Saturday, January 31, 2009

Big Game

Happy superbowl weekend to you, Cougar Nation! Hope you had a great week.

Well today, we play the no-longer-Mildcats.

After playing like also-rans for much of the first half of the Pac-10 slate, Arizona now has the look of the team that I predicted to win the conference (COUGH! COUGH!)

When you turn on the game today, you are going to hear the announcers talk about a couple of key head-to-head match-ups. They are:

1. Baynes v. Hill

2. Rochestie v Wise

3. Budinger v. Thompson

While those match-ups are certainly important, they really do not reflect what this game is really about:

BALL PRESSURE. (insert your 3rd grade joke here)

As we have seen all year, we don't respond well to ball pressure. And, Arizona presses all the fricking time. So, how we handle that pressure is the real key to the game.

So, with that all in mind, here are a few things to watch for:

1) AZ's field goal percentage. To press, you have to make shots. If you don't make shots, you can't press. Watch how well AZ shoots early, it will be a key to the tempo of the game. The cut-off is about 41%. They shoot better than that, they win. They shoot less than that and its a ball game.

2) AZ's journey to the charity stripe. The more they go to the line, the more they press. They don't go to the line, no press. To keep that number down, we need to limit transition opportunities and protect Wise from getting into the paint.

3) How we react after beating the first wave of pressure. And obvious tendency of breaking the first wave of the press is to attack the basket. We need to do that today, but we also need to be selective in how and WHEN we attack. Teams that press usually do so to hurry up the game. So patience will be a huge virtue for us. So, when we attack the rim it needs to be later in the shot clock.

4) Youth, youth, youth. With few exceptions, ALL of our big W's have come with major contributions from our freshmen. To win today, Capers and Casto need to get many more minutes than Daven, Nick, and the rest.

5) Caleb. We need him to step up big today with that midrange game. He plays well (scores in 12-15 point range) and we win today.

Prediction: As I said last week, I like the way we match up with Devils. I HATE our match-up with AZ.

Arizona 65 WSU 53
But if I'm wrong, we are EXACTLY where we were at the end of the first half last year. This would be a MASSIVE win and sweep.


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Friday, January 30, 2009

Big Win, Even if You Didn't See it

Would have been nice to see this one on TV wouldn't it? But even if it was only the Bud Nameck show, a win is a win is a win. And wow, what a win! Any time you go on the road and beat the 14th-ranked team in their house, when you so desperately needed a win, well, things like this can change an entire direction of a season. So you see, the season IS NOT OVER.

And while ASU had their super-frosh last year in James Harden, well, Klay-Klay Thompson "made it rain" last night. Eight of 10 from three-point land? 28 points in the most crucial game of the year? Wow. And it sounded like ASU stayed in their zone D the whole game, which is hoops 101 - how do you beat a zone? Good ball movement, and oh yeah, shoot over the top of it. Even I know that. But as Klay told it to Grippi:

“They were playing a zone, so it is easier to get open looks from 3 instead of against man-to-man. … We would have played tighter on me, but they’re a zone team and they play it well, so they didn’t change what’s working for them.”

One more great thing about this game, and you could hear Nameck last night talk about it from time to time, but the defense of DeAngelo Casto was excellent. Grippi has some good stuff in his game story how the whole thing went down. But to put Casto, technically your power forward of tomorrow (or today?), off the bench to guard the high-flying 6-4 Harden? And it actually worked? I did some triple-takes listening to Nameck say Casto was on Harden. It didn't seem possible. But there you have it. Serious onions by the staff, no doubt about it.

Meanwhile, some comings....and football.

About that JC All-American tight end out of Utah who showed up in January, already enrolled and ready to go? Never mind. Peter Tuitupou has decided to leave Pullman and head for his church mission. Can't blame the kid, I mean you have to follow your heart and soul in things like that, but it is what it is. Note that the story is a premium one on Cougfan, but the headline says it all.

The Cougs landed a big kid out of the Bay Area last night in linebacker Sekope Kaufusi. Check out the Youtube goodness.

Just a one-star rating by and no other schools are even listed in the schools of choice area, so this is a way-under-the-radar deal. He's big (6-4, 230) and runs a reported 4.7 40. Wonder why the number-11 rated prospect in the Bay Area with size and 4.7 speed as a middle linebacker wasn't highly recruited? Me too. The San Mateo Journal sure liked him, naming him as co-player of the year for 2008. An interesting, tough backstory to Kaufusi as well. Check it out here, as well as some comments here:

While the 6-foot-4, 225-pound Kaufusi was effective in all phases of the game, he made his biggest — check that, loudest — impact on defense. One of the hardest hitters to come out of San Mateo County in several years, Kaufusi often resembled a heat-seeking missile — and whoever had the ball was his target.

A player’s offensive value can be quantified with statistics, but it’s harder to make a judgment on a defensive player’s impact. But Kaufusi was the rare defensive talent who could do just that, often recording several jarring hits a game. Often times the players on the receiving end of his hits had to be helped off the field. It was only human to see opposing players suddenly get gun shy to go over the middle, knowing they could be the next one to get popped.

“Big hits bring a lot of intimidation, but they also bring a lot of encouragement to your teammates,” Kaufusi said. “Trying to deliver that big hit is always on my mind. They can be a momentum-changer, and I go into every game to be that difference-maker.”

Sounds like a middle linebacker to me.

Oh yeah, UW is committing MORE secondary recruiting violations. We won't spill any more ink on these guys. We've said enough as it is. But are secondary violations a big deal? Not if it just happens once. Start racking them up? That's another story. Seems like it's just sloppiness combined with some overzealousness on behalf of the coaches to get UW back to where many want to see it. But whatever. They can downplay it all they want, UW fans, but the rules are there for a reason.

Finally, Grippi has a really good look at the recruiting class right now. While he doesn't have anything on Kaufusi at the moment, he does break down the numbers game and that it is likely this class will be in the low-20's in terms of sheer volume. Partially because of scholies to walk-ons from last year who earned their spot (Myron Beck), and partially because of grayshirts who committed last year but are in school now, like DT Josh Luapo.


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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Wednesday Ramblings

Some pretty good stuff floating around so we'll get right to it.

Cougfan had a good look at the Canadian sleeper, Johnny Forzani. He really is an interesting story. Have you ever seen such intrigue with a kid who didn't play a down of high school football, yet has already garnered three-star ratings out of But the hype seems somewhat deserved in this case, and it is a special one. A hoops standout who caught serious attention with the football videos he sent around, he showed up at a tryout camp for the Calgary Stampeders junior team and blew them away with his size (6-1, 204), athleticism, and speed (4.37 to 4.45 in the 40??).

As said in their evaluations:

“On Forzani, you notice first how quick off the line he is,” says Brandon Huffman, Scout’s West Coast analyst. “Some receivers don't utilize their first step right but that's not the case with Forzani.

“He's got very good speed, and has good explosion. His size will help him in the Pac-10, especially against smaller corners. He's got a good combination of speed and strength that you notice early and often in the film. Body wise, he looks like he could be a safety too, but I think receiver is where his best days will be.”

Nice! But that's not all.

There was also a pretty good read about Forzani and his father, John, a former CFL WR who made a good living playing Canadian ball. The whole idea of wearing his father's number for the Calgary team, wow, that's pretty cool. He's got the bloodlines, that's for sure, and you have to wonder what will happen once coach Levy gets his hands on this kid.

