First things first: #prayforparis. But as there is a basketball game in Pullman that is going to be played in spite of the horrific violence going on half a world away, here's our quick preview and game thread.
WSU begins its 2015-16 season tonight when the Northern Arizona Lumberjacks invade Beasley Coliseum for a 5:30 p.m. PT tip off on Pac-12 Network Washington.
If you have not yet read our season preview, you're going to want to rectify that ASAP. Six of us collaborated on it, and It's got everything you need to know about WSU hoops for you to be a knowledgeable fan as the season gets going.
If you're planning on watching the game on Pac-12 Network through your cable provider, but you live outside the state of Washington, you're probably going to want to head on over to Pac-12.com and log in so that you can watch the game on your computer, as the national network is going to be a "look-in" channel similar to the NFL's Red Zone that is so popular on Sundays. There's a chance the game will still be on your TV if you live outside the area, so check your guide. But be prepared to watch on your computer, as well.
As for the game? WSU is favored against its Big Sky foe. That said, the Cougars might not be as overwhelming a favorite as you might assume; the Lumberjacks actually finished last season rated higher than WSU by Ken Pomeroy's system. Based on preseason projections, WSU is rated about 50 spots better than NAU by Pomeroy's laptop (152 vs. 204), which means the Cougs are only about 3-to-1 favorites in his estimation, but still -- this isn't likely to be a walk-over.
The Lumberjacks' go-to player last season, guard Kris Yanku, returns; he's a guy who specializes in drawing fouls with penetration and then making a huge number of free throws. He scored a whopping 225 points from the line last year -- about 45 percent of his total points. Keeping him out of the lane will be job No. 1 for WSU, since his effective field goal percentage was a paltry 36.0 when he wasn't getting fouled.
After that, though, NAU is breaking in a lot of new faces. But so is WSU -- let's hope the Cougars can avoid stumbling out of the gate as Ernie Kent tries to figure out exactly what he's got.