Washington State’s men’s basketball program will play its most significant nonconference game in years on Dec. 18, when the Cougars square off against NCAA heavyweight Baylor in Dallas as part of the Pac-12’s second-annual Coast-to-Coast Challenge.
The Pac-12 announced participants and a schedule for the Coast-to-Coast Challenge on Monday, making official a WSU/Baylor matchup that had first been reported early last month.
Tip off is tentatively scheduled for 7 p.m. at American Airlines Center and the contest will air on either ESPN or ESPN2, according to a release from the Pac-12.
For the Cougars, scheduling an elite opponent in nonconference play signals another considerable step forward for a rising program hungry to break into the national conversation. WSU put together its best season in a decade in 2021-22, piling up 22 wins and advancing to the semifinal round of the NIT. By the end of the year, the Cougars had climbed to No. 44 on statistician Ken Pomeroy’s highly regarded national rankings.
Baylor finished its season ranked fourth on that list. The Bears, widely projected to earn a top-10 placement on the AP Top 25 ahead of this season, have qualified for nine of the past 13 NCAA tournaments. They powered past Gonzaga for the national title in 2021 and advanced to the second round of the tourney last season. WSU’s most recent nonconference game against a top-10 opponent – an 88-60 loss to No. 3 Oklahoma in 2015.
“Playing Baylor this season gives us an incredible opportunity to see where our program rates against one of the best programs in the country,” fourth-year WSU coach Kyle Smith said, quoted in a WSU news release. “Baylor has championship DNA and NBA talent all over their roster. It’s a testament to the growth of our program that we are even considered for the event.”
WSU is 3-1 all-time against Baylor. The Cougs scored a 77-71 victory at the 2010 Diamond Head Classic in Honolulu in the teams’ most recent meeting.
The Coast-to-Coast Challenge will stage four games – two men’s and two women’s – throughout the day at the home of the Dallas Mavericks. The men’s teams from Stanford and Texas face at 10 a.m., followed by a women’s game between Southern Cal and Texas at 12:30 p.m. The women from Arizona and Baylor are set to take the floor at 4:30 p.m. and the WSU/Baylor game will be the event’s finale.
WSU will travel to Honolulu a week later to compete in another tournament – the Diamond Head Classic, an eight-team event which begins Dec. 22 and concludes Dec. 25 after a rest day on Christmas Eve. The Cougars open the tourney against the George Washington Colonels at 6 p.m. on Dec. 22.
Each of the no-elimination tournament’s three days will include four games, so the Cougars are guaranteed to play on Christmas Day.
The six other participants are Hawaii, Iona, Pepperdine, SMU, Utah State and Seattle U.
Local journalism is essential.
Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.
Subscribe to the sports newsletter
Get the day’s top sports headlines and breaking news delivered to your inbox by subscribing here.