I know, I know, you don't want to get too jacked about a recruit. But doesn't he look like your turning-over-rocks type guy who you get through hard work and thinking outside the box?? These kinds of stories, they are just the kinds of things we can probably come to expect out of the Wulff regime, don't you think?

Meanwhile, on the theme of offense - an anonymous poster informed us that he spied none other than Ocho Rojo, Marshall Lobbestael, on campus yesterday. Big deal, right? Well, he was WITHOUT crutches. Certainly a better sight compared to last fall....

I tried checking it out today but didn't hear much that isn't already known. He will be EXTREMELY limited in spring ball and likely won't truly be part of full practices until the fall. If he does get out there in the spring, it will be very, very light work. But the early word is things are looking pretty good.

While it will make for some good bar-stool chatter, and it should be an interesting QB derby this fall, I would bet the majority believe that if Lobbestael is healthy, he will be THE GUY in '09? I sure would love to see him ready to go by August and really compete hard for the job against JT Levy and Kevin Lopina.

Most of all, let's hope whoever the hell wins that job gets the full keys to the car so to speak. You know, like MORE than 50% of the playbook? You've all at least been in the system for a year, now let's see what happens!

The Evergreen weighed in on the '09 schedule. Not a bad look at next season, and they even take a shot at UW: "The Apple Cup concludes the regular season Nov. 28. The Cougars will head to Seattle this year, hoping to build a three-game winning streak against a Husky team that has a new head coach, a new system, but the same mediocre personnel." So there.

Oh, and hey, they even throw out a PREDICTION - 5-7? Really? Maybe it's just me, but doesn't it still seem WAY too early for predictions in January? Don't we need to get through signing day and spring ball, at the very least, to see the way these teams are going to be? You know we will weigh in this spring, and that means a return of the "fishwrap" series where we look at each 2009 opponent.

We've made a few changes around this here blog. First of all you might have noticed the "click here for Comments". Kind of a cool little feature, it helps keep the front page of the site without too much scrolling for stories. Plus it gives you a jump right to the comments of each story, making it easier for YOU to weigh in. We also put a "latest comment" feature to the right of the page, if you scroll down below the Spokesman Review feed. It shows you the last five comments posted to the site. Interested to see if anyone responded to what you said? Just check there.

Finally, many of you already know this, but signing day is next week....Seriously. There is a free function in Spokane on the 4th, followed by a deal in Shelton on the 5th and the Seattle dinner on the 6th. We will do what we can to get some great coverage, one way or another, and provide the best recap available! But if you attend one of these functions and hear or see something pretty cool, by all means, you are welcome to share it here. The more tidbits we can pass along the better. We're all in this together....right??

That's it for now. ENJOY YOUR EVENING, and GO COUGS!
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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Are Nuggets and Chips Overrated?

So the recruiting season for this year's class is winding down. And even though there are always some surprises that emerge late in the game (see Bumpus, Michael), usually what you see this close to the finish line is what you are going to get. And with less than two weeks to go until signing day, things are starting to crystallize.

For the most part, it is looking like coach Wulff and staff are holding the line with the current verbal commits. So far, the only verbal lost this entire recruiting season has been Geoff Meinken, and that was for a full ride to Stanford. Honestly, can you blame the kid for changing his mind? A full ride to Stanford and playing for Captain Comeback, the most enthusiastic coach in the conference next to "High School Harry" Pete Carroll?? Not a bad option if you can get it.

Don't take our word for it though. A scan of the recruiting services show that Stanford has done a FANTASTIC job this year, currently a strong #2 to USC in the conference and staring at a top-10 or so ranking nationally. We said last spring in the fishwraps that Stanford wouldn't be down long, and they were just one win from a bowl last year. So good for them.

Anyway, barring some shockers, this WSU class is holding up.

Speaking of recruiting, both the Times and News Tribune have released their Nuggets and Chips lists. I know the Times is old news, but the Nuggets just hit over the weekend. Check 'em out, Nuggets here and Chips here.

Interesting lists aren't they? A couple of things immediately stand out - 1) There are articles and quotes that it isn't a good year in Washington, and 2) lots of WSU sprinkled throughout for the "committed to" or "college" categories, something we didn't always see from days gone by. And normally one would think having the majority of the best local talent heading for Pullman as a very good thing. But IS IT GOOD for this year??

Ask any Husky Honk about recruiting this season, and there are two common messages among UW elites - 1) Sarkisian rocks, so brace yourselves for the recruiting superpower of Jesus in a purple visor once he has time to build this thing, and 2) IT IS A BAD RECRUITING YEAR IN WASHINGTON. Not that you are out there asking UW types what they think of recruiting right now. But they love to share their insight out in the wonderful world of message-board-land.

I don't know about Jesus in a purple visor. Even though "he" has shown the ability to conjure up fog on-demand to show off for recruits? Something tells me this isn't the second coming. Looks like that search will continue.

But part of what they are trying to do is to simply rain on the parade of WSU goodness, in ways only they know how. The proverbial wet blanket, if you will. You know, little brother accomplishes something and is happy/excited. Yet "big brother" is thoroughly unimpressed, rolls his eyes at the dinner table and in dismissive fashion quickly replies "simmer down little bro. It's not that big of a deal. Yes, I'm here to put you back in your place."

But there is at least some truth to it. No, not the Jesus part. But it isn't a GREAT year in Washington recruiting......or is it?? Maybe on signing day there isn't a Drew Bledsoe to parade around and show off for the villagers. But that is just for today. How do we know what is going to happen with these kids in the future?

Remember Marcus Trufant? Here was an interesting high-character kid out of Tacoma, but relegated to two-star status with an "OK" upside. (To loosely translate, two stars basically amounts to Pac-10 roster filler out of a scale of one-five stars). A fringe starter, likely a special-teamer and backup for his four years of college ball. Hardly an all-conference/All-American type, and certainly not a high NFL first-rounder.

But that IS the story of Marcus Trufant. He came in, took to the coaching of Chris Ball, Bill Doba and others on the defensive side of the ball, worked his tail off, and the rest is history. What if he would have been written off with a shrug on signing day??

How about Jason Gesser? Another under-estimated kid by the recruiting wonks, mainly for a lack of prototype size (a less-than-imposing 6'1" and on the skinny side when he signed) and missing the big-time arm or elite speed. Yet all Gesser did from his redshirt frosh season was make plays and lead the team to consecutive 10-win seasons, including a Pac-10 title his senior year. Mike Price called him the MVP in the history of WSU athletics (and Price coached Drew Bledsoe and Ryan Leaf). All that from an unknown straight outta Hawaii??

According to the experts who do this for a living, they point out that the true BCS all-conference types just aren't plentiful in Washington. Period. SI had a pretty good read last week about where the talent is (Cali, Texas, Florida) and where it isn't. And UW honks will quickly pull out their press release on last year's signing day, a highly decorated collection of talent from the state, and claim that there isn't anyone comparable for this year's crop of talent. The UW class, remember, is filled with guys who are going to explode under "Sark".....

