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Pac10 Men's Basketball Preview: Washington State Cougars

TwistNHook:  We have a tough schedule to start out with early games against Stanford, Arizona, Wazzu, and UW.  On the first Thursday night Pac10 home game of the new year, Cal takes on Washington State.

While Wazzu has had a rough recent history in football, their basketball team could be one of the better ones in the Pac10.  They certainly have some talent.  For example, there is Reggie Moore, who may be one of the best players in the Pac10.  He recently injured his wrist, but came back and has been playing well. 
CougCenter has more:

And welcome back Reggie Moore. I didn't know how Moore would respond and I legitimately feared that his season would end tonight if he came down wrong on his wrist. I was wrong. It took him a bit of time to settle in, but when he did it looked like the Reggie Moore of old. 10 points, many timely, three assists and three turnovers. And I honestly expected more turnovers from the kid playing with a heavily taped left wrist. Moore did was Moore does. Drive, create and find the open man. In the second half, Moore had a filthy right-to-left crossover, hitting the jumper after shaking his man. Shortly thereafter, Moore again went right-to-left, this time driving and dishing to Casto for the bucket. That is the point guard we know and love. He also finished 4-5, only missing a three. Yep, his shot's still good.

So, what do we think regarding WSU?

Kodiak:  Wazzu is pretty scary on offense.  They have a solid PG in Moore and Klay Thompson can score on anyone.  Their JC transfer Aden has reportedly been playing pretty well and helps take pressure off of their two big guns.  We don't really have a great match-up for Thompson.  Maybe Jorge shadows him and tries to deny the ball.  On the other hand, they're not particularly deep and don't have much of a post-game.

Where Wazzu really struggled last year was defense and rebounding.  We should be able to dominate the glass.  Whether we can score enough to keep up with them is the big question.  With home cooking, I think we take them...I'd have to give them the edge at their place, however.  

NorCalNick:  I know the guys over at Coug Center believe that this team could be like Washington St.'s 2005-2008 teams - a talented group that took their lumps and struggled at times in their first year together before putting it together for a run at a conference championship the next two years.  The talent on last year's team was obvious, to the point that their continued struggles surprised me.  Reggie Moore and DeAngelo Casto are solid players around Thompson, so perhaps just a little experience was needed.

If those players aren't enough, Aden might be the key extra ingredient.  He's been scoring nearly as prolifically as Thompson, giving the Cougars perhaps the best combination of guards in the Pac-10 this year.

Avinash:  The Cougars probably have our number this year. Jerome Randle dominated them in Pullman the last two years, which is why we were able to beat them on both occasions. And we struggled with them on both occasions we played them at home. I doubt we'll be as lucky this time around.

Here are the stats courtesy of Pomeroy

The offense runs through Thompson and Aden. They're a lethal backcourt that shoots the ball extremely well (Thompson's shooting 62% from  two-point land, Aden 55.6%). They're pretty good from downtown too--Thompson is 32% from downtown, Aden 40%. The Cougars are a top 5 shooting team from two point land and top 15 overall with a 57.3 eFG%.

But what makes them even deadlier is their defense; their defensive efficiency is third in the conference behind Arizona and Washington. Impressive, but not as impressive as their eFG% defense of 41.7%, top in the conference. With a true presence in the paint in Casto, they have a guy that gives guards pause before penetrating to the rim and attacking the basket. Brock Motum is their best offensive rebounder and is equally as adept at generating points off those putbacks. Both Markhuri Sanders-Frison and Harper Kamp going to have to bang with them and stay on the floor; I'd guess MSF is on Casto and Kamp is on Motum. 

So let's say the bigs cancel out, a BIG if. Although Smith and Gutierrez can probably hold down Aden and Thompson for awhile, can they do anything else for a much longer period? Who's going to handle Marcus Capers? More importantly, facing a talented team that plays defense and nearly knocked off a top 10 Kansas State team, can Cal generate any offense of their own from their shooters?

I'd be very happy if we won our home game.  That'd be a big victory for us.

TwistNHook:  I had forgotten about Klay Thompson.  That guy is so silky smooth.  He kinda reminds me of Adam Morrison, but mustache free.  WSU is my dark horse candidate in the Pac10this year

atomsareenough:  Yeah, Klay Thompson honestly scares me. He's a real scorer, as they say, the likes of which we certainly don't have on our team. I can't believe he's only a junior.

Kodiak:  Klay was arguably one of the best players in the league last year, but I think Moore got hurt and he ended up having to carry the entire team by himself.  He wore down towards the 2nd half of the season and his shooting % suffered.  With Moore back and Aden emerging as a capable third option, that makes him all the more dangerous.  If their defense and bigs are legit, I could see them in the top third of the conference instead of the middle.

TwistNHook:  Where do you guys see WSU ending up?  Do they make the tournament?

Avinash:  I think so. They're very talented. They're shutting down Gonzaga as we speak! Very talented squad and I wouldn't be surprised if they finish as high as 2nd or 3rd. Those Washington-Wazzu games have the potential to be super-fun and high-octane battles.

TwistNHook:  High-octane?

How many faked injuries do you think we'll see???????????????