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Sports >  WSU basketball

Washington State men’s basketball looks to test itself during nonconference schedule

Sept. 7, 2022 Updated Wed., Sept. 7, 2022 at 7:53 p.m.

Washington State forward Mouhamed Gueye (35) shoots over South Dakota State guard Alex Arians (34) during a NCAA college basketball game, Saturday, Dec. 11, 2021, in the Spokane Arena.  (COLIN MULVANY/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)
Washington State forward Mouhamed Gueye (35) shoots over South Dakota State guard Alex Arians (34) during a NCAA college basketball game, Saturday, Dec. 11, 2021, in the Spokane Arena. (COLIN MULVANY/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)
By Jason Shoot The Spokesman-Review

Washington State men’s basketball coach Kyle Smith believes his program is ready for the next step in its development.

“After our postseason run last year, we feel it is important for us to take on some challenges in our nonconference schedule,” Smith said Wednesday in a school news release announcing the Cougars’ slate of games before Pac-12 Conference play tips off in January .

The Cougars capped their 2021-22 season with a trip to the NIT, in which WSU thumped Santa Clara, SMU and BYU before losing to Texas A&M in the semifinals.

It’s no coincidence this year’s nonconference schedule has the look and feel of last year’s postseason.

WSU will square off with 2021 national champ Baylor in the Pac-12 Coast-to-Coast Challenge in a nationally televised game on Dec. 18 at American Airlines Arena in Dallas. The Bears, coached by Scott Drew, reached the second round of the NCAA Tournament last season.

That contest, which will air on ESPN or ESPN2, marks one of seven for WSU scheduled at a neutral site. The Cougars will also play three road games.

“This will hopefully help us prepare for Pac-12 play and enhance our chances of being selected as an NCAA Tournament at-large team if we are not the (conference’s) automatic qualifier,” said Smith, whose Cougars are 52-44 in his three seasons in Pullman. “In addition, we can help the Pac-12 get back to being a five, six NCAA bid league.”

Perhaps standing out as much as the teams included in the schedule is one team that isn’t. As previously reported in July, Idaho will not play WSU this year, ending a string of 116 consecutive years the programs played at least one game. WSU compiled a 167-110 record against the Vandals since 1906.

The Cougars will host three home games, including their season opener Nov. 7 against Texas State. Former WSU standout Bennie Seltzer, a first-team All-Pac-12 selection in 1993, is in his third season serving as an assistant coach with the Bobcats, who capped last season with a trip to the NIT.

WSU will head to Boise to play Boise State – a No. 8 seed and automatic qualifier for the NCAA Tournament last season – on Nov. 12 in a neutral-site game at Idaho Central Arena. The Broncos defeated WSU 58-52 last year.

The Cougars travel to Smith’s hometown of Houston to play Prairie View A&M in their road opener on Nov. 15.

WSU will play Eastern Washington, which beat the Cougars 76-71 last season, at Spokane Arena on Nov. 21. The Cougars return to the Palouse to face Detroit Mercy and Northern Kentucky on Nov. 25 and Dec. 7, respectively, at Beasley Coliseum. EWU and Detroit Mercy both competed in The Basketball Classic postseason tournament last year.

A trip to play UNLV in the Las Vegas Clash at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on Dec. 10 will serve as the final tuneup before the showdown with Baylor. The game, which will air nationally on FS1 at 1:30 p.m., is the first half of a neutral-site doubleheader also featuring Arizona and Indiana.

“Playing road games at Boise State and UNLV are obvious Quad 1 opportunities,” Smith said, adding, “A nationally televised game versus Baylor in Dallas will show us exactly where we rate on a national level.”WSU will round out its nonconference schedule with a trip to Honolulu to play George Washington in the first round of the Diamond Head Classic on Dec. 22 at 6 p.m. The Cougars will play either Pepperdine or tournament host Hawaii on Dec. 23 and then one more game on the event’s final day on Dec. 25. Each game in the tournament will be televised on ESPN2 or ESPNU.

“This nonconference schedule gives us a chance to sell our brand, while pushing us to the highest levels competitively,” Smith said. “With our strong finish last year and our growth as a program, we have made a commitment to playing in nonconference events that will get us ready for the Pac-12s and NCAA.”

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