Well, that could've been it. It sure doesn't feel right, but then again it didn't feel right when the clock wound down last March against North Carolina. At the end of the day, a loss is a loss, courtesy of all our usual deficiencies. Long scoring drought? Check. Giving up a huge run to an opponent that we can't come back from? Check. Shooting woes? Check.
For a while, several times this season actually, we allowed ourselves to believe that our team was better than this. The fact is that the Pac-10 tournament put us right where we were. Clearly better than the worst team in the conference (Oregon), and clearly not consistent enough to run with an elite team (UCLA) every time we played them.
The NIT allows 32 teams. We know the Cougars aren't one of the 65 NCAA tournament teams. Clearly, though, they are one of the top 97 teams in the nation and that means they should be allowed into the tournament.
However, with Arizona losing tonight, and potentially losing a tournament spot in the process, the outlook starts to become grim for WSU. USC, also with a win tonight, should be a sure thing for at least the NIT. Last year two Pac-10 teams were selected: California and Arizona State. This year I would expect the same. So you better hope USC wins the whole tourney (not likely) or Arizona squeaks into the Big Dance (more likely, even if they don't deserve it). A small market team.like WSU is likely to receive a snub if those two teams are in first.
One potential outcome: A birth in the CBI, which takes sixteen teams and includes a four team West Regional. This could be a double whammy in that the Cougs could earn both a postseason slot and another home game. But still, and I may be selfish for saying this, I kind of enjoy the idea that our last image of Taylor Rochestie in Pullman was "The Shot". A first-round game against a fellow NIT snub just wouldn't feel the same. But let's face facts: we sure as heck aren't hosting an NIT game; so if it's a home game you want, the CBI may come through.
(Another potentially huge problem with the CBI: it happens over Spring Break. Bye bye student section)
On to the awards, because I really don't want to say anything else about this game:
Player of the Game: Aron Baynes, as the only Coug in double figures with 22 points on 8 of 15 shooting. We'll miss you, big guy.
Unsung Hero: Was there one? Taylor went 1 for 11. Klay went 2 for 11. Capers 2 of 7. Forrest 2 of 6. Casto 2 of 5. Suddenly I'm wondering how we only lost this game by nine. I'm going with a shocker here - Mike Harthun, who at least shot 50% (1 of 2), made a three and had one assist with no turnovers. Mike was also on the floor for the majority of the final valiant (yet way too late) run the Cougars made.
Play of the Game: Another downer. Let's go with the Baynes lay-up that gave us our only lead at 5-4.
It was over when... Let's not kid ourselves. The Jrue Holiday three-pointer that made it 23-5 with 10:48 to play in the first half. Bud Nameck's call: "And of course it goes in."
Stat of the Game: Every Cougar not named Aron Baynes shot 10 of 45 (22%) from the field.
Right now, I need one of those Men In Black things that erases your memory from a certain period of time. This team has seen much better days. Remember those, because this sure wasn't one of them. But hey - the regular season has to end somehow.