By the way, why is it UW'ers say in one breath that Ty Willingham was lazy and couldn't recruit, and that was why he was fired? Yet in their next breath, they all claim "boy was last year's recruiting class great or what!?" Or "Sark has a ton of young talent already on the roster to turn this thing around fast". How can you have a great class and a lot of young talent when your head coach can't recruit? Either you keep the cake under glass, or you eat it. Can't have it both ways....or maybe they have split the atom and figured out that only they can do it?

And meanwhile, how is a "great class" even decided anymore? Do you declare a winner on signing day, ala Dewey Beats Truman? Do you, as a fan-alum, throw a party or demand firings, all based on how grumpy old men project how high school hotshots they haven't even seen play will do in the different programs? I know the recruiting grades and rankings and such move newspapers and online premium subscriptions, but how much weight does that stuff really hold? Sort of like when the talking heads on the NFL Draft coverage unveil their winners and losers the day of the draft, it is CRAZY to fret about the rankings every February!

I remember a conversation a few years ago with someone who talked to a former WSU assistant about a specific signing class. If you can recall, there was much excitement over the class that signed in February 2004, coming off the Holiday Bowl win. But among all the hype and hoopla, the conversation went like this:

Alum: "Hey, looks like you guys got a GREAT recruiting class! Lots of high-ranked kids, some big-time talent coming in!"

WSU Assistant: " to me in four years."
Maybe the sensible thing is to wait until at least a few seasons have passed and the recruits have settled in? You know, after they actually passed admissions, kept up their grades, practiced well, hit the weight room, stayed healthy and out of trouble, learned the playbook and are actually PLAYING to see how things are working out? Let's see what happens with a few years of the Paul Wulff weight room GAUNTLET, where these kids can get into a serious program that can make them bigger/stronger/faster with proper instruction and nutrition.

Most of all, when it comes to signing day, RELAX. Let the naysayers downplay the state of, well, the state. Trust the process, understand the time and hard work it will take, and hope the coaches in place who are actively out there recruiting will get the job done. But give the kids a chance to show what they can do, before they are labeled nobodies. You just never know who will break through, or who will never make it.


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Sunday, January 25, 2009

Longball's View from the Cheap Seats

Hello Cougar Nation,

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...

Go Cougs!

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Saturday, January 24, 2009


Tough, tough, tough, tough loss for the Cougs today as we lost an 8 point lead down the stretch and fell to Troy 46-44.

Couple of gloomy notes:

1) Tony was badly out-coached today by Floyd down the stretch. You could see the preparation that USC had as those baseline passes of ours were jumped by at least two guys each time. In addition, after Baynes fouled out, where in the hell was Casto? While it is understandable why Tony wanted to have shooters on the floor, you have to get a rebound first. Instead, Gibson gets position over Forrest, we knock the ball out of bounds, and its a virtual ball game from that point on.

2) What happened to our line-up? Wanna know why the losing stretch felt like earlier in the year? Because we had the same losing line-up on the court as we did earlier in the year. Capers, though he can't hit the broad side of a barn, continued to be wonderfully disruptive on defense and helped create two big buckets around the 8:00 mark on offense. Alas, he never played again. And then there's Casto, who still hasn't learned to control the basketball when he can't get to the hoop. But even with that limitation, the guy does not give up second chance points on the defensive end. And, when you're winning and holding a team to 31% from the field, that's what you need.

Instead, we get Forrest, Baynes, Harmeling, Rochestie, and Thompson. It looks good on paper, but we know by now that it really is not good for either offense or defense.

3) Taylor, Taylor, Taylor. Worst night possible for him to have his worst game as a Coug. He was TERRIBLE down the stretch. The worst part about it is that Thompson was hot and Baynes was at least somewhat effective at getting to the line. So, its one thing to try to be Taylor Terrific when you're on, but when you're not, why try to put the whole world on your shoulders? Tonight, he played like a freshmen. And not a very good one.

So, is the season over?

Sure looks like it. But you can't put the nail in the coffin until after Thursday night. Win there and things look different all of a sudden--which would be aided by a much needed road win against a ranked team.

Bottom line: we needed to win 3 of 6. But, now at 0-2 in that stretch, we HAVE to SWEEP one of the next two road trips.

But I like our chances to pull off a shocker on Thursday.

Stay tuned.
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Keep 'em Coming

Just a quick post to say keep the photos coming! We've received some really good entries, and some of the best are now posted as a slideshow to the top-right of the page. You can enter as many times as you want, so keep 'em coming. Just email to

Also know that we will NOT share your e-mail addresses or real names with anyone. At least not without your permission.

We also wanted to pass on that we are going to add two more prizes to the deal. One will be an autographed Mark Rypien football. The other is the 2003 Holiday Bowl on DVD, which includes the regular ESPN broadcast. But as an added bonus, on the same DVD you can pick the WSU radio broadcast to play over the video, or, you can even pick the Texas Longhorns radio broadcast. A VERY cool little item.

Check out more after the jump....

Here's a sampling of what it looks and sounds like on the DVD:

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Friday, January 23, 2009

Minnesota to Cougs: "Never Mind."

There was some intrigue with the idea of WSU and Minnesota starting a home-n-home over the next couple of seasons. Truth be told, the Golden Gophers seemed like a decent match in terms of "likeness". Basically another mid-level BCS opponent, or a team that will hover around bowl eligibility with an occasional upper-division finish/breakthrough. And of course, there is the Tim Brewster-Paul Wulff comp we raised a few months ago, so it might have been a good look at where programs are, on the field together.

Ummmm, NEVER MIND. Minnesota has decided to punt WSU, in favor of the super-sexy Pete Carroll's.

Check it out here:

"Minnesota will host USC at TCF Bank Stadium on Sept. 18th, 2010. The Gophers will visit the Trojans at the LA Coliseum on Sept. 3rd, 2011, to open the season. The two games with USC take the place of a 2010-2011 home-and-home series with Washington State, which has been canceled."

Obviously they are TERRIFIED of the power that will be WSU Football in 2010-11! :)

We will have to wait and see how it all shakes out, but we are already in 2009. Jim Sterk might have to really scramble to get a match-up like what Minnesota could have been. Hopefully they fired off a check payable to WSU Athletics for pulling out the rug? Jerks.
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Gibson's Senior Bowl Hits a Snag

Well, so much for hitting a homerun at the Senior Bowl. Maybe he did miss the NFL gravy train after all? ESPN's Todd McShay reported Thursday that Brandon Gibson has come up lame with a hamstring injury today, and his availability for the upcoming game is doubtful.

Per the report:

"Washington State's Brandon Gibson left practice with an apparent hamstring
injury. He had his upper leg wrapped while he looked on late in the day. He is
well-built, and although he had some drops Tuesday, he uses his hands
consistently and doesn't let the ball get in on his body. However, his lack of
speed is apparent -- even before the injury -- and it is difficult to imagine
him running past NFL defensive backs. He also doesn't explode off the line of
scrimmage, and none of his movements is sudden. Gibson takes too long coming out
of his breaks on short routes, so that has to worry you from a possession
wideout standpoint. Perhaps his leg was bothering him early in the practice and
that affected his ability to move, but overall, it wasn't a good showing."
Not exactly glowing, and that remark about the lack of speed even before the injury isn't good news. I did find another snippet, from, that stated that Gibson actually had a pretty good first day of practice.

