Longball here! Did anyone miss me? Does anyone even remember me? I can't blame you if your answer is no and no, but I am here regardless to give you the View from the Cheap Seats on this year's Cougar basketball team. So grab a hotdog and soda and join me in the orange seats way up in the rafters of Beasley.
What have I seen?
So far it hasn't been pretty and from where I'm sitting I would advise you all to take whatever expectations you had for this season and... SELL, SELL, SELL! With remaining road trips to LA, the Bay and the Arizona schools still ahead there is no bailout package that is going to save this team. This week the Cougs had a golden opportunity to become major players in this years Pac-10 race and fell 4 points short. Que up the fat lady.
After suffering through the Baylor, Gonzaga and UW games this year I developed a strong conviction that this team was not even going to sniff an NIT bid. At the time it was a conviction founded in their inability to compete for 40 minutes with quality teams. Although we have shown an improved ability to compete recently, that conviction remains, and is quickly becoming a matter of simple mathematics. We need 7 more wins to even consider an NCAA bid and be comfortable with an NIT bid. If you can find those 7 wins on our remaining schedule, than you should be assigned to the DB Cooper task force, because they are nowhere to be found. So, what happened?
Obviously the departure of the greatest trio in Cougar history was going to be tough to overcome, but what we have learned is that the remaining veterans, who have been great roll players the last 2 seasons, are exactly that; great roll players. When it was time to take the team on their shoulders Rochestie, Baynes, Harmeling and Kopervica have not had what it takes. Caleb Forest has been a big exception, and Baynes has been dependable, but Rochestie has been maddeningly inconsistent while Nik and Harm have just vanished altogether. The success of the last 2 seasons has made the prospect of rebuilding hard to swallow, but that is exactly what we're doing. Oh yeah, and as of now we are tied with Oregon State. Gulp.
Am I bumming you out? Here's the good news. Our rebuilding effort may be progressing faster than we ever could have hoped. This Freshman class is lights out. Capers, Casto and Thompson are good now, and Lodwick is starting to get significant minutes. As it stands, our best lineup consists of 3 freshmen. Every night we see glimpses of what can happen when the Bennett system is being run by kids with the athleticism now being drawn to the Palouse. It is easy to imagine the names Capers, Casto and Thompson may one day be uttered with the same reverence on the Palouse as Weaver, Low and Cowgill.
As you may have noticed, I like to hearken back to past Cougar glory to gain perspective on the present, and I cant help but compare this era to the Kelvin Sampson teams of the early 90's. That was a great time for Cougar hoops, culminating in a trip to the Dance and multiple NIT bids, but we are way ahead of where we ever got back then. This years team is going to take its lumps in Pac-10 play, but in a down year we are still as good as some of the better teams of those days. Remember Bennie Seltzer, Kenny Critton, Terence Lewis, Neil Derrick, and Rob Corkrum? Those guys never made it to the Big Dance and struggled to get more than 7 or 8 wins in Pac-10 play, but they were good. They gave us some memorable wins, like beating Herold Miner's USC Trojans. (ESPN Broadcast the game and on Sports Center they timed Glen Johnson's pronunciation of "Benieeeeeeeeeeeee Seltzer!". Remember? It was 13 seconds, I believe.)
With continued improvement this year we may scratch out a respectable 7 or even 8 wins in Pac-10 play, but I'm not going to get too hung up on getting to the post season. Right now the next generation Cougar stars are just starting to emerge, and they are going to take us on a great ride. Harthun, Witherill and Watson are still waiting to get their chance and from all appearances guys like Thames and Motum should be exciting additions next year. Dick Bennett built the teams that took us dancing the last two years, and now Tony is building his team. So far , so good.
Overtime! A few extra observations from the cheap seats...
Uniforms- I LOVE our uniforms. Simple. Classic. Please join me in praying that Nike doesn't come in next year and deck us out in the same ridiculous clown suits the rest of the league wears.
Fans- Beasley is always going to be hard to fill because most fans live 300 miles away, the nearest population center, Spokane, has its own very popular and successful basketball team, and everyone 6 miles to the West also has their own team, the Vandals. But still, is it too much to ask all the old fogies in the season ticket section to actually SHOW UP once in a while? Or hell, I'll take your ticket if you NEVER intend to use it! The decision to shrink the student section this year was a bad one. They are the only dependable fans we have.
Jumbo Tron- Or heck, any kind of 'tron will do! Right now we project replays onto a movie screen that can barely be seen. And if you sit with me in the cheap seats, forget about it! We need one of those things that hangs in the middle of the arena with scores on all sides, so us folks with obstructed views don't have to keep score ourselves. I'll donate the first dollar, lets do this!
Thanks for hanging out in the cheap seats with me. Until next time...