Greetings Cougar Nation...
Welcome to what COULD be the biggest game in the history of the program. Win today and our Cougars will take--GET THIS--the inside track to a #1 seed in the NCAA tournament. Moreover, win today, and at minimum, OUR WASHINGTON STATE COUGARS will receive first place votes in both the coaches and AP polls. Yep, some will think that we deserve to be #1 in the country.
But before we get to the briefest of brief looks at today's contest, a quick revisit of Thursday's win at Troy.
In a word: WOW.
Yours truly, in a post earlier in the week, provided nearly two points:
1) Harmeling is a major X factor for this team.
2) Our offensive set WAS a mess.
Well, Harmeling showed how he really is a main cog in any hope we have of being Elite.
And, our offensive set was BRILLIANT on Thursday.
From these eyes, the main change was that we basically reversed everything that we had done in the previous 13 contests. Where we started with 3 guys on the strong side with Baynes in the low post, on Thursday, we had 2 guys on the strong side (in a quasi isolation set) with 3 on the weak side. Baynes, who spent most of his time on the weakside low-post, was a beast both flashing for the ball across the paint and setting MASSIVE screens to the shooter on the weakside.
It is/was a wonderful set.
And we played and won like a sure fire top 10--if not top 5 team.
Now, onto today.
Robbie Cowgill summed everything up pretty well in the fishwrap today when he said, "they (UCLA) do everything that we do, but with better atheletes."
And that pretty much sums it up.
As guys like NUSS will attest, basketball is a game of match-ups, and unfortunately for us, we don't match up well with UCLA.
One of the big reasons for our problems is Collison--the only point guard that I have seen that is quick enough to split our defense right down the middle. And, those who know our defensive scheme well know that ONE of the reasons why we are so dominant defensively is that we NEVER concede the middle of floor.
But Collison tends to break that central thrust of our defense.
However, Collison is saddled with a hip bruise and how that will affect him is unclear.
This much I know: IF Collison plays and plays to his potential, we lose. IF Collison does not play well, we will have our shot.
My sense is that we will stay close because we are just far too pesky for anyone to blow us out.
The key for us will be outside shooting and Collison's effectiveness. We're going to have to fill it early and Baynes MUST stay out of foul trouble.
While I would not be surprised if we won, I just don't see it in the cards.
UCLA 71 WSU 58
We fall to #11.
Enjoy our last game in the top 5, but this season still stacks up to be special. UCLA is the only team of its type in the country, and I wholly believe we match up wonderfully with just about anyone else.