The weekend will decide the Pac-10 Tournament seedings – only Cal, the No. 1 seed, is locked in – with six teams trying to stay out of the Wednesday night game. We have a story for tomorrow’s S-R about WSU and that game and will spend most of tomorrow night, after the Oregon State game, trying to figure it out even further. Two things we know: WSU wins two this weekend and is free of the play-in game; it loses two and is assured a spot. Read on for more.
• Here’s the unedited version of our story …
PULLMAN – There are only two regular season games remaining for the Washington State University men’s basketball team, but the ramifications of those two will reverberate next week as well.
Just don’t try to figure out what will happen.
There are too many permutations.
WSU assistant sports information director Jessica Schmick and her assistant Mike Walsh spent three hours Monday running the seeding scenarios for next week’s Pac-10 postseason tournament. The resulting combinations filled two pages.
But there are ways to winnow it down, especially considering what Washington State coach Ken Bone really wants is to avoid the 8/9 seed game at the Staples Center next Wednesday night.
Win both games this week and the Cougars won’t play Wednesday. Lose both and they will. Split and it really depends on the rest of the games.
“Everybody wants to stay away from that 8/9 game if you can help it,” Bone said this week. “Because the whole goal is to go to the tournament to win the tournament. It’s hard to win games at the tournament, but it’s easier to win three than it is four.”
And it’s easier to win with the higher seed. WSU can finish anywhere from the fifth seed to the ninth, depending on the outcomes this weekend.
Only two teams are playing the first night this year – four usually meet, with the winners playing the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds – because USC pulled the plug on its postseason, using self-imposed bans to try to mitigate possible NCAA sanctions related to transgressions during the O.J. Mayo recruitment
But trying to avoid one extra game in Los Angeles isn’t Bone’s ultimate goal.
“What I want to stay away from, is making it feel like there is such a sense of urgency, we’ve got to win these games,” Bone said, putting emphasis on “got.”
“More importantly than that is to play well and stay healthy,” he added.
One player who is playing an oversized role in both those areas recently is center DeAngelo Casto.
Casto, WSU’s biggest inside force at 6-foot-8 and 231 pounds, started the season still dealing with an offseason knee injury that necessitated surgery. But the knee has been fine recently and his game has improved as well.
In the first half of the Pac-10 season, Casto averaged 8.2 points. In the first seven games of the second half, he’s averaged 13.2. Yet, despite those efforts, WSU is just 2-5 since the break and have lost 7 of its last 9 games.
“I feel better playing the game, more comfortable playing the game,” Casto said of his new-found success. “Maybe you could say I’m getting used to the system, you could say I’m finding my way within the system. Whatever it is, it’s working.”
“He wasn’t catching everything a couple a months ago,” Bone explained. “(Assistant coach) Ben Johnson has really kind of taken it on himself in working with, not just DeAngelo but all the big guys most every day.
“With that, and DeAngelo just concentrating a little more, he’s a good player. … If he catches the ball, he’s even better.”
One thing Casto has caught is an aversion to playing that 8/9 game.
“You don’t want to play that first night, then fatigue is a factor,” he said. “With a young team you don’t want that to be a factor. It’s already been a long road, guys are already tired.”
Where the road will end is still not clear, even this close to the finish.
“An extra game here or there is not what you want,” Casto said. “We’ve got to get a ‘W’ so we don’t have to worry about playing that first night.”
• Here’s our usual upcoming box …
WASHINGTON STATE COUGARS
RECORD: 6-10 Pac-10, 16-12 overall
COMING UP: Tonight at Oregon State, 7; Saturday at Oregon, 5 p.m.
OUTLOOK: It seems like it’s been a year since the Cougars faced the Oregon schools and, in the case of the Ducks, it sort of has. The controversial 91-89 Oregon (6-10, 14-14) overtime win occurred on New Year’s Eve. That night, the Ducks’ Tajuan Porter was blistering the net, just like he is now after a mid-Pac-10 season slump. Porter had 31 points in Pullman, hitting 6 of 14 3-pointers. He topped that last weekend by draining 7 of 9 long-range shots against UCLA. The Beavers (7-9, 13-15) have won three of their last five, including an 80-64 defeat of conference champion Cal.
• And here’s a note we put together on Mac Court …
The Cougars will be the last Pac-10 visitor to play in Oregon’s McArthur Court on Saturday, as the Ducks will move into their $200 million Matthew Knight Arena prior to next year’s conference opener.
Mac Court, as it’s known, has been the Ducks’ home since 1927 and was paid for by the university’s students. But the second-oldest still-in-use American on-campus arena has a listed capacity of 9,087 and is considered outdated in every sense except character.
“It’s just a great basketball venue,” said WSU coach Ken Bone, who has coached in The Pit before. “You walk in there and you feel like you’re in the ‘40s or ‘50s, which is cool because you just don’t have that feeling anymore.
“There are a few different arenas around the country, but not many left like Mac Court. It’s a special place.”
With the Mac Court crowd saying goodbye to fan favorite – and senior – Tajuan Porter, Bone expects the place to be rocking – as it usually is.
“I’m not sure how their fans are taking their season right now,” Bone said. “I’m sure it will be a good crowd. It will be Senior Night, last (Pac-10) game at Mac Court, I’d be surprised if there was not a great crowd there.”
As part of the goodbye ceremonies this season, Oregon honors a former Duck player and a former opponent star prior to each game. Saturday, James Donaldson will be the Cougar honoree and Kenya Wilkins will represent UO.
• That’s all for tonight. We’ll be back in the morning with our links before we head for Corvallis and the game. Until then …