Cougar Basketball Roundtable: Cleaning out the Inbox for the 2012-13 Season

Stephen Dunn

Kyle Sherwood, Jeff Nusser and Craig Powers trade e-mails and preview WSU Basketball's 2012-13 season.

Do people still use personal e-mail anymore? With the advances in social media, I've found my inbox seems to be nothing but politicians asking me for money and Groupon offers for the past few months. Jeff, Craig and I decided to go old-school and long-form and revive our life-supported Gmail accounts to bring you our thoughts on the upcoming basketball season in time for our season opener against Eastern. I've filtered out my credit card bills and iTunes receipts to help you out, because this is super-long.

Sherwood: Was thinking it would be a good article if we published a three-man e-mail thread about this season. Thoughts?

Nusser: Sounds good to me!

Powers: I like it.

Sherwood: Brilliant. I have a couple questions and I'm sure you guys will have some, too. This could get sexy.

First question: How did you feel about this team in August (ie: Before Que not passing the clearinghouse and Reggie being dismissed from the team)?

I think you guys know I was very bullish on the 2012-13 team and had been since about February. I thought Bone had a lot of interchangeable pieces, giving him the ability to go with four guards and Brock (or DJ) and completely run past some teams, and then when I saw the pictures of how much (good) weight Junior Longrus put on since his season ended, I thought we had the ability to go big on teams, too. We had an abundance of wing players who could both get to the basket and hit a 20 foot jumper, and I don't remember ever being able to say that about a Cougar team. Also, our big men (Motum, Shelton, Longrus) are all super athletic, something I also don't remember ever being able to say. I kept telling anyone who would listen (my Q&A with RushTheCourt) that this was going to be the year we had been waiting for since Tony left.

Nusser: As I you know, I wasn't nearly as optimistic as you. My skepticism centered around Moore, who had been the very definition of mercurial during his time at WSU - a force of nature getting to the rim one possession, a lazy 18-foot jump shooter the next possession, a passive facilitator the next. He obviously finished the year strong, but I certainly didn't blindly trust that it was going to continue. And when that player plays the most minutes on the team and is also your worst defender ... I just don't think that's a great place to start for a team to take a huge step forward.

That said, I'm not sure that his dismissal solves any problems either. I'd feel a heck of a lot better about this team's prospects if there was just one steady ball handler on the team who could get the ball to guys (mostly Motum) in the right spot and play great defense. That guy isn't on the roster, I don't think.

Sherwood: Now see, you're so good at predicting where I was going with this: How do you feel NOW? After Que and Reggie have been left off the roster this season, I'm much less optimistic. Now keep in mind, this isn't to say much about either of their talents, but the actual minutes they would have logged on the court. We just lost 50 minutes all in the 1-2 spot that we have to find a way to replace and I'm not entirely sure we can. Are you ready for 35 minutes of DaVonte Lacy? How about 25 minutes of Dexter? And now that we've moved the tier II guys to tier I, who's going to play the 10-15 minute roles? DiIorio? Ballard? For all of Reggie's defensive flaws, he was your one reliable guy to move the ball up the floor and give you 35 minutes. I just don't see how we replace that effectively.

Nusser: Here's the thing about what I said about Reggie. In my circle of dorky friends in high school, whenever a girl did something to one of us we'd say, "Women - can't live with 'em, can't live without 'em! AMIRITE?" With the way this roster has been constructed -- without even ONE other serviceable point guard -- it's really the same thing with Moore. I think there's an outside chance they're better in the end without him, based mostly on anticipated improvement to the defense, but WSU's best chance at being good was to get a monster senior season from Moore. Obviously, I wasn't convinced that was going to happen, but it doesn't mean I think the team is better off now than before. It just means I didn't/don't see many scenarios where this team is very good, with or without Moore.