It's not the end of the world for Gibson. He still has some time to get the hamstring healthy and show what he can do. But this is definitely a setback.
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Thursday, January 22, 2009


Tough, but promising loss for our lads tonight as the Cougs fell 61-59 to the Bruins.

The difference in the game tonight was UCLA's first half + the first 5 minutes of the second.

That shooting display that the Bruins put out from behind the arc (with 80% of those shots with hand RIGHT in their faces) resulted in a 56% clip (out of 16 attempts).

If you would have told me that the Bruins would shoot like that BEFORE the game, I would have told you that we would have lost by 20.

So, now we know that our boys are for real. So young Cougars, including Marcus Capers who played a hell of a game tonight, keep your darn heads up.

Now, its just a matter of gutting one out on Saturday and then going at it at Arizona State.

Lets hope and pray that we can find a way to win on Saturday. Our boys are going to be an NCAA team before its all said and done.

Its just a question of whether or not we can grow up in time.


Tonight, we just scored 36 points in the second half against UCLA. On Saturday, we scored 50 in the second half against the Quack. You think we're getting our offense figured out???
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Six For the Season

Greetings Cougar Nation. Hope you are having a great week.

Well, as the other news outlets have reported, today marks the start of a six game stretch that will decide the fate of this season. After tonight's tilt with the mighty Bruins, we then play SC, @ASU, @Arizona, @Stanford, and @CAL. In my world, that means that we play 5 out of 6 against teams that are serious contenders for the upper division and the NCAA tournament.

If we win 2 of the next 6, we'll keep alive hopes of a CBI or NIT birth. If we win 3 of the next 6, we'll be sitting at 6-5 in conference. Again in my math, that means we would have to win 4 of the next 7 to knock on the doors of the Big Dance. That would mean sweeping the Oregon schools at home, and then getting two more wins somewhere from the trip to LA, Seattle, or the home series against the AZ schools. Quite doable if you ask me.

Of course, do worse than that and the season is flushed.

Plain and simple.

The good news is that we enter tonight's contest playing our best and most confident basketball of the season.

The other piece of good news is that while our confidence is high, we get the opportunity to seize a much needed, signature win for our post-season resume (by the way, Mississippi State is sitting at 13-5 and tied for 1st in the SEC).

Unfortunately, I don't see how in the world we can win tonight's game. Here's why:

Taylor Rochestie vs. Mr. Collison. Out of all of the match-ups in the Pac-10, this has been the one that has eaten Taylor alive. Collison is super quick and can extend Taylor at both ends of the court. Given the minutes that Taylor has already logged this season, I think Colly is going to wear him down. I like Taylor to get 14 in this game, but I don't like the way that I think he's going to do it (e.g. 5-16). EDGE: UCLA

Jrue Holiday vs. Klay Thompson. Mr. Holiday is coming in hitting about 45% from 3 land. Last time I checked that's about 10% more than our freshman sensation. It could be that Holiday goes up against Taylor. If so, I hope that we have a nice, nice set of plays to use Thompson to post up Collison. That said, I think that UCLA will like the Collison-Rochestie match-up and go with Holiday on Thompson. Ultimately, I think that these two guys cancel each other out. Unfortunately, for us to win, Thompson has to win this battle handily. He won't. SLIGHT EDGE: UCLA.

Josh Shipp versus Marcus Capers. If Capers doesn't get the nod here, then I'll have to eat another one of my hats. As soon as I saw him start in the Oregon game, I KNEW that Tony was prepping him for this week against the athletic LA schools. The only think that Marcus needs to do is play tight defense and not turn the ball over. If he can muster any offense that would be a plus. We don't need Capers to shut Shipp down, but we need him to make Josh work really, really, really hard for his looks. EDGE: UCLA.

Aron Baynes versus The Big Aboya. For us to have a chance of making this a game, this is where we need to come up really big. The BIG difference between this year and last is that UCLA is considerably more soft in the middle. That said, when Aboya plays well, UCLA looks like a Final Four team. When he doesn't, they look like fodder for a second round exit in the Big Dance. Tonight, we need Baynes to attack Aboya early and often and hopefully get him in foul trouble. We have the edge here, but to win, this edge has to be really big. Again, I just don't see it. EDGE: WSU.

Four Spot versus Four Spot. Each team has a couple of different players they insert into this role. For us to win this game, we have to win this spot BIG TIME. Tonight, look for Tony to start Forrest in order to keep CASTO away from getting 2 fouls in the first couple of minutes. After that, look for Casto to play big time minutes. The more minutes CASTO plays tonight, the better our chances. Plain and simple. In order to keep production on the floor offensively, we might see Baynes, Casto, and Forrest playing all at once. SLIGHT EDGE: WSU

What Else 2 Watch 4.

1) Perimeter Play. The play of our backcourt will be key at both ends of the court. UCLA will do a lot in this game to take the ball out of Taylor's hands. So, the effectiveness of Thompson and Capers (in particular) in handling ball pressure will be very, very key. On the defensive end, I actually am looking for us to UN-Pack ourselves a bit. What that means is that I'm looking for us to extend ourselves out on the perimeter in order to keep Collison and Holiday from getting off from 3 land. If we allow these guys to get in rhythm, it's going to be a long night.

2) Post Defense and Offense. If I'm T-Bone, I'm making UCLA beat me on contested jumpers and drives from the baseline. In other words, I'd much rather have Collison and company trying to shoot runners over Baynes and Casto than popping 21 foot jumpers off a sagging defense. For us, that means NOT playing much help defense and relying on straight up defensive play. While that may seem risky, it's also the reason why we've worked hard to recruit better athletes. On the offensive end, Forrest and Casto are our X factors tonight. If both of those guys can establish a post-presence, we will be able to have the type of inside-out game that we're going to need to get Taylor and Thompson off. Forrest, in particular, needs to give us a really, really nice start with his mid-range game.

Final Prediction:

This has the makings for the hold-your-nose type of game that we've seen from this group earlier in the season. While I really, really like the way we match up defensively, I'm having a hard time envisioning how we're going to score. And that is going to lead to the turnovers and long-rebound/transition points that will be our undoing.

UCLA 57 WSU 42.

Man, do I hope I'm wrong. The season becomes exhilarating if I am.
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Wednesday, January 21, 2009

He Ain't Heavy....

He's my brother.

So UW honks have been extra honkish about the verbal commit of young Desmond Trufant, the three-star special out of Tacoma. Desmond is a 5-11, 170lb senior who is regarded as an excellent all-around athlete and has the proverbial "high ceiling" tag. Extremely thin right now, but if he's anything like his older brother, he'll put on just enough weight to maintain his quickness and ball hawking skills.

But as Atlanta Coug pointed out in comments on Monday, what's up with a Trufant going to UW? After all, big brother Marcus is regarded as one of the greatest WSU defensive backs of all-time, and one of the best in recent Pac-10 history. He was a high first-round draft pick by the Seahawks, has been a starter his entire professional career, has been to a Pro Bowl and has already cashed in, big-time, on the free agent market. And the middle Trufant brother, Isaiah, played for EWU....and Paul Wulff!

Yes, there already has been a younger Trufant who didn't go to WSU.

