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Cal MBB @ WSU 2014: A 1,258-word Q & A with CougCenter

The bipolar Cal men's basketball team journeys to the far North, visiting Washington State and Washington this week. First up: Idaho Washington State, who has been inconsistent in Pac-12 play thus far. CougCenter, SBNation's Washington State community, chimed in for this edition of Q & A.


1. Your program has kind of struggled since Ken Bone came to town. How hot is his seat right now, and do you think he has a chance to survive past the season?

Sherwood: I don't even think it's a hot seat anymore. It's just inevitable at this point. Short of doing something miraculous like winning out and/or winning the Pac-12 tournament, I don't see a scenario where Coach Bone isn't replaced next month.

Nusser: Last time, I said "volcano." This time, I'll go "surface of the sun." There was a nice win over Washington at home, which lifted spirits a bit, but the team got waxed again on its latest road trip. The offense has improved a bit with DaVonte Lacy's return from injury, but there's little evidence that big things are on the horizon. There just isn't enough talent on this team.

Powers: This is me recycling my Samuel Anders joke from last time. Bone is piloting the fleet.

2. You're only 1-5 on the road in conference play. Is that just a function of the schedule and relative talent levels, or does your team really look different away from Pullman?

Sherwood: We're not really any better at home, either. Crowds are dead in Pullman, but they're usually dead on the road when the Cougs come to town, too, so there's no discernable difference. They have only played 2 1/2 road games with DaVonte Lacy though.

Nusser: Actually, we're winless away from home. And it's really just because the team is awful.

Powers: The team is pretty bad anywhere it plays. The bad just gets the standard home/away adjustment depending on location.

3. Lacy's the unquestioned #1 offensive threat, right? How have teams managed to limit him?

Sherwood: He's tough to limit because he has a quick release and a knack for getting open. Since he's returned most teams have let Lacy do his thing and try to shut down everyone else. Super easy.

Nusser: The interesting thing about Lacy is that while he's the clear top option, he doesn't really force his shot. He's definitely not the go-to guy in the mold of Klay Thompson or Brock Motum, simply because he seems to have a bit of a conscience when it comes to shooting. He's generally pretty darn smart with his shots, which has allowed him to maintain an offensive rating near 120. If we're being honest, he probably needs to shoot more, even if it makes him less efficient.

Powers: Teams focus on denying Lacy as much as possible, but like Sherwood said, he's good at getting open anyway. But like WSU showed against Colorado, Lacy can go off (34 points, 8-13 on 3s) and it can still be below average on offense.

4. Beyond D.J. Shelton, your big man depth seems pretty shallow. Has that been a problem during Pac-12 play?

Sherwood: Yes.

Nusser: Yes.

Powers: (Jordan Railey misses another bunny)

01/26/2014 Oregon vs Washington State Men's Basketball Highlights (via XOSSports)

5. Who's the 1 "under the radar" player that could explode if Cal's not careful?

Sherwood: Dexter Kernich-Drew seems to shoot the ball much better in Pullman, but he's also been the guy who's lost the most minutes since Lacy's return. Is Que Johnson considered under the radar? Are any of our players not under the radar at this point?

Nusser: Probably Johnson, but he's struggled to find his place a little bit with Lacy's return. He was the No. 1 option while Lacy was out, but he seems to now be passing up some shots he felt like he had the freedom to take when he was the man. It will be interesting to see if it's any better this weekend, now that they've had some games together.

Powers: Not sure if Johnson counts as under-the-radar, but he's the only non-Lacy/Shelton guy that can actually make shots with regularity. Kernich-Drew has had his nights, but just isn't getting much run lately.

6. Bone's offense has always seemed a bit ‘stagnant' to me, for lack of a better word. What is he trying to do with his set and system, and why has the offense struggled so much?

Sherwood: Bone's primary problem on offense is his shooters can't shoot. I know that sounds overly simplistic, but their looks aren't horrible. If you want to see what this offense is supposed to look like, watch Oregon. Altman runs virtually the same system, only with Pac-12 players.

Nusser: Bad players will make any offense look stagnant.

Powers: I'm guessing you are referring to the drain-the-clock style Bone has employed each of the past three seasons. In Klay Thompson's final year, WSU was actually a pretty fast team. Then a big man (Motum) became the go-to-guy and the offense had to slow down out of necessity. Now the offense is slow because the players aren't good enough--it's like a non-FGCU mid-major taking on a power conference team in the tournament, only it happens every single game.

7. How has Davonte Lacy's return affected the team? Have there been major changes to the way the team plays?

Sherwood: Our offensive efficiency has gone up. Not up enough to warrant positive thought; Just "up." We're scoring more than the 48 per game we netted in January, so we've got that going for us.

Powers: Lacy makes more shots than the other guys. The style isn't much different, he is just better. At the very least, Lacy's ability to score makes the team somewhat watchable.

8. You've really struggled to defend inside the 3 point line, ranking last in conference play in 2P% defense. What is the major cause for that?

Sherwood: Everyone in the conference is a great dunker. Or so I tell myself.

Nusser: Please refer to question 4.

Powers: Nusser stole my answer.

9. If Washington State is going to pull the upset, what 3 things have to go right?

Sherwood: Lacy needs scoring help from Que Johnson and D.J. Shelton. All three have to be on. And Cal probably has to be off.

Nusser: The same things that always need to go right: Uncharacteristically hot shooting from WSU and hoping and praying the other team misses a bunch of outside shots while mysteriously forgetting that they can run in transition all day against this team. And sometimes that's not even enough, as we found out against Colorado in Spokane last month (WSU 13-of-23 from three, Colorado 3-of-13, 71-70 OT win for the Buffs).

Powers: Are trades allowed in college basketball?

10. Pullman gets kind of a bad rap on these boards. If you had to sell us on moving to Pullman, what would you highlight?

Sherwood: If you're an adult, don't move to Pullman. If you're in college, it's the best place on Earth, which is why alums hold Pullman in such high regard. It's more or less the best four/five (SIX?) year Summer Camp you can ask for, except the camp counselors all skipped town and left their beer behind. Again, if you're an adult and don't find wheat fields fascinating: don't move to Pullman.

Nusser: I'll beg to differ with Sherwood on one point -- it seems like a fine place to raise children! Awesome schools (professors' kids) and great athletics (coaches' kids). And you can get approximately 1000% more house than you can in California.

Powers: Great for college. The whole town is designed for 18-to-22-year-olds. If you stick with the grocery store on Stadium Way (Dissmores) for food and beer purposes, you could probably go an entire year without seeing anyone who isn't a professor outside of your age group.