COUGARS • UPDATED: 4:35 P.M.
Arizona State's 68-58 win over Arizona in today's first Pac-10 tourney game doesn't bode well for WSU and its NIT chances. There seems little possibility the Wildcats will continue their 24-year NCAA run, unless the selection committee really values their early season wins over Kansas and Gonzaga. The last few weeks have been a killer for UA. For more thoughts on the NIT and WSU, read on.
UPDATE: The Huskies moved on to the semifinals against ASU by pulling away from Stanford in the second half and winning 85-73. Jon Brockman led the way with 20.
• Is it out of the question WSU could still win this tourney? No, especially if it can get by UCLA tonight. And I had a veteran college coach tell me today he thinks that will happen, saying the Cougars are playing at the top of their game and together better than any time this season. He's right of course. The past four weeks this WSU team has seemingly played about as well as it can. It's been good enough to win four of five. Can it be enough for seven of eight? Yes, if each player, especially the complimentary players like DeAngelo Casto, Caleb Forrest, Nik Koprivica and Marcus Capers, continues to perform at the highest level they've shown over the past four weeks. But say that doesn't happen and WSU loses tonight or tomorrow or Saturday. Each time they win, the Cougars help their cause. But the final decision, without a win or two more, might be out of their hands.
• Each time a team like Arizona drops a game, and out of the tournament, the number of spots in the NIT shrinks. And whenever a smaller conference champion loses, as has had happened four times already – Davidson, Weber State, UT-Martin and Jacksonville – the number gets even smaller. That's why Cougar fans need to root for USC to win this tournament if their team can't. We know UW, UCLA, ASU and Cal are going dancing no matter what. A fifth team out of the conference would ease the pressure on WSU, making the Cougs the Pac-10's second NIT team instead of its third, with UA being No. 1 in that category now. One thing that's helped today is Baylor's upset of Kansas. That has to be a boost for the Cougars RPI.
Those are my thoughts about the postseason right now. If I had to guess, I would say the Cougars will end up in the NIT with a low seed, meaning the road to New York will probably be entirely on the road. But, if they can continue to play at their recent level, these Cougars can win against any NIT opponent.
• That's it for now. We'll be back before the game with our thoughts on what WSU needs to do to upset the Bruins again. Until then …