Consider Isaiah Trufant, DB, EWU: Middle brother between Marcus and Desmond. Has been heard repeatedly saying "Marcus Marcus Marcus!" when railing against the success of the older Trufant (ok, really bad Brady Bunch joke). Seriously though, Isaiah had a decent Big Sky career. Twice an all-Big Sky pick, he compensated by his lack of size (5-8, 170) by playing hard and fast, regarded as a very high-character kid. Went on to play some arena football, first in Spokane and then signed with the Arizona Rattlers. Of course, Isaiah might have updated his resume with the news that the Arena Football League will shut down in 2009 due to some tough economic times. It's rough out there.

So it seemed like a slam dunk. How could the younger Trufant possibly head to UW?

The reasons why are many, but mainly it's a point of personal preference. Some want to simply blaze their own trail. If you have ever been a younger sibling in your family, have you always done exactly what your older brother/sister have done? Or did you do your own thing? And Desmond, in his quotes after his commitment, has been quick to point out that he wants to be part of a UW turnaround, and this first class could go a long way towards better days.

And while Desmond claims WSU came after him pretty hard, there is even some speculation out there that WSU wasn't so enamored with Desmond, and with the number of defensive backs in this recruiting class now at six, they wanted to save the scholarship for another position of need, such as defensive tackle. But personally I don't buy it. Of those six defensive back verbals, five of them are considered safeties and only one is a true corner. If history is any teacher, we know that some of those safety commits will eventually become linebackers at WSU. Louis Bland was a safety last year, remember? Anyway, at least I believe that if Desmond Trufant wanted to be a Cougar, he would have been a Cougar. He's not an all-world candidate, but he is a three-star player from Washington, rated as the #74 player at his position in the country. Why would WSU say no to him?

Personally, as a Coug fan I'm a little disappointed. It would be a cool thing to see another Trufant patrolling the WSU secondary. But the reality is not every little brother follows big brother. It happens, but bloodlines don't guarantee a thing.

But you know what else? In the big picture, from a WSU perspective, this might not be that big of a deal. First of all, how can you lose something that was never yours to begin with? Despite the "blood" ties and all that to WSU and coach Wulff, well, Desmond never really had WSU as his recruiting favorite. And he never did give them a verbal commitment. He never even had an official visit to Pullman. He appears to have been more interested in ASU all along, and then UW swooped in and nabbed him.

And, at least in recent WSU history, little brother has NOT topped big brother. It's true. So let UW crow about getting young Trufant. If history has anything to do with it, there is absolutely no guarantee that he'll ever approach his the level of play set by Marcus.

Consider some recent WSU brother combo's, and how that worked out:

1) The Hanson Brothers

Big Brother: Jason Hanson, kicker, WSU - all-everything kicker who is STILL PLAYING in the NFL, still setting records, showing no signs of slowing down. An extraordinary kicking career in a miserable sweat-sewer city like Detroit, but still, a great career. But his WSU career was just as good - Hanson's percentage of 57.1 for field goals from 50 yards or greater is both a school and a Pac-10 record. He holds the record for most field goals from 50 yards or more (20), and 40 yards or more (39). His school records include most points scored (328), most games with two or more field goals (20), field goals (63), and PATs(139). In addition to his placekicking duties he also punted, and was named as an All-American in his junior year (thanks Wikipedia).
Little Brother: Travis Hanson, kicker, UW - Played from 1990-1993 and was solid, but never considered spectacular. Certainly never approached his brother's level. He made 35 career field goals, a little more than half of Jason's total. But Travis was the kicker on that great '91 UW team, so, he does have some hardware on a team level that Jason never received. Quick word of advice - DON'T GOOGLE for an image of Travis Hanson. Apparently there is another Travis Hanson out there that I don't think many of you would like to see. Well, OK, maybe SOME of you would like to see it. Not that there's anything wrong with that. But just a word of warning. Anyway, EDGE - BIG BROTHER.

2) The Bledsoe Brothers
Big Brother: Drew Bledsoe, QB, WSU
- Does it really need to be rehashed? One of the greatest players in school history, regardless of position, Bledsoe's junior year was one of the best ever at WSU. In 28 career starts he established WSU records in single-game passing yards (476), single-season pass completions (241), and at the time, single-season passing yards (3,246). Bledsoe was named Pacific-10 Conference Player of the Year as a junior and was the number-one draft pick in the NFL in 1993. A long, storied professional career who made his mark on the NFL passing record book, going to four Pro Bowls, including the youngest Pro Bowl starter ever at age 22, and twice was named All-Pro, the highest NFL honor one can achieve outside of being named MVP of the league. He even started in the Super Bowl. When Bledsoe retired in April 2007, he left fifth in NFL history in pass attempts (6,717) and completions (3,839), seventh in passing yards (44,611), and 13th in touchdown passes (251). Just a fantastic NFL career.
Little brother: Adam Bledsoe, QB, Colorado: He was once a well-hyped QB recruit out of Walla Walla. A big kid with a strong arm, Boulder was teaming with excitement when Bledsoe decided to be a Buffalo.....but I think they are STILL waiting for him to make a play. Young Bledsoe never really did anything in his time at Colorado, a career backup QB who ultimately transferred to Western Oregon in the summer of 2000, his senior year. EDGE - BIG BROTHER.

3) The Leaf Brothers
Ryan Leaf, QB, WSU
- Like Bledsoe, a WSU legend. Unlike Bledsoe, an NFL disaster. A disaster so bad that they are still in production of the Ryan Leaf story.....

But I digress. People just need to take one look at 1997 to realize what a special QB Ryan Leaf was at the collegiate level. He averaged 330 yards per game and threw a then-Pac-10-record 33 TD passes that season. WSU's offense had school records in the following categories:

64 TD's
483 points
Almost 6,000 yards of total offense (5922) in 12 games
Average of 493 yards of O per game.

Leaf threw for 3968 yards that year and was responsible for 40 TD's either passing or rushing, also school records. They were an offensive machine, riding Leaf's arm all the way to a 10-win season, a Pac-10 title and Rose Bowl bid vs. Michigan. We know how that game worked out, and like a golfer looking for a ball hopelessly lost in knee-deep rough, WSU Nation is STILL out there looking for two more seconds....but hey, when you get invited to NYC for the Heisman presentation and you finish 3rd in the voting behind Charles Woodson and Peyton Manning, you are pretty damn special.
Little brother: Brady Leaf, QB, Oregon - There was major disappointment in the Palouse when Brady went Green-n-Gold. I count myself among many who questioned the decision, and watched with hope that he would come to Pullman. Wouldn't it be great to get Leaf's little brother? Wouldn't it be cool to watch him grow and evolve running the SAME OFFENSE his big brother ran at WSU!? The hype alone of having another big, strong-armed QB with the last name of Leaf running the show at WSU could sell a few season tickets, couldn't it? Well, Brady wasn't exactly Ryan, and has now hung up the helmet after a rather undistinguished career at Oregon. Now Brady did have some bright spots, but he was pretty up-and-down. And he largely played in Dennis Dixon's shadow. Once Chip Kelly showed up with his spread read-option offense for Leaf's senior year, he was the epitome of fish-out-of-water. But what's weird is how good Brady Leaf did against WSU. In two career games against the Cougs, Leaf went 28-for-44 for 361 yards and three TD's, including a furious second half comeback in 2006 that fell short.

