The WSU men’s basketball (8-8, 18-10) improved their post season tournament chances with a strong win (80-69) over the Huskies in Seattle last weekend. While most consider the NCAA tournament out of the question for the Cougs at this point in the season, the Cougs still have a chance to make the big dance or the NIT based how they play in their final two games of the season. Huh? How’s that possible say the cougar faithful for a team currently in 6th place in the PAC 10?
Well, the best and most obvious way is for the Cougars to make it to the NCAA big dance is to run-the-table at the Pac 10 tournament. The winner gets an automatic invitation to the NCAA Tournament. Notice, I did not say “easy” and I will leave it to your to ponder the odds of that happening. However, the Cougs can also get into post season play by winning one or two of their final games against the LA schools and getting a little help from Cal and the Huskies.
The Cougars open with USC followed by UCLA in a snowy and cold Pullman this week. While WSU will not be playing basketball outside, snow on the ground always boosts the moral of Coug fans & players who think the LA schools can’t handle the cold NW weather. Whether or not that is true is open to debate but bad weather on the Palouse can play havoc with the logistics of the opposing teams getting Pullman. As most Cougs know, snow can and does delay teams, bus rides, and practices which can impact player preparation. Advantage Cougs- with snow in Pullman!
Besides the snow, here’s how the WSU post season tournament chances look. If the Cougs beat USC on Thursday, WSU will have the better overall record at 19-10 vs USC’s 17-13 and would be tied with SC at 9-8 in the conference play. Cal also plays Stanford this week and the outcome of the that game comes in-to-play for the Cougars. Cal is currently 9-8 conference and 16-13 overall. If Cal wins, they will have a better conference record at 10-8 than the Cougs. However, the Cougs would have a better overall record and they have a chance to play again which Cal does not. Of course the best situation for the Cougs would be for USC and Cal to lose which would give WSU a better overall record for both conference and non-conference play. This would put WSU back in the post season hunt coming into the UCLA game on Saturday. Should the Cougs go on to beat UCLA, it would give them three quality wins and momenium at the end of the season which are big tournament factors. It would also leave WSU sitting with a pretty 11-8, and 21-10 record going into the PAC 10 tournament.
Now while you are drinking the Koug Aid, we need a little bit of help from our dog friends in Seattle. If the Huskies can beat USC, assuming WSU does as well, this really drops USC out of the picture baring success at the PAC 10 tournament. Cal also drops out of the picture since they only have one game left to play and the Cougs have a chance to win both. Should that occur, WSU would have both the better conference and non-conference record and higher number of quality wins. Additionally, Cal was also just hit with NCAA penalties/sanctions although this will not prohibit them from post season play.
Now while Coug fans would like UW to beat USC, they also need UCLA to beat the dogs on Thursday. UW would then end the season with a 11-7 conference record & 20-19 overall, giving the Cougs a better overall record and a tie in conference wins. In that situation, WSU would likely edge the Huskies based on the recent season “sweep” in Seattle.
The final factor for the Cougs post season hopes will be their success and others in the PAC 10 Tournament. There are a ton of scenarios to work out but the bottom line on WSU’s post tournament hopes is that they need to take care of business by winning at home this week. If WSU beats either USC or UCLA in regular season play, AND wins one or two games at the PAC 1o tournament, they would likely get an invite to the NIT. Should the Cougs beat both USC and UCLA in Pullman, they once again become a NCAA bubble team with a strong chance at the dance. Win one maybe two games at the PAC 10 tourney, Crimson and Gray will be dancing at the NCAA’s.