We've got a couple of items for you this afternoon, covering basketball and a change in the football staff. Plus a link or two, so read on.
• First up is our basketball preview for tomorrow's paper with Oregon coming to town – and Oregon State in Pullman on Saturday. After you read that, read on for some thoughts on the situation with the football assistants. WSU is making a change on the offensive side of the ball. And, just so I don't forget, here's Andy Katz's look at Pac-10 hoops.
• Here is the unedited version of our advance ...
PULLMAN – DeAngelo Casto knows it's what he has to do. That doesn't mean he likes it. The "it" is planting his 6-foot-8, 241-pound body into the paint ever night of the Pac-10 basketball season and absorbing the blows of taller, larger, bigger post players.
"If you really want the truth," Casto said, "I'm not looking forward to it. I realize I'm an undersized big, even across the nation, so every night, day in and day out, it's going to be bang, bang, bang on my body, on my knees, on my shoulders, my head. My mouth takes a couple shots a game.
"But what can you do?"
In Casto's case, what Washington State University expects him to do is hold down the middle of the defense – he's blocked a Pac-10-best 27 shots this season and averages 7.3 rebounds – and score – he's third on the Cougars, averaging 10.8 points a game.
All while giving up 2 or 3 inches and 5 to 10 pounds to most players he guards.
Take tonight, for instance. The Oregon Ducks will fly into Beasley Coliseum on a four-game winning streak powered in part by the inside play of 6-10, 242-pound Michael Dunigan and 6-8, 250-pound Josh Crittle, both, like Casto, sophomores.
And they hope to have 6-6, 237-pound Joevan Catron back after the senior missed the last eight games with a back injury.
"They have some big kids who are big, just literally big," said WSU coach Ken Bone. "They're much bigger than our bigs."
Besides Casto at the post, the Cougars start 6-7, 200-pound Abe Lodwick at the power forward spot. When Lodwick sits, 6-6, 221-pound Nik Koprivica comes off the bench, followed by 6-9, 205-pound Brock Motum.
And Casto's backups are 6-10, 222-pound Charlie Enquist and 6-7, 213-pound James Watson, none of which will be mistaken for Shaq.
Which puts even more pressure on Casto, as the muscle in the middle, to stay in the game.
"He's become a little more experienced," Bone said of Casto's ability to stay out of foul trouble. "It's him maturing as a player and understanding his role and being more intelligent on the floor."
Casto hasn't had a problem with fouls this season, in part because he's picking his spots to attack shooters even better, in part because, coming off offseason knee surgery, his minutes were limited early in the year, and in part because the rest of the Cougars (10-2) have rebounded well enough to keep opponents from getting too many second-chance looks close to the basket.
The Ducks (8-4) do a good job running down offensive rebounds, but their offense plays a role in that.
Despite the size inside, Oregon loves to shoot the 3-point shot, especially in transition. And long shots – UO has 215 3-pointers – lead to long rebounds, which wings like Jamil Wilson (a team-high 22 offensive boards) and Teondre Williams (19) chase down.
"Oregon has some guys who are capable of going off for some big numbers," Bone said. "(Monday) night, (Tajuan Porter) hit 5 out of 7 from the 3-point line. ... (Malcolm) Armstead can put up some numbers also."
The 5-7 Porter, who missed four games with a sprained ankle, is playing off the ball more this season and leads the Ducks in scoring, averaging 11 points a game. He's shooting 37.3 percent from behind the arc and has taken a team-high 51 shots from there.
Armstead, a junior college transfer who has taken over at the point, has hit half his 22 3-pointers and scored a career-high 23 against Idaho State a little more than a week ago.
"(Oregon) is one team I think has been underrated going into the season," Bone said. "They've had their share of injuries, where they haven't been able to show what they're capable of doing. It looks to me like they are pretty healthy now."
WASHINGTON STATE COUGARS
RECORD: 0-0 Pac-10, 10-2 overall
COMING UP: Today vs. Oregon, 3:30 p.m.; Saturday vs. Oregon State, 4 p.m., FSN
OUTLOOK: The Cougars open Pac-10 play with a home weekend for the second consecutive year. In the Ducks, they will be facing a team they've defeated six consecutive times, though that's only over the past two seasons. In fact, WSU will be trying to defeat one school four times in one calendar year for the first time in more than 60 years. The Beavers will enter Saturday's game trying to win in Beasley for the second consecutive season after last Valentine's Day's 54-52 upset of WSU, in which they rallied from a 12-point halftime deficit.
The Cougars defeated Oregon three times last season – both times in conference play and at the conference tournament. It was the second consecutive season they done that to the Ducks.
With today's game still in 2009, it gives WSU a chance to do something it hasn't done since 1948, defeat a school four times in a calendar year.
The Cougars used to pull off the feat quite regularly, when they would play other Northwest schools at least four times a season. WSU defeated Idaho four times in 10 different years, the last in 1948. The Cougars have also done it to Gonzaga, Montana, Oregon, Oregon State, Washington and Whitman.
One thing all three wins over Oregon had in common last season: The Duck horrendous shooting. In six halves, the Ducks shot better than 32 percent in only one, the second down in Eugene when they hit 15 of 30 shots. Otherwise, Oregon hit 23.8 percent of its shots vs. the Cougars.
• OK, here are my thoughts on the football staff. I learned today coach Paul Wulff had decided to make a change on the offensive side of the ball, news the school confirmed this afternoon. Line coach Harold Etheridge will not have his contract renewed when it expires on March 31. Which brings up a question: Who will replace Etheridge? It doesn't look like it will be former Eastern and Montana State coach Mike Kramer or former UW coach Keith Gilbertson, whose names have popped up around the web. I've learned WSU has talked with Steve Morton, who played at WSU in the early 1970s and was Wulff's line coach here when Jim Walden was head coach. Morton, who also coached with Walden at Iowa State, recently became available when Dick Tomey retired at San Jose State. He is, as far as I understand, the first choice. Another person who might be a candidate when the NFL season ends is former Cougar lineman Jim Michalczik, who would be looking for work if head coach Tom Cable is let go by the Oakland Raiders (there's an old bio here). Michalczik played with Wulff at WSU and has coached in the Pac-10 at Cal and Oregon State. He was named UW's offensive coordinator last year, but left to go to the NFL. There's probably very little chance, however, the Cougars could come up with enough money to entice Michalczik back to Pullman. ... As far as I can tell, this will be the only staff change, with nothing planned on the defensive side of the ball.
• That's it for now. We'll be back if news warrants. Until then ...