The games don’t start for a couple of weeks yet, but the Washington State Cougars know what the West Coast media thinks of them.
Not all that much.
The Cougars, in their first year under coach Ken Bone, were picked Thursday to finish eighth in the Pac-10 Conference men’s basketball race by the media that covers the conference.
But Bone understands.
“We have young guys and that sometimes can be a negative,” Bone said at the conference’s media day in Los Angeles. “But I’m trying to look at the positive side of it, which is we will work with these guys just like the Bennetts did with Robbie Cowgill, Kyle Weaver, Derrick Low, (Daven) Harmeling.”
Bone inherits a roster with just one upperclassman, senior wing Nik Koprivica, and lost two prolific seniors, Aron Baynes and Taylor Rochestie. He was asked who would replace their 25.9 points per game.
The quick answer outside, Bone said, was Klay Thompson, who averaged 12.5 points a game as an All-Pac-10 freshman.
“We’ll definitely try to get him good looks, maybe every possession,” Bone joked.
He also brought up freshman Reggie Moore, a late recruit whom Bone called “a huge get for our program.”
Inside, Bone mentioned another All-Pac-10 freshman, DeAngelo Casto, though he said Casto “is really not a scorer.”
He compared Casto, who averaged 4.4 points and 4.0 rebounds per game, to a former Washington star, calling him “a poor man’s Jon Brockman.”
WSU’s success the past three years – two appearances in the NCAA and one in the NIT – was fueled by “Bennett Ball,” a defensive-minded, deliberate style of play. The Bone style is different.
“Defensively, Washington State did an outstanding job under the Bennetts, so I’m not sure why I’m changing it,” Bone said. “Except that we are going to change it, extend our defense a little bit, try to play a little bit more aggressive.”
Bone said WSU will play quicker on offense, but admits this group doesn’t have the depth or the skill set to play his style at full speed.
“It would be nice to play faster than we are even going to play this year,” he said. “But I guess I really don’t care to take it there without what I perceive to be the depth or lack of that we have right now.
“By playing faster, it fits my style and the way I want to coach. I think we can recruit that way, but until we are able to recruit the players that fit that style, we’ll probably be somewhere in between.”
California, which returns five seniors, including guards Patrick Christopher and Jerome Randle, was picked to win the conference, earning 25 first-place votes. Defending champion Washington was picked to win the conference by seven voters and finished second. UCLA, which lost the core of its team, earned five first-place votes and was picked third.
From there, the media picked Arizona, under new coach Sean Miller, Oregon State, Oregon, Arizona State, WSU, USC, also with a first-year coach, veteran Kevin O’Neill, and Stanford.
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