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Washington State @ California: A Q & A With CougCenter on the WSU Men's Basketball Squad

After a forgettable loss Wednesday night, Cal looks to rebound against the Washington State Cougars on Saturday. To find out more about this squad of Cougars, we turned to Jeff Nusser of, the SB Nation Washington State Cougars site for some insight into Ken Bone's latest iteration of a basketball team. Thanks to Jeff for his time and honesty. Go Bears!

Oct. 13, 2012; Pullman, WA, USA; Washington State Cougars cheerleaders look on during the second half against the California Golden Bears at Martin Stadium. The Golden Bears won 31-17.
Oct. 13, 2012; Pullman, WA, USA; Washington State Cougars cheerleaders look on during the second half against the California Golden Bears at Martin Stadium. The Golden Bears won 31-17.

1. Brock Motum vs. Allen Crabbe, who is going to win the Pac-12 scoring title this year?

I know you didn't include Shabazz Muhammad in there because he obviously isn't playing in this game, but I think it's going to come down to Muhammad and Crabbe, honestly. Motum has struggled at times to get his shot this year because he no longer has Reggie Moore (kicked off the team before the season) to feed him the ball in prime scoring spots -- one of Motum's best attributes is his ability to find open space on the floor away from the ball, often times right around the basket. That space has shrunk considerably now that WSU doesn't have a playmaking point guard on the roster. I love how Crabbe has developed as a scorer to the point where he's no longer a jump shooting specialist, but I think Washington showed -- same as they did to Motum -- that it's possible to disrupt a potent scorer who doesn't have the good fortune of efficient scorers around him. Muhammad is such a special talent, it wouldn't shock me at all if he blew past both Motum and Crabbe.

2. Motum currently lead the team in scoring, rebounding, blocks, and FG% (among players who average 20+ minutes a game), what other Wazzu play should Cal fans be concerned about?

DaVonte Lacy. When he heats up from beyond the arc, he can score in bunches for the Cougs. He's been cold of late, however -- his footwork on his shot, which is lacking, often leaves him prone to both hot and cold streaks. To illustrate, here are his individual offensive ratings from each game since he came back from his knee injury: 131, 32, 92, 180, 149, 89 and 54. I know offensive rating isn't the greatest tool for assessing performance game to game, but I think it shows how volatile his contributions have been. But overall, he's been efficient. Other guys who could come up big would include Mike Ladd, a senior who's become increasingly assertive on the offensive end, and Royce Woolridge, a transfer from Kansas who is still a bit unsure of himself on the floor, but seemed to find his way a little bit against Stanford.

3. Wazzu pulled a 77-75 upset over the Bears up in Pullman last year and actually has a 2 game win streak over the Bears (both at Pullman). Is that just a home court thing or does the Cougars match up well with the Bears somehow?

Well, I know the Cougs typically play better at home -- or maybe they play worse on the road. Or maybe their opponents play worse on the road. Whatever it is, the Cougs are better at home than the road, which I suppose most teams are. I don't think WSU matches up any better with Cal than anyone else. So I guess this is all to say, yes, being at home probably had something to do with it, but no, I don't think WSU somehow has Cal's number.

4. This is year 4 of the Ken Bone era. How much do you like your coach? How does he compare to Tony Bennett?

Oh boy, this is a fun one. Well, this year was supposed to be better. Bone was handed a difficult roster made up of a bunch of young players built for Bennett ball. This created the dual problem of both having players not tailored for his system compounded by having no means to replace them for a few years. Well, all the Bennett recruits are officially off the roster, and the team still appears to be spinning its wheels a little bit. That's partially because of Moore's dismissal, but also partially because of a pair of recruits -- including Que Johnson, thought of as a top 100 guy before his academic problems -- didn't qualify. (Johnson, though, is enrolled as a partial qualifier who can't practice.)

Do I think this team should have been better by now? Undeniably yes. Are there reasons why they aren't? Also yes. They're legitimate, but excuses only last so long. Ultimately, issues such as not recruiting any point guards for four years, having a trio of non- or partial-qualifiers sabotage recruiting classes, etc. fall at the feet of the coach. Is it enough for him to lose his job at the end of this year? Probably not, as that's an expensive proposition. But there's enough apathy and discontentment among the basketball fanbase -- what's left of it, anyway -- to make the question legitimate. Lucky for Bone, Bill Moos is already paying football coaches $4 million a year with a bunch more money tied up in building a football operations center. Given that basketball isn't a moneymaker, he'll probably get to stick around for another year or two -- unless football gets crazy successful and the revenue makes a coaching change feasible.

WSU Basketball: Cougars in Australia Recap (via WSUCougarAthletics)

5. You guys made it to the CBI Finals last year (falling in the best of 3 series to Pittsburgh), what is the expectation for this year? Winning the CBI or make it to the NIT?

You asked on the previous question how Bone differs from Bennett. Well, this is it -- a pair of NCAA appearances under Tony Bennett raised the expectation bar. Fans want to go back, and when the team isn't on that track, fans lose interest in a hurry. There was some thought that this team could perhaps be bubble worthy before losing Reggie and Que, but that looks like a pipe dream now. If this team ends up in the NIT, I'd say that's pretty successful. I also think fans would like to see something in the Pac-12 portion of the schedule that leads them to believe that better days are ahead. People aren't impressed by beating mid- and small-majors in nonconference, and they were equally unimpressed by it in the CBI last year. I don't know if that's the expectation or not, but landing in the NIT would be nice.

6. Bears don't get to make the trip up to Pullman for men's basketball this year. What did they missed out on?

Snow! Check it out: They also missed out on a trip to Sella's for a calzone or to Cougar Country Drive Inn for a Super Basket, famous fry sauce and peanut butter milkshake. Especially Kravish. Good god that kid needs one (two?) of those 1,500-calorie bundles of beef goodness.

7. What does WSU have to do to win this game?

Get lucky? I don't mean that they need luck to win the game, but this team has had some extraordinarily bad luck this year in tight contests, losing three of their four non-conference games by a total of five points before faltering at the end against both Washington and Stanford to start the conference season 0-2. I mean, Stanford -- STANFORD! -- hit 8-of-12 threes against WSU. And they weren't all wide open either. (However, the 24-of-26 they hit from the free throw line were all wide open. That's the kind of night it was.) The Cougs have played well enough to win three or four more games than they have this year but have repeatedly found ways to lose -- sometimes partially their own doing. It sure would be nice if Cal would come out and have the worst performance of the Montgomery era on Saturday.

Wait, that was Wednesday? Well, shit.