Kyle Smith’s Washington State Cougars officially have opponents and dates on which to play them. WSU released its 2019-2020 non-conference schedule this week, and it is pretty much what we’ve come to expect recently for the Cougs.
Gone are the days with one or two major games in the non-conference slate. The Pac-10 once had an arrangement with the Big 12 that set up some fun matchups, but that has ended. That Gonzaga game is on an indefinite hiatus.
It will be interesting to see how Smith and his staff schedule in the future. They certainly had some say in this year’s lineup, but several of the games were already set in stone from previous agreements.
This year features six games against teams that finished 2018-2019 lower than 313 in Ken Pomeroy’s rankings—out of 353 teams. The Cayman Islands Classic will bring something worth watching, and the best non-conference “home” game is played in Spokane against a mid-major school (no, we already told you that Gonzaga game isn’t happening).
As a newly minted WSU men’s basketball season ticket holder, I have taken it upon myself to analyze each and every opponent that the Cougs know they will face prior to Pac-12 play. Let’s just say I gave it the time and energy it deserves.
Nov. 7: Seattle
2019 Final KenPom Ranking: 190
Seattle will be taking a trip to Pullman for the second time in three years. Last season, the Redhawks took down WSU in Kent. You probably weren’t paying much attention to that one, and most of you probably won’t be paying attention to this one. But, revenge is in the air!
Nov. 12: @ Santa Clara
2019 Final KenPom Ranking: 186
Another lowly team that took down WSU in a non-campus location (Spokane Arena) last season. This time, the Cougs will be headed to Santa Clara because WSU is the type of Pac-12 team that takes visits to bottom-half WCC programs.
Herb Sendek coaches the Broncos. Remember him? He coached James Harden!
Nov. 17: Idaho State
2019 Final KenPom Ranking: 329
Getting into the real meat of the schedule here by taking on one of the worst programs not only in the Big Sky, but all of college basketball. Ernie Kent went 3-0 against Idaho State, which has its own Kibbie Dome-esque building. This game will not be played in that building.
Did I mention Ernie Kent went 3-0 against Idaho State?
Nov. 21: Omaha
2019 Final KenPom Ranking: 164
Finally, a tough test! Just kidding, Omaha is probably bad, too. If you are like me, you thought, “since when is there a school called Omaha?” Well, turns out it is actually Nebraska Omaha in disguise.
Nov. 25-27: Cayman Islands Classic
This kicks off with the Bill Moos bowl, and a second-consecutive opponent from Nebraska. Other teams include George Mason or Old Dominion in the second game, as well as Colorado State, Loyola, South Florida, and New Mexico State.
Apparently, the Aggies and Cougs like the same tournaments. They met last in year in the Las Vegas Classic, one of two matchups that season. Well, guess what could happen again this season?
Dec. 4: @ Idaho
2019 Final KenPom Ranking: 348
Oh man, the Vandals were bad last year. This year’s Battle of the Palouse will be played in Moscow at the Cowan Spectrum, a fun place to say but not a great place to watch a game. Let’s hope Kyle Smith never loses to Idaho.
Dec. 7: New Mexico State
2019 Final KenPom Ranking: 53
This is the annual Spokane Arena game, and could be the fourth time these two teams play each other in two seasons.
The Aggies are the best non-conference home-ish matchup for the Cougs. NMSU was good last year, and nearly ended Auburn’s run to the title game before it started. They should have a senior-laden rotation this season. Taking them down would be a solid win.
Dec. 15: UC Riverside
2019 Final KenPom Ranking: 322
Students will surely skip out on the semester break to stick around Pullman for this one.
Dec. 19: Florida A&M
2019 Final KenPom Ranking: 318
If you play bottom-50 schools in front of an empty arena, did it really happen?
Dec. 21: Incarnate Word
2019 Final KenPom Ranking: 346
Look, if I’m a player on the Cougs, there are certainly worst ways to spend a week in December than taking breaks from video games to whoop up on the worst teams in college basketball.
(Please don’t lose any of these. Please.)
Dec. 29: Arkansas-Pine Bluff
2019 Final KenPom Ranking: 313
Do you assume a team is worse if it has a hyphen or a direction in the name? We need to do a deep dive on this.
That’s it. Then Pac-12 play starts, and the Cougs will play host to bad high major teams instead of bad mid- and low-major schools. Let’s hope the new regime can at least keep it interesting (I suspect they will).