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WSU BASKETBALL: Cougars Picked To Finish 10th By Pac-12 Media

It's media day for men's basketball in the Pac-12, which means two things. First, it means endless hours of boring coachspeak; seriously, it would take a large stack of money to convince me to sit through that drivel.*

Reporter: "So, Coach, how's your team looking?"

Any Coach In The Conference: "I really like our group of players. I think we have a lot of potential."

*Actually, who am I kidding ... I'd probably do it for the free trip to Los Angeles and some In-N-Out. But I digress.

The second thing it means is that the conference unveils its media poll which, of course, is totally meaningless other than being a gauge of the outside perception of your school's team. And the perception of WSU in the post-Klay Thompson, post-DeAngelo Casto era is not good: The Cougars have been picked to finish 10th in the 12-team conference.

1. UCLA (14), 421
2. California (13), 405
3. Arizona (11), 404
4. Washington, 355
5. Oregon, 282
6. Stanford, 255
7. USC, 194
8. Oregon State, 188
9. Arizona State, 148
10. Washington State, 119
Colorado, 119
12. Utah, 74

Personally, that seems a tad low to me for the Cougs because of one huge factor -- the bottom half of this conference is going to be so pitifully bad once again. But then again, WSU could be that bad. I could see WSU finishing anywhere from 6th to 12th without too much surprise.

An underrated aspect of the poll that I'm guessing very few media members paid attention to is something that very well could decide who ends up winning this conference, and where the other teams end up: The unbalanced schedule. Utah is probably going to be very bad, and Colorado maybe not much better, so teams that play those traveling partners twice have a distinct advantage. Likewise, teams that have to play all four of UCLA, Cal, Arizona and UW twice will be at a disadvantage. I'll admit I haven't taken that close of a look to know who those teams are, but WSU has to play three of those four twice and only gets Utah and Colorado once, so no gifts from the schedule makers this year.

Here's how I'd rank them based on relative strength, rather than projected order of finish. Let me know what you think:
  1. Cal - Best all-around team in the conference with the best backcourt
  2. UCLA - Great front line, but huge questions with the ball handlers
  3. Washington - Opposite of UCLA, and I like the potential of their big men less than the potential of the Bruins' backcourt
  4. Arizona - Same as Washington, except the guards aren't as good and they don't defend as well as a team
  5. Oregon - Altman has nearly everyone of consequence back and adds stud freshman Jabari Brown
  6. Stanford - Losing Jeremy Green might be addition by subtraction; Owens and Powell are awesome
  7. WSU - Reggie Moore is the X-factor, and I like what I'm hearing
  8. ASU - Some highly touted freshmen weren't very good last year; I'll bet they make big strides
  9. Oregon State - Some talent, but still remain unconvinced about Robinson's coaching ability
  10. Colorado - You think WSU lost a lot? Buffs lost top four usage players from last year
  11. USC - Injury to Fontan is crippling
  12. Utah - Huge rebuilding job awaits Krystowiak

If you're interested in the dull comments from today, here's a transcript of Ken Bone and Marcus Capers courtesy of ASAP Sports. If you like moving pictures better, my man Ryan Divish has the entire 11 minutes of fun with the two of them posted at The News Tribune.

Yes, one of the reporters really did say that Faisel Aden had a good year last year. Sigh. So much work left to do ...

DAVE HIRSCH: We have Washington State coach Ken Bone, and senior guard Marcus Capers.

COACH BONE: Well, it's great to be here. Great to be in L.A. Marcus and I being here today representing Washington State, we're extremely excited about the upcoming season.

We understand because we've been asked numerous times what are we going to do without Klay Thompson and DeAngelo Casto, but it's a new team. It's a new time for different guys to shine, and I think we have those players that are capable of doing that. We're excited about what's going on right now.

Q. Coach, what do you think it's going to take for you guys to get back to the Pac-12 tournament this coming season?
COACH BONE: I think we're going to need to stay healthy number one. We've got to do a good job of managing our guys' practice time, but we really need to stay healthy. We're not probably as deep as a lot of teams in our conference. And we just need to get better and better as the year goes along.

We need to peak at the right time. But like I said, we have some really good pieces. Some guys like Marcus, Reggie Moore, Abe Lodwick, kids that have started in the past that somewhat deferred to a couple other guys last year and the last couple of years, for the right reasons.

But now they're showing in practice what they're capable of doing, and if we can come together and peak at the right time, we'll have that chance.

Q. Do you have a sense yet of what transfer Mike Ladd will bring to the team?
COACH BONE: Yes. Mike Ladd was with us last year. He transferred from Fresno State University. He was with us all season, and he really deserves a lot of credit for where Klay Thompson is right now.

There were many times in practice where Marcus has teamed up with Klay, so we need him to get after Klay physically, and that was Michael Ladd. Michael Ladd brings an element of toughness to our team, and experience, now that he's a four-year college guy, and a little bit of grit on the defensive end which we really need.

