Cougars basketball ready to pile up frequent-flyer miles

STANFORD, Calif. – Turns out all that Pac-12 television money is good for class attendance. But maybe not as good for player sleep schedules.

When Washington State finishes its 7 p.m. game at Stanford today, the Cougars will head directly to the airport and board a charter plane back to Pullman, where players will attend classes on Thursday and Friday before boarding another charter flight back to the Bay Area on Friday night for Saturday’s game at California.

That’s a lot of flying just for two basketball games. But it’s part of life in the new, TV-driven Pac-12, which scheduled WSU for six Wednesday-Saturday “weekends” this season – conference games are traditionally played on Thursday and Saturday – three of which are on the road.

With an extra day between games and an influx of cash from the conference’s new television contracts, WSU can afford to charter planes for those trips, allowing its players to attend classes on Thursdays and Fridays.

“This time of year it’s hard enough playing basketball and going to class and doing your studies, even if every game is at home,” said WSU coach Ken Bone, who added that if not for the ability to charter, the team would just spend Thursday and Friday on the road. “But let alone on the road, and then dealing with being here in Pullman and the travel challenges that we sometimes have.”

Bone said he’s interested to see how his players respond to this much travel in one week. So are his players.

“I think it’s going to be difficult, especially school- wise,” sophomore guard DaVonte Lacy said. “It’s obviously better for us, money-wise, with the Pac-12 and all, but I don’t know if every student-athlete would agree with it.”

Today’s game is a matchup of two teams coming off disappointing Pac-12 starts. WSU overcame a 17-point deficit to lead by four points late before falling 68-63 to Washington on Saturday.

Stanford was swept in its conference-opening trip to USC and UCLA. The Cardinal are led in scoring (14.4) and rebounding (7.5) by forward Dwight Powell but have struggled to build off last year’s NIT championship, partially because of a season- ending hip injury suffered by junior guard Anthony Brown.

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