In conference prediction: 3rd place.
A lot of things have to go the Cougs way for this to happen, but I think it is more realistic we place 3rd than we do 8th. The conference is way, way down from the last 4 years. And while we aren’t up, I don’t think we are down to much from last season. If you remember, Taylor was one of our worst players on the court until the second week of Pac-10 play started. We return 3 starters and our 6th man and bring in a class of guys who are ready to contribute day 1. Combine that with the fact this team is suited more for Bone style offense and I think we are poised for another tourney run. I expect an Adam Morrison like sophomore campaign for our boy Klay and serious improvement from each returning player (except maybe 1).
For the upcoming season I have my eye on 4 returning players who need to show serious improvement for us to get to the tourney again. Capers, Harthun, NK, and Abe.
Capers: Hoping for a Kyle Weaver like jump from this guy. The offense last year was obviously not suited to his strengths (10-15 ft. jump shots). Hopefully speeding the game up a bit will allow him to get more opportunities to finish around the rim. You have to assume his jumper has improved, but how much? On D he will be the lock down defender. Last year he was forced to guard the other teams best guard most nights…and most nights that was some guy who is now playing in the NBA. A year older, bigger, stronger, and more experienced I expect him to rack up the steals and blocks. Expect him to get to the foul line more and provide nice versatility in the back court playing the 1,2,3 if needed.
Harthun: The biggest recruit before Klay blew up at the end of his senior season, saw the game mostly the way I saw it...as a spectator. Part of that might be some weed trouble to start the season, part because he couldn’t figure out how to defend, and part because it is hard to stand around for 30 seconds then hit a jump shot. Earlier this year Bone said he expected big thing out of Mike and so do I. We need another shooter who can knock down the big 3 when Klay is seeing a triple team. The worry for me isn’t going to be his O this season, but the D. Will he be able to stay in front of the other guards? With more minutes he will impress the Coug fan base at either the 1 or 2. If not…we have two very athletic freshmen guards who will gobble up those minutes.
Abe: Abe is 6’7. He is a 3 point shooter. At least that is what we have been told. Last year he shot just under 11% on three. For him to be on the court he needs to be hitting more like 38%+ from 3. I’m ok giving him the first 5 games to see if last year was just a case of the freshmen jitters, or if in fact he just isn’t ready for the big time. My guess is he is close, but not completely ready. Obviously hoping he can prove me wrong. I expect we will see improvement on D, rebounding, and overall strength. But if he is on the floor he has to knock downs shots from 3 guard spot.
NK: Read a piece on NK the other that I thought was interesting. He was talking about how he likes the style of play with Bone better and he is excited to be able to get more shots in the up and down offense. I am praying just as much as any other Coug fan that he has a Justin Detmon esc. senior year, but would not be shocked by more of a Hammerling like Senior year. He had a 1.2/1 asst. to turnover ratio and basically shot 27% from three. Mind you 90% of those were wide open 3’s when someone doubled on Baynes,Taylor or Klay. What I want out of Nik is D, hard fouls, heady play on O, and rebounds on both ends of the floor. If he isn’t able to provide those there are plenty of guys who can shoot sub 30% on three’s that can.
You could write a nice 3 pager on each of these guys and what we should expect vs. what we hope from them. I am just hoping to throw some more bball talk out there before Friday. Getting sick of the only b-ball stuff out right now is the Times full length covereage of the goo bags in purple everyday.