I've been reading and participating in some discussions here on how our community sees WSU faring during our impending conference season. Obviously there are injury concerns, some teams will get better by February and some will be worse, and there will be nights where one of the teams will shoot unconsciously, but for the most part, we have a good idea of how this conference looks before play starts tomorrow.
I mentioned this in the previous thread, but I think on January 2nd, the Pac-12 can be divided into five tiers.
TIER 1: Arizona
TIER 2: Colorado, UCLA, Oregon
TIER 3: California, Stanford, Washington State
TIER 4: Washington, Oregon State, Arizona State
TIER 5: USC, Utah
Those top four appear to be pretty solid, so it looks like we're probably going to be playing Wednesday in the Conference Tournament. (The bright side: Another day in Vegas.) Let's break down our schedule to see what we can do to get to 10 games, allowing us a Wednesday game with a Tier 5 team.
Home: UW, Utah, Colorado, ASU, Arizona, OSU, Oregon, UCLA, USC (miss Cal and Stanford)
Road: Stanford, Cal, Oregon, OSU, USC, UCLA, ASU, Arizona, UW (miss Colorado and Utah)
My theory with the above tiers is we should consider teams two tiers above us or two teams below us done deals, so plan on WSU getting swept by Arizona, sweeping USC and beating Utah (Yes, I also remember the Battle of Chiggy in Salt Lake City last year, but go with me here.) That starts WSU at 3-2.
We should also plan on beating every team in the Tier below us at home and losing to every team in the Tier above us on the road, so plan on losses at Pauley and the Matt and beating UW, OSU and ASU at Friel. Assuming this, that puts the Cougs at 6-4.
Here are the eight games remaining: vs. Colorado, vs. Oregon, vs. UCLA, at Stanford, at Cal, at OSU, at ASU, at UW.
WSU has played extremely well at home over the past however long it's been since we've cared about basketball, which is why I think we steal one of the home games against the Tier 2 schools.
The three road games against the three Tier 4 teams are in Weeks 6-7-8, which means a) they may have played themselves out of Tier 4 by the time we play them, b) there are going to be injuries to take into consideration and c) Coach Sendek and Coach Robinson may be coaching for their livelihoods and Coach Romar isn't going to want to hear all year about getting swept by both Oregon and WSU, meaning WSU may see the kitchen sink thrown at them in these matchups. I think we're a head above these three teams, but I think an upset to one of them is inevitable, so I'll pencil us in at 2-1 for these three.
Unfortunately, WSU's only matchups with the other Tier 3 teams are on the road. The upside to this is the matchups are in Week 2, so the Cougs have a chance to sneak off with a split, catching one of the teams before they fully gel.
So with my completely unscientific breakdown, I like WSU heading into the Pac-12 tournament at 10-8 in conference, which would probably net them a matchup with Utah or USC in the first round of the tournament in an effort for win number 20. If the Cougs were to lose the following day, they'd finish the season 20-13. Would that be enough to get back into the dance?
Let me know your predictions in the thread.