Q. With the loss of Klay Thompson, who do you see leading your team both offensively and in the locker room?
COACH BONE: I think in the locker room, Marcus Capers, Abe Lodwick, Michael Ladd, Reggie Moore. I see a lot of guys that feel like leaders and show leadership qualities. On the court, I feel like Reggie Moore had a rough year last year.

He fractured that wrist almost a year ago right now, and he's been able to show in the off-season this summer what he's capable of doing. He's also shown so far in the fall in practice going against other good guards in our program what he's capable of doing on the offensive end. And I think he's going to have a very good season.

Brock Motum is also a young man that's not started for us, but he's a junior, and he's very skilled. He can shoot it. He can score around the basket. Not a real athletic young man, but he's clever, and he knows how to score.

Q. How much of Reggie's struggles last year were attributed to physical problems or just the lack of confidence after coming back and kind of struggling?
COACH BONE: That's a great question. First of all, it was the physical part, because he really battled to be given the opportunity to play by the doctors. He maybe should not have played last season, but he wanted to be a part of that team.
So I don't want to say they gave in, but they said okay, here are the consequences, here are the risks that you are taking, and he went for it. He's a tough kid. He went for it, but his game changed.

As a freshman, he was relentless. He was aggressive, attacking the rim continually. And last year he rarely did that. We're now seeing that out of Reggie almost daily. So therefore I think the mental part played a huge part in how he performed.

Q. You guys play Gonzaga the first game. Can you put into perspective how that works and at state and what do you expect to accomplish or prove? Because Gonzaga is pretty much up there right now.
COACH BONE: Gonzaga is up there. They're very good. They have another nice team again this season. Yeah, that game is like in about two and a half weeks, and it's a difficult place to play.

But I think knowing our players and knowing how our guys have done the last couple of years with Gonzaga at least in my experience, we'll embrace that challenge, and we understand what we're up against. But it will be a competitive game.

Q. What have you worked on mostly in the off-season? How have you improved going into this year?
MARCUS CAPERS: I've been working on my ball handling, my mid-range jumpshot. Just me and Coach Bowman talking and he's been really striving on me to be more aggressive on the offensive side. Just to give us something that's like a hard wire for the team to guard this year. So I'm pretty much working on my offensive game.

Q. Coach Bone just talked about it a little bit, but what have you seen from Reggie that makes you confident that he's a different player this year as opposed to last year?
MARCUS CAPERS: When he came in as a freshman, I saw that he was real aggressive. Last year I felt like he took it off a little bit, and I know he was favoring his hand. But this year he's been holding himself more accountable for the few mistakes he's been making in practice, and just pretty much being more aggressive, and pretty much bringing the fight to the person that's been guarding him.

Hopefully he'll carry that along in the season, and if he does that, he's going to turn a few heads and surprise a lot of people.

Q. I've read a lot about your team and everybody keeps talking about the departure of Klay and Reggie. What impact will Faisal Aden have in his second year? Seemed like he was a terrific player last year. People seem not to mention him much. But he's had a year under his belt, and how has he played and how has his growth been from the summer till now?
COACH BONE: Faisal had a great summer. He spent a lot of time in Chicago working out with some guys and he's come back -- I don't want to say he's happy Klay is gone, but it does open up an opportunity for him, because that young man can really shoot. He can really shoot the ball, and he's not just a shooter. He's a pretty good scorer. He finds ways to score that are sometimes a little bit uncharacteristic.

But he has a chance to put some points on the board. There are going to be some night that's he's going to go fair lost points. We see that in practice, and we saw it the other day in our scrimmage where can he get on a roll and it's just one three after another.

So he's a little under the radar probably because he never started last season, but him being a senior, and the confidence he has and the confidence these guys have in him, he should have a really good year.

Q. You might be the only guy in the conference that's coached against Larry Krystkowiak before. Just curious what you remember from your couple of match-ups and what you'd expect from his team?
COACH BONE: Larry is intense. He gets his kids to be extremely intense, and they play relentless basketball. I mean, they bring it. His teams at Montana were very well-coached. Him being a big guy, we kind of thought that Larry being a big guy, we felt that well they're really going to dump it down, dump it down low.

But he had an outstanding job of balancing this team with inside and outside play. They're going to be a team to reckon with. There is no doubt about it. They'll be well organized, well prepared, and they'll bring some serious intensity to the floor just like when he played.

Q. Marcus, what player do you think is the most difficult to guard returning to the Pac-12 this season?
MARCUS CAPERS: Oh, wow. Well, me being a guard, I've got a couple people in mind running off all the screens I did. But I'd probably give it to Allen Crabbe from Cal. He dropped buckets on us the last time we played them, so he gets that title as of now.

But it's really difficult with all the screens being set. So he get it's right now, but it might change. I don't know. It's the Pac-12, people go off night in and night out.