of the gate, the Cougars will be tested in their first seven Pac-12 games. After a visit from rival Washington, the Cougs are sent to the Bay Area for a pair of games. With Washington and California boasting NCAA Tournament-type talent, and Maples Pavilion one of the toughest places to win in the conference, a chance exists for an 0-3 start right off the bat. After a brief reprieve in a home game against Utah, a Colorado team with loads of raw talent comes into Beasley. This killer stretch concludes with a road trip to the Oregon schools, both tough places to leave with a win. The Cougars will be lucky to get out of those seven with a 3-4 record, and anything less could really hurt any NCAA Tournament or NIT hopes.
Scout’s Special: The only Cougar who has a chance of playing in the NBA come October 2013 is Brock Motum. The 6’10″ forward is a versatile one as he is able to handle the ball on the perimeter and shoot from range as well. Of course, he can also bang on the boards when necessary. He’ll get a chance to check wing Shabazz Muhammad, projected as a top-five pick in next Summer’s NBA Draft, when Washington State plays UCLA on February 9 and March 6. If the Cougars have any chance of pulling an upset in either meeting, Motum will undoubtedly be the key, something that could help his draft stock immensely.
Overall Thoughts: The Cougars have four chances to earn résumé-building wins in a three-week span. Pepperdine won’t be a great team this year, but props need to be given for scheduling a home-and-home (technically a neutral-and-home) with a WCC opponent. Pac-12 teams normally have everything to lose and nothing to gain by playing a road game against a WCC, WAC, GNAC, or Big Sky opponent (other than the few Top 25 teams), but the Cougars have taken a chance and added interesting games to their non-conference slate by going to Spokane, Portland, Moscow, Fresno, Santa Clara, Anchorage, Boise, and Pocatello in recent years. Not to mention playing postseason contests in places like Moraga and San Francisco, and neutral site games in Seattle, and this year, Kennewick.
By playing these non-conference games that most likely won’t be televised, they are able to expand their recruiting footprint into Alaska, the Tri-Cities, Idaho, and all parts of California, while making things a little more interesting. Neutral observers probably wouldn’t watch a Pepperidne-Washington State game in Pullman, where a blowout is likely, but at a raucous gym in Malibu with a good chance of an upset, it makes things a lot more appealing to west coast fans who like both conferences. At the end of the day, however, it is still a basketball game that Ken Bone and company need to win. If they can’t beat the Waves, Jayhawks, Bulldogs, or win the final game of the CBE Hall of Fame Classic, it will be awfully tough for them to say they belong in the Big Dance at the end of the season.