I don’t know if this will be as shocking as Darwin’s theory of evolution, but the next two WSU games are going to be a survival of the fittest. And, in the basketball sense, I’m not sure the Cougars can survive. Read on.
• It’s obvious how hard it will be for WSU to win in Seattle next Saturday. The Huskies exposed a lot of the Cougars weaknesses in that Pac-10 opener and, though WSU has improved greatly, some of the weaknesses still remain. But what I don’t think is so obvious is hard it will be for WSU to win today. Let’s take the emotion of Senior Day out of the equation, even if it will have an effect. It’s just too hard to figure whether said emotions will help or hinder the Cougar cause. Let’s just keep this to basketball.
The win in Tempe was not only exciting if you are a Cougar fan, it was also a true upset in every sense of the word. At that time the Cougars weren’t playing all that well and ASU was. The ASU offense was clicking and WSU’s wasn’t. And still the Cougars won. Why? The upset was not the result of an Cougar team that had found its way. No, it was built on the back of an offensive explosion by Klay Thompson and a defensive stand by fellow freshman DeAngelo Casto. Thompson scored a career-high 28 points and threatened to keep making 3-pointers until the bus pulled up. Casto came in midway through the second half and limited James Harden’s looks the rest of the way – and in the process WSU taught the rest of the conference the best way to guard Harden: with a bigger, stronger guy.
Can both of those things happen again? And if they don’t, are the Cougars capable of pulling another upset? Let’s just say neither can be called probable and leave it at that. Thompson can go off again, thanks to ASU’s religious devotion to a matchup zone that has some holes (though something keeps nagging at me saying Herb Sendek is going to break character today and through something different at WSU, but it’s a feeling, not based on anything). But stopping Harden will be tougher this time, what with ASU having faced defenses that have thrown 6-foot-8, 6-9 guys at him consistently. Which puts an onus on the Cougars to outscore ASU, just as they did UCLA and UA. Can it happen, yes. Will it? I’m not so sure. Just like I’m not sure, just like I’m not sure Darwin’s theory still flies.
• That’s it for now. We’ll be back with our halftime post. Until then …