Well, after finally getting the chance to watch this team in person (on television) last night, I feel very good about what this team can accomplish this season. As I watched this game I couldn't help but think of how much this team looks like last years team. Yes, some of the components are different, but as a unit they were sound as a pound. It really does speak to the coaching ability of Tony Bennett, and his dedication to the system, and working players into that system.
As it has always been under the Bennett regime, offensive execution tells the story. If the Cougs can play under control with the ball and get (and make) quality shots, the defense will put them in positions to win the game. And that is exactly what happened. This team was calm, and never paniced, even when Barry Stewart hit some three's in the first half to bring the Bulldogs back from a rough start. Even during an 11-0 run in the second half that cut the Cougs lead to single digits. Never was this team rattled, they kept their composure, and finished the game. Deja vu.
As it has been over the past two seasons for Cougar opponents, the Bulldogs had this look on their face for most of the game; a look of confusion. A look that said "how are we losing to these guys?" That is a look that has been etched on the faces of Pac-10 players for the past two seasons, and until a team has endured 40 minutes agianst the Cougs, they just don't get it. That is what gives me a bit of hope about todays match-up with #4 Pitt.
After watching the Cougs in their decisive victory, I bacame intently interested in watching the Pitt v. TT game last night. And as I sat and watched the first half, I found myself repeatedly saying, "they wouldn't get that shot against the Cougs," and "these guys don't play any defense." As the half went on I realized how much Pitt looked like UW, and my eye's began to widen. This team, this #4 team, could easily drop a game against WSU. Now, before I go any farther, I will preface these comments by saying that I did not watch the second half in which the Panthers man handled Tech. But in the first half I could honestly say that there was nothing, NOTHING, about that team that worried me as a Coug fan.
The Cougs style of play puts them in one of those catagories, as a team that could honesty beat anyone in the country. Is that to say that the Cougs will win tonight? I don't make predictions. But I will say this; If Pitt did not seriously prepare themselves for what the Cougs are bringing to them tonight, they could be ripe for the pickin'. Does Pitt have better athletes than WSU? Yes. Maybe even better basketball players? In some cases, yes. But are they a better basketball team? I don't think so. WSU, at times, looked like they were toying with the Bulldogs last night. And if the Panthers aren't carefull, it will happen to them too. The Panthers up and down, early offense, individual style of play falls right into the hands of the Cougs defense. If the Cougars can be patient, run their offense, and be efficient with the basketball, it will be upset central tonight in the Legends Classic, and it will be the look on the face of Levance Fields that will say something to the effect of "what the hell just happened."