The calendar is about to turn a new leaf. Washington State's basketball schedule is about to do the same thing. The Cougars will play their final nonconference game this morning in Baton Rouge, facing an LSU team that's lost just once this season. Read on for links and thoughts.
• The matchup with the Cougars is being treated as a big deal down on the bayou, with The Advocate featuring this advance and the Shreveport Times posting this story. The term "root canal" came up in both. It didn't make its way into my advance, mostly because I watch the Cougars almost every day, and I've more than my share of root canals, so I know there's a huge difference. Root canals take longer.
• So what's going to happen today? My guess is the Cougars chances are going to hinge on offensive execution, as has been the case in most of their big games this season. They need to be patient, find the best shots they can in each possession and then, most importantly, make them. The outside shooting has to come through today for WSU to have, pardon the pun, a shot to win. That means Taylor Rochestie, Daven Harmeling, Klay Thompson and Nik Koprivica have to make 4 out of each 10 3-pointers. Can they? Sure, they've done it at times. Will they? Well, they are on the road and they will have athletic, motivated defenders flying at them. That doesn't bode well.
Still, I think back to the Mississippi State game, the game this year I believe most resembles this one and I think WSU can do it. One thing the Cougars have done well in nonconference games over the past three years, especially against teams they don't play every season, is confound their opponent on the defensive end and take advantage of the opponent's strength on the offensive end. What I mean by the latter part of that statement is the Cougars like to attack a defense's strength, then counter off it. A good example was the Mississippi State game when WSU took the ball right at shot-blocker Jarvis Varnado, then looked to feed Aron Baynes for easy baskets. This attack forced MSU to change its defense, got Varnado in foul trouble and won the game. So expect the Cougars to try to take advantage of LSU's athleticism with ball fakes, by inviting double teams and attacking from them, through moving the ball quickly to get the Tigers out of position, then attacking the basket.
If it executes, WSU can leave Louisiana with a big-for-its-NCAA-hopes win. If the Cougars don't, then they'll enter Pac-10 play with an 8-4 record. We'll see what happens at 11 a.m.
• That's it for now. We'll have a halftime post for you. Till then …