Hello Cougar Nation.
First and foremost, to all of you who come here to read exclusively about WSU Football, please know that we have some football wrap-up stuff planned over the coming days.
So, if your wondering, the Brinkhater basketball ambush (cough! cough!) has not started. At least not yet..
But, in response to a comment by our friend, Michele, I thought I'd give you all a quick take on our boys since tonight's thrashing of Idaho State was the first time I got to see our boys play.
So, here goes:
1) Baynes looks like a different guy all around than last year and I liked him last year. A couple of weeks back, I wrote about the importance of him responding quicker to the double team. Tonight, I saw him kick the ball out to the top and to the wing without hesitation. I also saw him take the ball to the rack--without dropping his feet to the baseline--when the double team was slow. Granted, ISU ain't a Pac-10 frontline, but the reaction time was quite evident and encouraging. And you've gotta love that touch he has from the line. But our boys are going to have to shoot well early to give him space since Baylor and Gonzaga are going to focus on crowding him and Thompson.
2) Harmeling still looks like he doesn't want to shoot. I know that T-Bone railed on Taylor for not taking enough initiative offensively earlier in this early part of the season. Well, perhaps he should tell Harmeling to not come back ever if he doesn't take 12 shots in the next game. If we're going to be good, he's going to have to fill it. But you really can't fill it if you don't put the rock in the air. Without another consistent bomber from the perimeter, this team is going to have a hard time scoring on a lot of nights because they're depending too much right now on Thompson.
3) Thompson looks even better in college than in High School and I saw him score 37 in that State Championship game. Boy is Klay good. Of course the question is, "Is he good enough to lead an NCAA tournament team at this stage in his development?" As tonight showed, this team is going to go as far as Thompson can take them. And he may take them pretty far with his height and the high release point on that J. Granted, I love the kid and think he will leave as the best player to have put on a WSU uniform. But it sure seems like he's carrying too much of a burden offensively right now. And that doesn't portend well for the next two games against great athletes who are going to throw the kitchen sink at him.
4) Casto IS the real deal. He is a real centerpiece for us on defense already. It really reminds you of what last year would have looked like if Clark hadn't graduated. In any case, if we're going to steal one of the next two, it will be because of the presence that Casto gives us in the lane and on the glass. He's going to have to play lights out on D and keep his hands up when around the lane on O. Tonight, I noticed that he tends to drop his arms a bit to get position--that has to change.
5) Capers, Capers, Capers. I love his bounce and defense, I really do. But the kid looks like his shot is a LONG way off--elbow flaring out, feet not set. I am hoping that he stays the hell away from that baseline and establishes more of his game from up-top over the coming weeks even if he's quick enough to get around the basket from the wing. That said, I really wouldn't mind seeing him play more minutes earlier at the point with Taylor at the 2 (who I love on the wing), Thompson at the 3 (how about his mid-range game?), Casto at 4, and Baynes at 5. Look for that combo against Baylor and Gonzaga in the next couple of games. I think it would work well against both teams in stretches.
6) Nick. One word: Bench. Love him, I really do. But he looks to be better suited as an energy guy and slasher. We need more production out of that spot and I'm not sure he can bring it against better competition. Like I said, I love him, but I think he brings us much more as a reserve.
IF the NCAA is the goal, then you really need a great non-conference win and a couple of good ones. We whiffed on Pitt and we're gonna whiff on Gonzaga (and ya, there is NO crime in losing to top 5 teams). So, with Mississippi State in the bag, we really need to beat LSU later in the month. And we really, really, really, need to find a way to beat Baylor.
That said, Baylor is really athletic, experienced, and they can shoot the ball over the top. For us to eek one out against those boys, the kids are going to have to play great! Thompson is going to have to get 15 or more (tough, since they're going to send the house at him), Baynes is going to have to get 15, Taylor is going to have to get 10, and someone else (HARMELING!!!!) needs to score in double digits.
I don't like our chances in that match-up, quite frankly. BUT, win on Saturday night and you have a nice fat red ribbon for an NCAA tournament package in three months, you really do.
Barring injury, this team will be really good by then.
Enjoy your week. And GO COUGS!!!