I am getting pretty excited for Sat. I am looking forward to seeing the basketball team in person for the first time. (I am like a sub-Saharan African country, I only have two seasons: College basketball season and the rest of year where I am forced to watch NBA, FIBA, and Euroleague basketball to get my fix.)
I am excited to see if this team has what it takes to be in contention in the Pac-10. Do they have the depth and personal to compete with the most challenging non-conference schedule that the Cougs have faced in as long as I can remember? There are question marks and holes that need to be filled: Can they get solid play from the 4 and at backup point guard spot? Can Aiden score enough to take some pressure off of Klay and Reggie?) Let’s also get one thing clear right up front, if Casto, Klay, or Moore gets hurt for any significant time, this team will finish in the bottom half of the conference. Depth is an issue, but if the players Bone has brought in can provide some scoring, some defense, and some rebounding, the Cougs are going to have a pretty good year.
It’s the bench's ability to defend and rebound that has me worried. I would say the two biggest questions though are going to be how tough can they play? Defense and rebounding are going to be huge for this team. I am not a statistics guy, but I think that WSU finished last in the PAC 10 in defense last season. This team needs to improve that number, I would say if they are going to finish in the top 3 in conference, then they will need to be in the top 5 on defense. In PAC-10 play I don't think rebounding is going to be as big an issue as will be for the non-conference. This team must take 2 game in Hawaii and win at least one of its games against KSU or Gonzaga in order to give themselves a chance at an at-large bid. Those games are going to be the ones where the D must step and they have keep other teams off the glass.
I have said before that this team has a high ceiling, but I also think they have low basement. Given all the question marks, can they play with enough toughness and consistency to complete with a great schedule in December?
The only possible alternative to not being tough and still winning is to have Klay become an All-American. This is from Jay Bilas' article today @ http://sports.espn.go.com/ncb/preview2010/columns/story?columnist=bilas_jay&id=5779974
"Whether Washington State's Klay Thompson is as good as I think he is. I believe Thompson can establish himself as the best player in the Pac-10 this season. He can really shoot it and really score, and is a vastly underrated defender. Thompson impressed me this past summer at the Nike Skills Academy and he needs only to play stronger to be a first-team All-American."
Thompson's rebounding and defense will be almost as important as his scoring, but if he starts putting up crazy numbers then this will be a dangerous team in March.