Sherwood: With Reggie, I wasn't sure that he needed to be dominant for us to be succesful, but we had so many working pieces that we could afford off nights if we had a guard/wing stable of Reggie/Que/Lacy/Royce/Ladd/Dexter. Now that it's just Lacy/Royce/Ladd/Dexter, the margin for error is ridiculously small.https://mail.google.com/mail/ca/images/cleardot.gif

Powers: So WSU has 120 minutes a game that they need to fill with guards/wings. Royce Woolridge, Mike Ladd, and DaVonte Lacy are obvious candidates for the majority of that time.

Lacy played 66 percent of the minutes last season, so expect him to play at least that, probably more, this year. I'll conservatively put him at 75 percent, or about 30 minutes a game.

Woolridge seems in line to get Reggie Moore's minutes. Reggie played 82 percent of the minutes last year. If Woolridge plays 80, that puts him at 32 minutes a game.

We are halfway there!

Ladd missed 11 games, but still played 37 percent of the minutes. He played 75 percent as as a sophomore as Fresno State, so he could push that number again. I'd peg him closer to 65 percent, or 26 minutes.

So that leaves 32 minutes. Some of those will be filled by Dexter Kernich-Drew. He didn't play much last year, just 17 percent, so I doubt that he will see suddenly be at the top of the rotation. Maybe a 35 percent player at the back-end, so 14 minutes.

Dominic Ballard, Wil DiIorio, and Bryce Leavitt are the remaining eligible guards on the roster. Ballard and DiIorio will certainly see some time in the non-conference schedule, but I suspect this is going to be a pretty tight rotation come Pac-12 time.

Lacy/Woolridge probably jump up to 35 minutes a game in conference play, with Ladd and DKD seeing similar increases. It's certainly thin with Reggie gone. Hope these guys are in good shape.

Also, let's hope Junior Longrus can play some three, even with the added weight.

Sherwood: I think we are all in agreement that Junior is probably getting 10-12 minutes, right? So that makes us seven deep? Eight if we think DiIorio's a contributor?

Do either of you think any of the new guys (Boese, Hunter, Railey, Ballard) are in line for minutes or will emerge as a contributor in the rotation?

Powers: Agree on Junior. The seven-man rotation is likely in Pac-12 play. I think James Hunter will see some limited action out of necessity. Railey has to sit out. Boese and Ballard might see some time in the non-conference. I don't see any of the new guys becoming contributors, mainly just filler.

Nusser: I'm sure they'll all play some minor minutes here and there. But if we're relying on any of those guys for meaningful minutes at any point this season, because of injuries or whatever, we're totally screwed. So I'm not even really all that interested in thinking all that much about them, to be honest.

I'm actually not totally in agreement that Longrus is going to get 10-12 minutes -- I actually think it'll be more in the 15-18 range, perhaps even higher. If that ends up being the case, do either of you have any reservations about whether he can handle that?

Sherwood: I think it depends on how his weight gain has handled his athleticism. I think all three of us saw the pictures of him playing in Australia this summer and were shocked that this was the same kid we were comparing to Marcus Capers (in body-type) last winter. If he can be that big and still play out on the wing for spells, I think it allows Bone to go big with two guards/Junior/Motum/DJ and also allow Longrus to spell Motum/DJ when we're playing conventionally. Since I'm assuming neither of you went to ZzuMania, none of us really have seen the new Junior Longrus in action. I haven't heard anything negative, so I'm cautiously optimistic he could handle a larger role if needed.

(and because I'm assuming someone will be mad if we don't address it)

How safe is Ken Bone's job? Is there anything that could happen this year that would make you want to start looking at resumes?

For me, I'm conflicted: One one hand, I already want to see what Royce, Que, DJ, Junior and Ikenna Iroegbu do next year, on the other hand, I said the same thing last year that THIS was supposed to be the year (before attrition). I feel like I've said "wait til next year" a few years in a row and attrition has rocked the team (can you imagine last year's team with D'Angelo Casto?) and I'm not sure how many more "wait til next year's" this program has left.

