Halfway through the 2011 season, the WSU men’s basketball team (9-8 overall, 1-4 Pac-12) is struggling to find any semblance of consistency.
After another second-half collapse in a 75-65 loss to the University of Washington Sunday afternoon, the Cougars enter the most critical part of their season needing to fix specific aspects of their floor game.
Since Klay Thompson and DeAngelo Casto won’t be running out of any Beasley Coliseum tunnels anytime soon, it’s imperative Head Coach Ken Bone helps turn around a season quickly trending downward.
Fans will simply have to accept that no solid low-post presence will arrive in Pullman until 6-foot-11-inch Richard Peters joins the team next fall. To compensate, Bone has showed a variety of zone looks on defense that have been largely ineffective. While Bone’s decision to be a primarily zone team might rub Tony Bennett enthusiasts the wrong way, his decision is a sound one.
For the Cougars to attain any success in Pac-12 play, the backcourt must play smarter on the defensive end of the floor. Zone defenses aren't designed to allow opposing offenses to throw up wide-open three-pointers at will. Through five Pac-12 games, the Cougars have overemphasized packing it in while opponents have fired away. WSU’s guards must play with incredible intensity to compensate for the team’s paperthin frontcourt.
While the zone defense allows the Cougars to overcome match-up problems, it leaves them susceptible to offensive rebounds. In Sunday’s loss to the Huskies, they were out rebounded 46-24, and gave up 21 offensive rebounds.
A quick fix for the rebounding woes there is not. However, Bone would be wise to re-insert Abe Lodwick into the starting lineup. Lodwick is an underrated rebounder who brings a level of toughness this team desperately needs. It also doesn’t hurt that Lodwick is shooting more than 50 percent from beyond the arc.
Many have pointed to the departure of Thompson and Casto to explain the WSU’s tough start in Pac-12 play.
I’m not buying it.
The Pac-12 is historically weak this year. According to kenpom.com, a website that uses advanced statistics to measure and predict the performance of college basketball players and teams, the Pac-12 is currently the 9thbest conference in the country. For perspective, that is just behind the always-daunting Missouri Valley Conference. Many college basketball analysts have called the Pac-12 a two-bid league.
The Cougars could easily come out of the conference slate with a record hovering around .500 if they simply took care of the basketball. Per kenpom.com, WSU turns the ball over on 21 percent of its possessions. That ranks 193rd in the country.
For WSU to become more efficient on offense, junior point guard Reggie Moore must return to the form he exhibited his freshman season. Moore is finally healthy after minor injuries plagued his last two seasons.
Any improvement the Cougars show over the second half of the season will coincide with Moore playing the best basketball of his career.