Pac-12 Post-Mortems: Washington StatePosted by Andrew Murawa on April 14th, 2014
Over the next couple of weeks, we’ll go through each Pac-12 team one by one and recount the season that has just completed and begin to turn the page to what we might see next season. Today, Washington State.
What Went Wrong
Lots. The Cougars finished the season 140th in the nation in defensive efficiency, and they were far better on the defensive end of the court than they were on the offensive end. If you just look through the Washington State KenPom page and sort through all the stats, the only place where you see any type of green (which means good) is in its defensive rebounding numbers. Everywhere else it is red. Shooting the ball; keeping the other team from shooting ball well; turning it over; getting to the foul line; not fouling defensively; shooting the three; shooting the two; shooting the one; blocking shots; creating steals. In none of these areas (and more) were the Cougars even an average basketball team. Thus, it should be no surprise that they lost 17 of their final 21 games and Ken Bone is now the former head coach at Washington State.
What Went Right
Not much. Above we mentioned that the one area where Washington State was very good was defensive rebounding, in large part due to the efforts of senior center D.J. Shelton (third in the nation in defensive rebounding percentage). So there was that. Beyond that, the only other bright spot is something we’ll get to in our next bullet point.
DaVonte Lacy was phenomenal this season. In just about every outing the team played, the opposing defense was pretty clued into the fact that Lacy was more or less the team’s only offensive threat. After taking a backseat offensively to seniors Brock Motum and Mike Ladd in 2012-13, he seamlessly took on a bigger role and doubled his scoring output to 19.4 PPG while his efficiency numbers also skyrocketed. While there wasn’t much to give the home fans something to cheer about, Lacy was undoubtedly a star. And just to show you how awful this season was for the Cougars, they had to go without him for basically nine games in the middle of the season when an emergency appendectomy was followed by a rib injury. The fact that Lacy fought through those obstacles in the face of plenty of defensive attention underscores just how awesome he was this season.
For a program in transition – Ken Bone is out; Ernie Kent is the new head coach – the roster thus far looks to be remarkably stable. Seniors Shelton and Will DiIorio are finished with their eligibility, but beyond that, there is no news of anyone else leaving the program early. Of course, given that this is a team that just finished the season at 10-21, there is more than a touch of grey to that silver lining. The fact is that, depending on Kent’s decisions, there may be several players who decide to take off for greener pastures.
Players Coming In
At present, Washington State has two guys entering the program on scholarship next season: freshman point guard Tramaine Isabell, and JuCo power forward Jermaine Morgan. Isabell will be a hugely important piece for the Cougars next year, as they’ve been trying to replace Reggie Moore (who was dismissed just in advance of the 2012-13 season) at the point to little effect, forcing guys like Royce Woolridge, Mike Ladd and Lacy to play out of position there. If Isabell can give Kent some quality minutes at the point right away, his presence will be a huge positive. Meanwhile, Morgan is a frontcourt grinder who figures to be able to immediately step into early minutes as a rebounder and post defender. Nevertheless, you can bet Kent will be scouring the nation for any player – a late 2014 recruit, graduate transfer, JuCo transfer, future transfer or even 2015 (and beyond) recruit – who can help improve the overall talent level in Pullman.
Reason for Hope
Perhaps the worst thing to happen in the Bone era at Washington State was the complete dissolution of the program’s fan support. There were home games this season where it seemed like you could count the number of people in the stands during a media timeout. If nothing else, Kent will immediately get out to shake hands and kiss babies in an effort to get the local fans back to Friel Court in good numbers again. A change in energy was needed in the program, and Kent will provide that.
Reason For Concern
In the 30 years since the NCAA Tournament expanded to 64 teams, only eight times has Washington State finished at least at .500 in conference play (three under Kelvin Sampson; two under Kevin Eastman; two under Tony Bennett; and once under Bone). Only twice in all of that time have the Cougars been more than a single game over .500 in a conference season (both under Bennett). The point is that this is a tough, tough job. For Kent, it may be even tougher now that he’ll have to revive the program from the depths to which it has plunged without a whole heck of a lot of pieces to begin with. For everybody involved, you have to hope Kent is shown plenty of patience here.
D. Let’s give the Cougars a “Gentlemen’s D” and move on. By most measures (overall record, conference record, fan support, a seven-point half at Arizona, the injuries to Lacy), this season was a straight failure. But there’s no need to dump on a program when it’s already so far down. At the very least, the Cougars sent Ken Bone out to pasture on a good note, by blowing out UCLA on the final night of the regular season in Pullman, showing that the coach at least had his guys playing hard right up to their final game with him at the helm.