I have to admit.....I STILL wonder how Brady Leaf would have worked in Pullman. Maybe Brady beats out Alex Brink? There is very little doubt that Leaf had the skill-set to excel in a one-back, spread-em-out passing offense. Maybe he is the one little brother who got away. Oh well. EDGE: BIG BROTHER.

So there you have it. At least in the WSU universe, the older brother has topped the little brother, and by a pretty wide margin. Who knows what happens with Desmond Trufant. But as a WSU fan, you can probably chill a little bit knowing that he will be in purple-n-gold.

Speaking of purple-n-gold, there are some UW examples here as well. Damon Huard was better than Brock Huard, and clearly better than Luke Huard, who kicked around North Carolina before giving it up. Marques Tuiasosopo is an all-timer at UW, but what about the other Tui's who came after him? Not even close. I'm sure there are others, but we really don't CARE, do we??

ENJOY YOUR WEDNESDAY, and GO COUGS! Click here for more Comments

Monday, January 19, 2009

Your Face Here

Greetings Cougies!

If you're anything like me, you're fat, bald and hoping that 2009 will be an official do-over for what was an agonizingly painful year in sports.

Of course there were a couple bright spots in 2008, including the Cougar basketball team's Sweet 16 appearance and the Apple Cup victory but let's face it, when you get this excited over beating an 0-10 team, you're pretty much lying face-down in the gutter of the sports world.


As a fitting finale/kick in the stomach to all Washington state sports fans, this year's Super Bowl will feature the Steelers and Cardinals. The Steelers of course beat the 'Hawks in their only Super Bowl appearance; and what can you say about the Cardinals? It's hard to call them a division rival because they've been SO bad for SO long - but here in Bizarro world 2008, they've won the NFC West and now nothing would surprise me less than to see them do what the Seahawks could not.
The mere thought of Kurt Warner hoisting up the Lombardi Trophy after beating the Steelers is more than I can take.

Now a pessimist would say that the Seahawks will soon trade their #4 overall pick to take a kicker of impeccable character; the Mariners will fail to win as many games as Carlos Silva's waist-size (approximately 53)...

...and Desmond Trufant will sign with the huskies... Oh Dear God, it's already starting to happen!!!

Clearly the only thing that will set the Washington sports world right again would be if Casey Locker started at one goal line and Desmond Trufant at the other; and they sprinted toward the 50 yard line where they collide in a spectacular explosion of crimson and purple. Please - in the holy name of Bob Robertson, someone make this happen!


Like most of you, I want to start feeling good about my teams again but my optimism is tempered by reality. Rather than trying to look ahead to what might be, I'd like to invite YOU, Loyal Reader, to help us take a look back at past glories. With a cloudy future ahead of us in 2009, let's take a moment to reflect on better times. I'd like my next post to be a collection of YOUR photos from your favorite moments in Cougar sports history.

Was that you running past me as I made snow angels in the endzone after the '92 Apple Cup Victory?

Were you at the Copper Bowl in 1992?

Do you remember seeing the late Bill "The Beerman" Scott in Martin Stadium?

Awww...Here's Little Hawk and Mini McBoob at the first Coug game at Qwest Field.

If you'd like to help create a WSU Football Blog scrapbook, please submit photos to Include a brief description so we know what we're looking at.

As you can see above, we've created a photo album of Cougar Sports history through the eyes of the fans. We will accept entries until February 28th. Then we'll ask you to vote on the best of the best...and this isn't just for fun - there WILL be PRIZES!

1st Prize - Tickets to a to be determined 2009 home football game. Maybe 2, maybe 4. I won't know until fall.

2nd Prize - This Marcus Trufant Autographed Rookie Card.

3rd Prize - One pitcher of beer at your Pullman bar of choice during the 2009 football season.

4th Prize - A 2003 Holiday Bowl DVD, complete with the ESPN broadcast, the WSU radio broadcast, and the Texas Longhorns radio broadcast.

Of course, we have no lawyers to make this an official contest but if you submit the photos, I'll dish out the prizes. Honest Injun.

Get those scanners humming, Cougs!
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Saturday, January 17, 2009

Today We Play....

The Amanda Pflugrads...

(In my view, that's code for all of the aspects of over-rated hype that is the Quack Attack)

Anyhow, I won't be able to watch much if any of the game today, so you will probably all be spared any post-game non-analysis, but here are the things I'll be looking for during whatever look-ins I can muster.

1) Casto, Casto, Casto. Will Tony put De Angelo back in the starting line up after his 6 minute performance against the Beavs? I sure hope so. Even if Casto isn't up to it right now, there's NO WAY that we compete with SC, UCLA, Arizona, and Washington without the athleticism he provides. So, if Tony wants to play hardball with him, then fine. But we NEED him in that line-up.

2) Baynes, Baynes, Baynes. Think Oregon was small last year? Well, at least last year they had Marty to extend Baynes out. This year, they have nothing to counter Aron. This is a game where Baynes should just go off. If not, then there will be plenty of opps for some WIDE OPEN jumpers.

3) Three Point Shooting from the 3 Spot. Who's going to play at the small forward/wing guard spot today? Personally, I'm looking for some production out of Abe today since I stinking love the look of that kid's shot.
And, I think we all would like to see Daven build from Thursday's big three point shot. But if Nick gets a bunch of time here today, then I think we have to be really worried about next week. As I've said, I think Nick can be a GREAT energy player, but if he gets a whole bunch of time, then look out.

4) Don't-Help Defense. The recipe for beating Oregon is to not let them kick out for wide open threes. So, if Porter beats us off the dribble, then let him shoot a contested shot over Baynes or Casto. What we don't need is to dive in from the help side and let those shooters have wide open looks on the perimeter. We did BETTER with this against CAL, but not so much against Washington.

5) Ball Control. I'll be looking for Oregon to extend the D at times to take the Ball out of Taylor's hands. So, look to see how Thompson handles the ball (including how badly he telegraphs his passes) as well as how Caper's does with his dribble--which I think is much, much to high (up towards his armpits, we need the ball below his belt all the time). UCLA and Arizona are going to extend on us big time in the coming weeks, so this will be a big test to see how we're progressing...


Ugly is as Ugly does. This game scares me, but I think we eek out another one.

Cougs 57 Ducks 52

Enjoy the game!!
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Thursday, January 15, 2009


Made even more amazing by the absence of this guy:

The thing to take out of this SLUGLY-fest is that this team now has won 2 out of 4 Pac-10 games without putting 30 minutes of good basketball together.

Tonight, we got JUST enough contribution out of Taylor, Thompson, Forrest, and Big Baynes to pull this one out.

I thought the other difference in this game was Robinson's decision at about the 9:00mark to slow his team down when they were up 7-9 points. I thought that decision to go conservative with so much time left took his team out of rythm. And thank god he did (note: I love the patterned offense of the Beavs--they are SO much better under Robinson than Jay John Billy Jim Bob).

What we also saw tonight is what we have noted on this blog previously: Klay Thompson has the Pac defense down. His play tonight on the defensive end was special as was Baynes'. Baynes is EASILY the Most Improved Player in the league.

And congrats to Daven Harmeling who after putting up brick after brick after brick, and after passing up WIDE OPEN 16 footers in the gap of the zone all night long, quickly pulled the trigger on the game tying 3 in regulation from the baseline.

