FROM PULLMAN -- Ken Bone met with the media today to discuss Washington State's Pac-12 opener against the Washington Huskies on Saturday. We have a recap of his comments below. Read on.
--- First, on the health front, Bone said Dexter Kernich-Drew (shoulder) and Bryce Leavitt (wrist) sat out of practice on Wednesday, but each is expected to play on Saturday. Bone expects both players to practice tomorrow. Both players exited WSU's win over Idaho State after going down hard while being fouled.
--- Bone said he thinks there are several Pac-12 teams that have improved not just from last season, but from the start of this season, as well. He said the conference will always look better when the traditional powers -- in this case, Arizona and UCLA -- are playing well. That's been the case all season with unbeaten Arizona, and more recently with UCLA, too.
--- He hasn't looked extensively at UW yet, Bone said, but he seemed impressed by their effort in a 61-53 loss at Connecticut the other night (despite the Huskies shooting just 29.7 percent in that game). "I thought they executed well on both ends of the court. They just got beat by a good team 3,000 miles away," Bone said.
--- Bone said he thinks it's realistic to expect three or four Pac-12 teams to earn NCAA tournament bids.
Here's a transcript of some of Bone's comments:
(On general Pac-12 impressions so far) "I think a couple of the programs have really gotten better and when I say that I don’t only mean form last year to this year but just here the last three, four, five weeks. The obvious is Arizona and UCLA, they’re playing very well. There’s a few others that have had their moments. Oregon, Arizona State, Stanford’s played some good ball. Washington went back to Connecicut and got beat, but now they have all their pieces there. They’re healthy. And they did some really good things. I thought they executed well on both ends of the court. They just got beat by a good team 3,000 miles away, so I was impressed with the way they played too."
(On the perception that Arizona is the runaway favorite to win the league) "(Colorado coach) Tad Boyle was sitting in a room last January and maybe people asked him the same question or any of the rest of us. It’s rarely the team that’s actually picked to win the conference. Not only in our conference, but a lot of them. It’s just hard to tell how things are going to go throughout the next two and a half months. The light is at the end of the tunnel. We’ve got some guys that are playing pretty good basketball right now. I think we can get better as a team and if you peak at the right time, you have that opportunity."
(On WSU's defensive progress) "It’s hard to tell. We’ve had a good start statistically. Utah’s had a good start statistically. But a lot of that is determined on who we’ve played. And I think really I’ll be able to answer that question a lot better in a couple weeks. I think we’ve done some good things and I like our guys’ attention to detail on the defensive end. But we have room to improve, no doubt about it."
(Have they bought into the defensive process?) "I think our guys understand what the strategy is for us to be successful and whether it’s for the season, whether it’s for the game or just a possession, we need to be able to work hard and sustain throughout a possession. You want to talk about the details, that’s what I’m saying."
(On Washington's high-post offense) "Coach (Lorenzo) Romar really, really likes that offense and there’s a reason why. Coach (John) Wooden had pretty good success with it. Jim Harrick had good success with it. Lorenzo’s buddy at North Carolina State, Mark Gottfried, he’s having success with it and Lorenzo’s going to have success with it. It takes time to develop that offense but they’ve done a good job of sprinkling in their motion or passing game, also. So they’ve done a good job of running the high post but at the same time running their passing game."
(On C.J. Wilcox struggling against UConn) "They did a good job on C.J. There’s not many times where C.J. Wilcox goes more than one game without shooting it well. So we are well aware of who he is and we need to know where he’s at at all times and try to get a hand up on him. He’s similar to Terrence Ross or Klay Thompson. He’s a prolific shooter and he’s got a quick release and it’s a chore to stop him."
(On Brock Motum as the center of attention) "He’s done a great job of taking on that role and what’s important is for somebody in that role who’s scoring a lot of points is to be humble about it, especially around his teammates. I think our guys have embraced Brock and they want to see him succeed. He’s a senior, he’s a great kid and I think that goes along with guys trying to set him up, whether it’s setting a good screen for him, getting him the ball, getting him space, just buying into the fact that he’s our best scorer."
(On his impressions of Washington) "I’ve seen a team that’s starting to realize their identity. I thought the Connecticut game showed that. They got out and denied the passing lanes more, they pressured the ball a little bit more. They defeinitely executed their high post offense and I think it just helps when you’ve got healthy bodies. They now have Andrew Andrews back in the lineup and he’s a good player, and (Shawn) Kemp, he’s back in there. They’re a good eight, nine deep and I think it’s the first time all year maybe he’s had all the guys back there. So they’re healthy at the right time."
(More on the high-post offense) "They have a lot of counters for their shooters. It’s not just get the ball to the high post, duck in on the weak side. They’re good in that area but they’re also utilizing their shooters extremely well and they’re finding opportunities to penetrate. It’s a high post offense but it’s a little more stagnant than their motion game but they’re not just slowing it down, either. They’re executing well."