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Bennett still tinkering with the lineup

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We've all kind of watched with great interest how Tony Bennett has juggled his personnel over the past couple of weeks, especially since it seemed early on he was content to just ride his upperclassmen in crunchtime.

Of course, that all changed against Stanford, and befitting the reputation he developed over the past couple of years, Bennett is showing once again that he's not afraid to mix and match in order to give his team the best chance to win.

According to Grippi, it appears that outside of Taylor Rochestie, Aron Baynes and Klay Thompson, Bennett is still not settled on a starting lineup for tomorrow's game against UCLA:

“You look at who you’re playing, what you need and you go with that,” WSU coach Tony Bennett said Tuesday. “We have a core group of guys and they are all going to play.” That group includes, besides those mentioned above, Caleb Forrest, Daven Harmeling, Nik Koprivica and freshmen Marcus Capers and DeAngelo Casto.

“You just look at how we match up, who played well the last game, who practiced well and go from there.” There’s one other element dealing with the freshmen, Bennett said. “With young kids, you always wonder how they’ll handle it,” he said. “I thought DeAngelo was a little overly amped (in his first start at Oregon State) and picked up a couple fouls.”

So who will start Thursday? There were no clues at practice Tuesday, with only the big three in the white starting jerseys and every one else wearing crimson.

If I had my druthers, Capers and Harmeling would start.

I love the energy Capers brings to the floor, and he seemed to handle the starting assignment very well on Saturday. While he occasionally botches a defensive assignment, his length and athleticism should be a real asset against a perimeter oriented team such as UCLA -- shooting a 3-pointer over Capers isn't the same as shooting a 3-pointer over Koprivica. And he also gives the Cougs' another good ballhandler against UCLA's defensive pressure.

I like Harmeling in this game because his 3-point shot is something that we simply must get back on track, and playing with the first unit is the best way to get him some shots. Plus, he's much less likely to be a defensive liability against UCLA, which, much like the Cougs, generally features only one post player on offense -- and Alfred Aboya isn't really a true post player. Besides, if Capers in the lineup, his defensive rebounding ability (16.1 DR%) more than makes up for the defensive rebounding liability of Harmeling (7.7 DR%), who actually contributes on the glass more than people realize with sound box-outs.

This leaves Casto, Koprivica and Forrest to come of the bench. I love Casto giving an infusion of energy when needed, I like Forrest to hold down the fort for 15-20 minutes, and I'm OK with Koprivica playing 10 minutes. But this smacks of the kind of game where Nik could really get abused.

Of course, this is all dependent on how the officials decide they're going to officiate two physical teams ...