Final note: Did any of you notice how giggly and loose our boys were down the stretch? Hold on Cougar Nation, if these boys can somehow scrap out a win at Mac Court on Saturday, this team may actually REALLY believe in themselves.

And they're nowhere close to playing to their potential.

"A win is a win is a win is a win is a win."
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Did Brandon Gibson Miss the NFL Gravy Train?

As Art Thiel of the now-dying Seattle P-I surmised recently, "Hindsight is always perfect, and speculation is always easy." While I am not so sure about speculation being easy, I agree on the hindsight part. Almost anyone can look at something that has happened, then gone back in their minds to declare "Yeah, you know I should have done THAT a little differently." We all do it - big and small, young and old, and we do it almost every day.

So, naturally it's human nature to look at Brandon Gibson's senior year and wonder - did he make the right decision? Could Gibson have blown his shot at big NFL money? Or, did a less-than-stellar senior year not really impact his 2009 NFL draft standing??

Now we have news that Gibson will head to the Senior Bowl. This is an excellent chance for him to show his abilities in front of NFL coaches and executives who will closely scrutinize every prospect on both rosters. Per the article:
The Senior Bowl is perhaps college football's premier pre-draft event, annually featuring the nation's best senior football stars and top NFL draft prospects on teams coached by NFL coaching staffs. Senior Bowl practices and weekly festivities are attended by more than 800 general managers, head coaches, assistant coaches, scouts and other front-office personnel from all 32 NFL teams.
Other than the combine, there won't be a better shot to show what he can do, against other hungry, prospective draft picks.

But to look forward, we must look back. First of all, let's look at Gibson's 2007 season.

Catches: 67
Yards: 1180
Average: 17.6 per catch
TD: 9
Yards per game: 107.3

Add in that he was first-team All-Pac-10 while leading the conference in yards per game, and finishing #2 to Arizona's Mike Thomas in TD's and catches per game.

Pretty impressive. Even while sharing the stage with a 70-catch WR in Michael Bumpus, and a 50+ catch tight end in Jed Collins, Gibson was still the brightest star. Now obviously it helped things having the guy throwing you the ball as an experienced, smart, senior QB who was breaking a lot of school records in the process. But Gibson was as good as any WR on the west coast in 2007.

As everyone knows, Gibson flirted with the NFL evaluation committee after that breakout '07 season, but based on the feedback, it wasn't exactly a ringing endorsement for his NFL stock. While the exact round has never been revealed, we have heard it was anywhere between a late 3rd-round pick to a late 5th rounder, likely dependent on the progress of his individual workouts in pre-draft situations.

Now, a lot of us wouldn't scoff at being a mid-round NFL draft choice. You get a contract, you get a signing bonus of some kind, but to go a step further? Unlike undrafted free agents, as a draft pick you get every opportunity to make an NFL club! Today's GM's go to great lengths to get value from their picks. If that means the player makes the club and is inactive, whether they are on the practice squad, or even if the GM trades them to another club for future considerations, they will do everything they can to get value. And Brandon Gibson would have had value in the league this year.

The other side to it is what are the immediate needs of the player? Are they in serious financial straits, where they must leap for whatever money they can get at the time? Or maybe they are an uninterested member of the student body who is counting down the days to get the hell outta Pullman. In either case, if the player is going to be drafted, then it makes sense to go for it, even if you are a second-rounder or a second day NFL draft choice.

But as we know, Gibson came back. We hailed it as a big "get" for Paul Wulff, maybe his biggest recruit of his first season.

But then 2008 happened:

Catches: 57 (in 13 games, two more than 2007)
Yards: 673
Average: 11.8 per catch
TD: 2
Yards per game: 51.8

Not as impressive is it? Well, OK, it IS impressive to an extent. Especially when you consider the woeful QB and offensive line situations that completely hammered the progress and ideals of what the offense COULD have been in '08. Heck, it got so bad the team had to reduce the offensive playbook by more than 50%. But it's not hard to argue that Gibson's 2008 was night and day different compared to 2007, and it's not even close.

All that said, one might assume Gibson's NFL draft stock is in some serious trouble. Believe it or not, he's hanging in there. Mid-round pick. Gibson clocks in at 6-1, 202, running a 4.55 40-time. Strengths include decent height and bulk, good route runner, excellent hands, technically sound. Weaknesses are a lack of great speed or quickness and lacking a real burst who doesn't get a lot of separation. Lacks a huge amount of upside. They seem to like him here, projected as a possible 3rd or 4th round pick. They like him less than NFL draft scout, and project him as a 5th rounder. They still like him too. While not projected to go in the first two rounds, they do have him at #99 in their top-100 prospects. That's good for a 3rd round pick or maybe early 4th.

But again, you can't base EVERYTHING on his senior year. NFL execs will look at the full body of work, but, the workouts and interviews will matter much, much more.

One could look at Jason Hill and see an example of how it went. Faced with the same decision, you may remember Hill decided to come back to school in 2006 after a huge 2005 season.

But 2006 didn't live up to his expectations. His catches dropped from 62 in 2005 to just 41 in 2006. Plus, he suffered the dreaded high ankle sprain with three games left in the year, and likewise, the team's offensive production fell off in a big way after losing Hill (and also Bumpus, although Bump managed to play in the Apple Cup). Losing the big-play ability of Hill was just too much to overcome and the team ran out of gas. But on the bright side, Hill busted his butt in off-season workouts, and showed just what HE could do at the Senior Bowl.

Hill also wowed many with his combine numbers. He ran a fantastic 4.32 40-time at the NFL combine, good for #2 among all WR's in the draft. Hill was taken in the 3rd round by San Fran, but struggled big-time in 2007, recording just one catch for the entire year. But 2008 was a different story, hauling in 30 balls and a couple of scores. While not a superstar by any measure, he is a player who is certainly on the rise. But if anything, Hill lays out the blueprint for success for Gibson - bust your behind in the Senior Bowl, have some great workouts and interviews, and a lost senior year will be forgotten.

So what do YOU think? Does Gibson have a chance to pull a Jason Hill? Or did he blow it by coming back his senior year?

That's it for today. ENJOY YOUR THURSDAY, and GO COUGS!

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Monday, January 12, 2009

Rumor: Chris Ivory to Return for Senior Year?

I know it has been assumed all along that junior running back Chris Ivory would be out once the year was over. Injuries, rumors of being in Wulff's "dog house" or whatever, etc. But here we are in January, classes are starting back up....and no news of his transfer or release from his scholarship? And now, rumor has it Ivory is going to stick it out? I heard from someone late last week that this was a possibility, and now today's message board has a "family friend" saying Ivory is coming back for his senior year. It hasn't been acknowledged by the official media but we are checking out a few things to see if it holds water.

Ivory has been on both ends of the spectrum. When healthy he's a fast, physical player with good moves and packs a punch at the point of attack. But it hasn't altogether clicked for Ivory, and 2008 looked like a lost season for him. He's been injured off and on since his frosh season, banged up with various leg ailments. But count me among many who thought he looked like he might take off after a good finish to the 2007 season, where he had two 100+ yard games rushing over the last three, including a career-best 114 yards vs. UW in the '07 Apple Cup (averaging 8.1 yards per carry in that one).

Where does Ivory's potential return leave the backfield? Crowded, but in a very good way. You have seniors Dwight Tardy and now Chris Ivory, plus the potential breakout of junior-to-be sensation James Montgomery, the transfer from Cal. And, you can't forget the physical, bruising Logwone Mitz.

