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Some pregame thoughts from Staples

COUGARS

We've been watching hours and hours of basketball here at the Staples Center and it's cemented some thoughts we've had for a while. So we figured we might as well share those thoughts before tip, which is in less than two hours or so. Read on.

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• I know there is all this information the NCAA tournament selection committee plugs into their heads before making choices on the final 68 teams. SOS, RPI, last 10, neutral court, all this crud. But I keep coming back to one thing. If Washington State finds a way to win tonight, the Cougars should leapfrog Washington on the at-large list. I just can't see, with how close everything else is, how the committee could pick UW over Washington State if the Cougars were 3-0 against the Huskies. Yes, UW has a higher RPI now, but that gap should close if WSU wins. Schedule, last 10, all that stuff would pale in comparison to 3-0. It has to. But it probably won't. ... That is all contingent, however, on Washington State winning tonight. How do the Cougars make that happen? There are three things I think have to happen above and beyond the typical WSU has to play hard. That should be a given. ... Let's start on the defensive end. The Cougars have frustrated UW this year with an ever-changing mix of man and zone. In Seattle, actually, they pretty much played zone after made baskets and man the rest of the time. That worked pretty well, but I expect some tweaks to that formula as this game wears on. The idea, in both games, was to make the Huskies pause before they were able to attack in the half-court, and to not let them get in a groove offensively. To continue that, constant adjustments are needed. If the Cougars play defense with a similar efficiency and intensity tonight, then the pressure is lessened on the offense. ... And there will be pressure. With Justin Holiday cleared to play tonight, the Huskies have a defender available that causes Klay Thompson some worry. Holiday is willing to do the dirty work that forces Thompson to extend more energy than usual to get his points. Now, Thompson has been able to score against UW, hitting half his 18 shots in the first game and finishing with 25 points, then nailing just 5 of 13 in Seattle, but getting to the line and hitting 13 of 14 attempts (remember, WSU was 32 of 36 in that game). But it was never easy. ... Then there are the off-the-court factors. How Venoy Overton's absence affects UW. Whether Reggie Moore is able to cut, penetrate and finish as well as he wants with his sprained right ankle. If Thompson's suspension last game will make him hungry to prove something tonight, or will make him too hungry to feast on open looks. (OK, I know that imagery was forced, sorry.) The bottom line Thompson occasionally puts too much weight on his shoulders, making it tough to perform efficiently. ... I've given up trying to predict what this team will do and I'm not changing tonight. But I will say this. Win tonight, and I believe Washington State will end up earning a, no, I can't write it. I can't write NCAA berth. But I do believe if they win tonight the Cougars are not that far from playing in the NCAAs. And I'm not talking about two more wins, which would be the automatic berth. Any NCAA talk seems remarkable considering where they were just 18 days ago, when they lost to Arizona State. Maybe that loss will ultimately prove too much to overcome, but it would be interesting to see. ... Finally, a link for you from Jerry Brewer at the Times.

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• That's it for now. We have some news about our twitter feed. Our first edition of the newspaper is the one delivered to Pullman, so we're going to do our damndest to have a story in that edition. That means I have to write throughout the second half, due to a 10:15 deadline. Those circumstances will limit my ability to tweet. Until later ...




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Vince Grippi





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