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.
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.