Well, it's that time of the year again. The time of the year when we remember that not every single Washington State sporting team is epically disastrous. In fact, their men's basketball team is downright good. Really good. And we won't have Jerome Randle this year to go off for his standard 40. Wazzu has some great players, such as Klay Thompson and Reggie Moore.
To learn more about the Cougars, we turned our attention northwards to our SBN brethren in really Western Idaho, CougCenter.
Many thanks to Nuss and his crew of question answering ninjas for his answers to our questions. After the jump, learn more about tonight's opponent, the Washington State Cougars. GO BEARS!
1. Is Klay Thompson a robot sent back in time to terrorize us all?
Not a robot, although I can see why you might think that. He rarely seems to show emotion, and his jump shot has a machine-like repeatability. He can be an assassin on the floor along the lines of a Terminator. However, he does occasionally break off the ill-advised shot and will turn the ball over at times, revealing a human side. The proper designation would actually be "cyborg."
2. What do you like about Ken Bone's Coug teams better than Tony Bennett's and vice versa?
Well, Bone's teams certainly play a more visually appealing brand of basketball, especially on the offensive end. It's not just that they'll get out in transition when they can; even Bone's halfcourt sets involve more dribble-drive penetration and greater variety in the motion sets. At times, it appeared the Bennett teams were just jogging around for 25 seconds in a basic motion offense to rest up for defense before getting serious in the last 10 seconds. That could be frustrating to watch at times. However, watching Bennett teams play defense was a thing of beauty that will never be replicated under Bone.
3. The Cougs were expected to challenge for the top half of the Pac, but had a disastrous weekend down in LA. Hiccup or time to panic? What's the mood?
I don't know if L.A. was disastrous. It felt pretty bad at the time, because making it to the final of the Diamond Head Classic -- beating Baylor in the process -- had us pretty optimistic about the direction of the team. When they flopped against UCLA and USC, it was pretty jarring. But looking back, there were some decent explanations for what happened, not the least of which was making the Pac-10's toughest road trip this year at the tail end of two weeks away from home. Had the team lost to either Oregon or OSU last weekend, we might have been pressing the panic button. But they handled both with relative ease, even if they didn't always look great doing it. This team is still on track to meet its goals, and that's OK by us. That could all change if we get swept in the Bay Area, though.
4. Who do you want to punch in the face?
5. Has Casto improved to provide a steady low-post threat, or is he still more of a defensive specialist?
He's played well the last few games, but he's still pretty limited offensively. He always starts on the left block, and he can dunk and shoot a little jump hook over his left shoulder ... and that's about it. He did show a drop-step to his right last game; if he can make that a regular part of his repertoire, that actually would make a big difference. And yes, he's still as good on defense as ever -- his block rate is 47th nationally, and his defensive rebounding numbers have been climbing all season.
6. What has the addition of Aden meant to this team?
Faisal Aden has given the team another legitimate perimeter scorer to complement Thompson. Teams that lock in only on Klay do so at their own risk. However, he's incredibly streaky and is almost exclusively a jump shooter. When he's taking smart shots, he can be every bit as deadly as Klay. But when he's forcing the ball too much, he can absolutely kill the offense with one-and-dones. When good Faisal shows up, this offense is nearly unstoppable. But he can just as easily shoot the Cougs right out of games.
Yes and no. Yes, in that he's playing as many minutes as he ever has; no, in that the wrist is still limiting what he can do to some degree. When Moore is at his best, he's fearlessly attacking the rim, physical consequences be darned. Right now, he's worried about falling on the wrist, so he's just not back to his normal self. More often than not, when he drives, he's looking to dish, as finishing has been a problem.
8. What are you most worried about with regards to this team's lineup and play so far?
That the defense from early in the year was a fluke. We knew the offense was going to be real good, but the defense was atrocious a year go. So, the dramatic improvement on that end of the floor is what had us dreaming big. However, after looking great through the first 11 1/2 games, it's looked fairly pedestrian ever since the second half of the Diamond Head championship against Butler. If this team can't get back most of its defensive mojo, it's going to have a hard time being better than a fourth or fifth place Pac-10 team -- not what we all envisioned a few weeks ago.