Nusser: Any discussion of Ken Bone's job status needs to start with financials - as in, he's only three years into a seven-year deal that pays him $850,000 per year for the final four years. Since I'm not aware of the existence of any reduced buyout figure, I'm going to assume that if Bill Moos wanted to make a move at the end of this season, it would cost him about $2.5 million. Highly unlikely. I suppose it's possible that some sugar daddy could waltz in and write a check to cover it because he's that passionate about basketball, but that also is unlikely, both because I doubt that person exists, and even if he did, Moos would do everything in his power to persuade that person to instead donate that money to the new football ops building.

But if we're going to have a theoretical "Should he be on the hot seat?" conversation where money is no object? If the team can't crack through to the top half of the Pac-12 after four years on the job, then yeah -- I think it's fair to say he's under-delivering. Especially when you have a tough time figuring out exactly what he's trying to do when you look at the roster. I mean, the first thing he did when he was hired was bring in a playmaking point guard ... and he hasn't gotten even one to come to WSU since? And his standard for big men seems to be "anyone who will come to Pullman."

Good thing for him he's probably going to get at least one more year, because it's just tremendously difficult to see how this all is supposed to come together. Unless one of you sees a plan that I don't?

Sherwood: Well, when your starting point guard was chewing up 36 minutes per game, I don't know if getting another playmaking point guard was the priority as much as it was getting the one on the court playing to his potential. For all practical purposes, Woolridge was brought in to be the backup point guard in addition to his duties on the wing. And while we should stick to the 2012-13 season, it should go without saying Bone has a playmaking point guard coming in next year.

I also don't necessarily think we haven't seen what Bone's trying to do; it's just all fallen apart over the past month. We had six interchangable wings and three big men that could give teams a lot of looks (ie: Longrus at the 3 if you went big, Ladd at the 4 if you went small). We had the depth to afford people like Reggie having off nights and weaning young guys like Longrus and Que into the system without overtaxing their minutes, and should've had fresh enough legs to not have to rely on Brock for 40 minutes. Now we are seven deep and the look we provide is hoping Woolridge and Lacy hit their shots to keep the defense from collapsing on Brock. Bone should definitely be held accountable for it falling apart before it even started, which is why I was wondering how you felt about his job status.

I agree with you on the big man front; Coach Hiro being jettisoned for Coach Lopes wasn't a coincidence.

So let's have it: Best Case/Worst Case for the season and make one out-on-a-limb prediction.

Nusser: Best case: Deep NIT run. This team just doesn't have the horses for a serious run at the NCAA tournament.

Worst case: Injuries ravage the team a la 2011-12 USC and they finish last in the Pac-12, eliminated on the first day of the Pac-12 tournament.

Unusual prediction: Sharing the ball was key to the the Cougs' success last year, but they will have the smallest percentage of baskets assisted of anyone in the conference this year, leading to a lower adjusted offensive efficiency.

Powers: Best case: 6th-place finish in the Pac-12. Near the bubble because they rise up and beat a big team a couple times. End up with an NIT bid.

Worst case: Motum is injured, rendering the team almost unwatchable and leaving the offense without a go-to-guy, something every Ken Bone team at WSU has had. The Cougs still finish ahead of Utah in the conference standings.

Unusual prediction: Despite not having a "true point guard" the team's turnover rate goes down, largely on the back of Motum's improvements in decision making as a senior, and no Faisal Aden.

Sherwood: Best case: the team catches some breaks, Motum catches fire and WSU places 6th or 7th in the Pac-12 making the NIT or a deep CBI run.

Worst case: WSU hobbles through their mostly-soft non-conference schedule and gets destroyed in conference due to the depth issues we've covered.

Unusual prediction: With increased minutes for Ladd and a bigger DJ Shelton, WSU finishes in the top half of the Pac-12 in rebounding rate.

So there is a week's worth of e-mails for everyone to sift through. I'm sure you'll tell us where we're wrong and offer up some of your own predictions in the comment section.

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