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Postseason possibilities

Cougars take stock of odds for playing at tournaments

PULLMAN – It seems like a question every WSU fan is asking. What are the Cougars’ postseason chances?

With a 15-10 overall record, 5-8 and losers of five of their last six Pac-10 Conference games, the Cougars’ postseason window looks to be sliding closed.

That makes this weekend’s games with the Los Angeles schools all that more important.

“I think it’s crucial, but I would not say it’s a make-or-break (week) because we still have the Pac-10 tournament,” WSU coach Ken Bone said.

Bone’s eyes, and those of his players, are squarely on the Holy Grail, the NCAA tournament. But there are three other postseason tournaments, and making one could be critical for the program’s future.

“I want to play in the NCAA tournament, there’s nothing like (it),” WSU’s DeAngelo Casto said. “At the same time, as a young team, we need to get to postseason play. It would be a good experience, if we make it, whether it’s NIT or whatever.”

The NCAA and NIT are based almost exclusively on merit, but any other option has a price tag hooked to it. With WSU between athletic directors – Jim Sterk’s replacement could be named soon but might not be in place by tournament selection time – and finances tight, the decision to spend the dollars needed might be a tough one.

“We have to do what we have to do to support our programs,” WSU interim athletic director Anne McCoy said Wednesday. “When the time comes, we would sit down with Ken and best determine from him and have him advise us to what is best for the program.”

So if money isn’t a question, let’s get back to the original question. What are the Cougars’ postseason chances? Let’s examine each of the tournaments.

The NCAA: The Cougars have one chance and one chance only. They must win the Pac-10 tournament and earn the automatic berth that goes with it.

The National Invitation: If you think a repeat of last year’s 17-15 record will get the Cougars back in the NIT, think again. Last year the Pac-10 was good enough to get six teams into the NCAA tournament. This year it may only get its automatic qualifier in.

This year, there is only one Pac-10 school in the top 50 of the RPI: California. WSU lost both games with the Golden Bears.

The College Basketball Invitational: This is the Cougars’ best shot. The CBI, in its third year, picks 16 teams. Last year, Oregon State moved through the bracket, winning the title over UTEP.

Money talks here. The CBI earns $60,000 for every home game, no matter how many tickets the host sells. With a $15,000 price tag to put on a game, it gets pricey. The Cougars would not be able to play in Beasley Coliseum the first week.

“The first round is unfortunately during the spring break, leading up to the NCAA tournament-hosting in Spokane,” McCoy said. “So, honestly, I don’t think first round would be a possibility here.” This is the newest of the four. Old Dominion won the inaugural tournament last season, a 16-team event that included the University of Idaho.

But this tournament caters to midmajor schools. So even if WSU was willing, it doesn’t look like this is an opportunity.