WSU basketball appears to be at risk for APR postseason ban

Ethan Miller

More than half of Washington State's teams posted perfect single-year scores, and football is doing fine. But men's basketball is likely going to need a big score next year to avoid penalties.

The NCAA released its Academic Progress Rate data for 2012-13 today, and while a record nine of WSU's 17 varsity athletics programs achieved a perfect score, a Cougar team suffered sanctions for the first time in years as volleyball will be facing reduced practice time in the upcoming season because of a low score.

Football is plugging along just fine, posting a score of 963 to improve its all-important four-year rolling score to 944, well above the NCAA's minimum threshold of 930. Nothing to worry about there.

However, between the performance of football, the celebration of the perfect scores (which truly is awesome, and something everyone involved with WSU athletics should be proud of), and volleyball's slap on the wrist, it appears most people are missing something that could actually be a fairly big deal:

Men's basketball appears to be in serious danger of being ineligible for the postseason in 2015-16 because of its low score.

Now, we can argue just how big of a deal that actually is, given the downtrodden nature of the program. But the hope is obviously that Ernie Kent can get the program turned around pretty quickly and competing for a postseason berth in his second season.

That's now in peril. Here's why.

WSU basketball's APR score for 2012-13 was a poor 926 (presumably due in large part to Reggie Moore's dismissal from the team and Que Johnson's ineligibility), bringing the team's four-year rolling average down to 938. That number is still above 930, the new threshold for sanctions -- usually a postseason ban -- so that's good ... but getting uncomfortably close to 930.

And unless the basketball team can turn in a good number at next year's reporting -- probably something like 950 -- dipping below 930 is a serious concern. Unfortunately, there are reasons to think that WSU is going to have a bit of a difficult time turning in that good number.

To understand why, here's the TL;DR version of APR calculation: APR measures retention and progress toward graduation, and each scholarship athlete has the potential to pick up four points for the team -- one point each semester for finishing the term and one point each semester for being eligible to play during that term. In basketball, if all 13 scholarships are awarded and all players are enrolled both semesters, there are 52 possible points to be earned. Divide the points earned by the points earned by the points possible and multiply by 1000 to get the nice, round number you see reported.

We already know about one particular challenge with regards to the 2013-14 score: Danny Lawhorn dropped out of school partway through first semester. That's zero points for him in that term. That's really bad news! Because basketball has so few scholarships, even one player throwing up a zero has a huge effect on the score: Before even looking at another player, basketball is starting at 48 out of 50*, which doesn't look all bad until you realize that calculates to a score of "just" 960.

*If you're wondering why 50 and not 52, it's because he's no longer part of the cohort in spring semester, which lowers the potential total. 

That 960 is fine and will keep the basketball team above 930, but here's the issue: It will only hold up if -- and this is a big if -- the other 12 players were perfect, finishing every semester, and in good academic standing. If there's another bump somewhere and 2013-14 number is down to 940? Then it starts getting really dicey, and 929 is most definitely in play. And remember: 940 is 47 points out of 50. That means WSU can only afford to lose one more point with the other 12 players and feel like it has a chance of staying above 930.

Where could a lost point (or two) come from? For starters, both Royce Woolridge and James Hunter transferred. Both were fourth-year juniors. It's believed that Woolridge is graduating; if Hunter has done the same, each would earn all four points. If Hunter did not actually graduate, I'm not entirely sure how he'd be calculated as a fourth-year player who moved on. If he left mid-semester to head back to Australia ... well that would be disastrous. And we don't know the academic status of all the other players.

What it comes down to is this: WSU men's basketball is going to need every dang point it can muster in order to remain eligible for the postseason in 2015-16. There are actually other adjustments that can be made, and while it's way above my pay grade to understand all of them, I assume WSU does, and I'd expect the department to fight tooth and nail for all of them.

It could end up being much ado about nothing, given the recent history of the program ... or it could end up being a really big deal for a program that's on the rise. Keep it in the back of your mind around this time next year, especially if Kent seems to have the program moving in the right direction after year one and with his second recruiting class in the fold.

Enough bad news. How about some great news? The women's basketball team achieved a perfect score of 1000 for the fourth consecutive year, giving it a perfect 1000 score on the four-year rolling average, the first time in school history. Congratulations to coach June Daugherty and her players. Other teams to earn perfect scores single-year scores in 2012-13 were men's golf, women's golf, rowing, swimming, tennis, men's cross country, women's cross country and ... wait for it ...

Volleyball!

If you're wondering how volleyball posted a perfect score and still got hit with some sanctions, it's because that four-year average was 929. Only the fact that the team has shown recent growth with a two-year average over 940 kept it to the practice reduction (one fewer practice a week, maximum 16 countable hours) and not a postseason ban.

With that, here's a nifty spreadsheet with all of WSU's historical scores. Enjoy. 

And try not to worry too much about men's basketball.

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