The WSU Cougars open up the 2013-2014 basketball season against the CSU Bakersfield Roadrunners at 7 p.m. tonight at Beasley Coliseum in what ought to be a typical early season walkover for the Pac-12 hosts. The game will be broadcast by Pac-12 Networks.
The Roadrunners are in their seventh year of Division I, but their first as a member of a conference after six years in independent purgatory. They should prove to be a respectable member of the revamped WAC -- which is a shell of itself after the latest round of conference realignment -- but are still a team WSU should blow past with little difficulty.
The guy who likely will take most of Bakersfield's shots is guard Brandon Barnes, who used 24 percent of the Roadrunners' possessions despite posting only a 98 offensive rating. He will relentlessly attack the rim, getting to the rim with some frequency but not finishing enough last year to be a true go-to player.
The most dangerous player from WSU's perspective is likely Javonte Maynor, a high efficiency guard who didn't use a lot of possessions a year ago. He's an excellent shooter, hitting on 38 percent of his 196 three attempts a year ago. In other words, he's as good a candidate for the "unlikely guy to go off against the Cougs from deep" as anyone.
As is usually the case with low majors, there is a slew of transfers filling out the roster, making them somewhat of an unknown quantity. This is the case up front, where Corey Hall -- poor offensive player but superb defensive rebounder at 6-foot-7 and 210 pounds -- is the only returning player.
All this together means tonight (like so many nonconference games) is all about the Cougs figuring out what they've got and getting better. It will be interesting to see whom Ken Bone chooses for his starting lineup. Among the other interesting things we'll be keeping an eye out for:
- Who starts?
- How smooth is the offense with Royce Woolridge at point guard? And will he be able to both facilitate and score?
- Doe Que Johnson look like the kind of guy who could add a serious scoring dimension to the offense?
- How much - if at all - will Jordan Railey play? (He didn't appear in the exhibition after serving a suspension.)
- Does Ike Iroegbu look like a guy who can give legitimately productive minutes at the point?
- Do the Cougs exhibit the kind of defense that actually might translate into the conference season?
- How will the new interpretation of what constitutes a foul affect everyone?
There's more, I'm sure. What will you be looking for tonight? Consider this your game thread.