Mitz ended up second on the team in rushing in 2008, just 40 yards behind Dwight Tardy. And who could forget that 57-yard TD run in the Apple Cup? Mitz gives the Coug offense that short-yardage bruiser-type, always a necessity when you are trying to move the chains. Mix in Chantz Staden as a potential 3rd-down specialist, provided he returns from his knee injury, and you have FIVE guys who could be in the mix for carries.

Kind of goes along with BH's prediction of seeing a TON of running plays next year, doesn't it??

We'll see if/when official news breaks. Here's hoping he's back and set to add depth and power to a position that is clearly looking like the strength of the offense in 2009!

ENJOY your Monday, and as always, GO COUGS!
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Sunday, January 11, 2009


Fantastic, gut-it-out victory by our young men last night. While last night's victory was not a season SAVING win (that will be determined this week), it certainly was a season CONTINUING win.

Lose this game, and it is REALLY hard to find a way to get close to that .500 mark needed for post-season action of any sort. But, with the win last night, we find ourselves two games back of the conference lead and one back of second (or third) place after a tough first week plus of upper division talent.

For this win to mean anything, however, we need to sweep the Oregon schools this weekend. If we do, we'll not only get over .500, we'll also even up our home-road W-L differential(+2 on road, -2 at home).

Meanwhile, here are my thoughts about the keys to last night's victory:

1) Casto, Casto, Casto. We've been talking about the potential impact and promise of this kid for weeks now. He was great in the LSU game but then didn't play the second half. Ditto the UW game. He was okay in the CAL game, but then BRILLIANT last night. We are SO MUCH better both offensively and defensively with him and Baynes in the game at the same time. Lets hope we see him start from here on out.

2) Line-up, line-up, line-up. At the end of the game last night, we had Baynes and Casto in the post and a three guard line up of Lodwick, Taylor, and Thompson. While Abe

was only 1-3 from three point land from my count, the one he made was a HUGE tie-up basket after coming in dead cold. While he missed the next two, his shot was high and soft. More importantly, he gave up NOTHING on the defensive end. As a result, we not only were better underneath defensively with that line-up (which won us the game), we also were better offensively with two low post scoring threats AND three shooters. This line-up folks, if used and further developed over the next week, can win games in this league.

3) Athleticism. This is a part of the previous note, but for the first time in a while, we looked athletic. And boy is that important when you start playing Major Conference basketball. For us to compete, we have to replace the athleticism lost from Weaver and to a certain extent Low. We did that last night.

4) Cross-Zone dribble penetration. One of the ways you can think about examining an offense is to split the half court vertically into thirds. So, if you start at one side of the court and dribble laterally to the other side of the court, you would travel through all three zones. Last night was the first time that MOST of our ball handlers consistently moved the ball across at least two (if not three) zones with their dribble. And boy was there space as a result.

What makes that type of movement work is when there is balanced scoring threats on both sides of the court. With our finishing line up, that balance was there. We looked GREAT!

5) Coaching and Belief. As we all should notice by now, CAL is for real. And, the way that we attacked CAL in spurts on Thursday was an indication that the team was still pushing and believing. Last night, Casto remarked after the ballgame about how the players come to WSU because they believe in Tony and his system. Well, what last night showed again is that Tony's "system" not only involves consistently sound defense, it also includes a willingness to significantly adjust his offensive philosophy and personnel.

The key now, in my view, is to make the line-up switch to how we finished last night, bringing Forrest, Nick, Harmeling, and Capers off the bench--which brings you veteran savy off the bench when you need to "hold" games and maker energy plays. If Abe and to a certain extent Thompson can find a three point shooting touch the next couple of weeks, our previous talk of an NCAA birth--which looked LUDICROUS just a few days ago--might once again be in the cards.

Hope your week gets off to a good start.
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Friday, January 09, 2009

Tebow Nation, Yet Again

I hope most of you were able to catch the BCS title game last night. Quite a performance by Mr. Tebow, showing up big on the biggest stage. He had that slow start with some sluggishness and mistakes, but he righted himself big-time down the stretch. The guy is simply amazing though, and that performance in the second half proves that he is THE MAN in the college game right now. Sam Bradford is a fabulous QB who absolutely destroyed everyone in his path this year, but Tebow showed he is the guy you want under center when it's winning-time.

The impressive thing about Tebow isn't just the stats (only two INT's all season coming into the game), nor is it the great person factor, by all accounts the real deal in every way. But the thing I am blown away by is his ability to lift his team and lead them, and they follow him to the ends of the earth. I don't know if I've ever seen a team rally around one player like they do for Tebow. This is a "homer" angle, but maybe Jason Gesser had that touch on his team? That performance vs. UCLA in 2002 with the torn up ankle is a history-book chapter in itself. But even I can see that this Tebow is on another level.

The story is a big one, about how he went on a huge tirade after they lost at home to Ole Miss earlier in the year, where he just went nuts on a rant in a way nobody had ever seen from him before. But when he was done, they all said that they would never let that happen again. And they didn't. But Tebow did the same kind of thing last night. After that tight 7-7 first half, Tebow reportedly went off at halftime, pretty much losing his voice in the process:
"Don't be afraid of one-five holding that thing," Tebow said -- or screamed? -- at the coaches at halftime. "Believe in us and believe in me, and we can get the job done."
And Tebow was right. He took that game over in the second half. Per ESPN, "On Florida's 75-yard, third-quarter drive to take a 14-7 lead, he ran or threw for all but 15 of the yards. That included a third-and-4 run for 15 yards and a dodging, cutting, win-the-collision scramble for 12 more on third and 10. On the 76-yard drive for Florida's clinching touchdown in the fourth quarter, Tebow ran or passed for all but six of the yards. Twice he completed passes to convert third downs, and then he capped the drive with a trademark jump pass to unheralded wideout David Nelson. "

Meanwhile, how about Percy Harvin!?!? HOLY COW. That kid is lightning, and that's with one healthy ankle! Talk about speed. He's got the Reggie Bush factor going for him, where every time he has the football in his hands, you feel like he could take it to the house.

And it's not like he's a kid who can only run fly sweeps around the outside and doesn't like to get hit. So many times they would motion him into the backfield and he would take a read-option handoff right up the middle. He's going to make a LOT of money at the next level.

But it also has to be said - the Florida defense saved that game! Oklahoma had two huge opportunities to maybe even blow the game wide open in the 2nd quarter, where twice they had it first-and-goal, but both times came away with zero points. Once they went for it on 4th and a foot and were stuffed, big-time. The other on a strange, bobbled, tipped pass for an INT at the goal line right before halftime. Either score gives them the lead - and big-time momentum - heading into the locker room. Instead it was frustration for missing such great opportunities, and you better believe that had an effect on that team.

Speaking of defenses, I know I expected more offensive fireworks than we saw, but wow, the hitting in that game was just huge, by both teams. We knew Florida was going to run and hit as well as any defense around, and that SEC speed and power was as advertised. But Oklahoma fought hard for quite a while before wearing out at the end of the game. That said, huge tip of the hat to Florida's defense. Oklahoma was one of the hottest offenses in the modern era, scoring at least 60 points in five straight games, and setting an FBS record by averaging 54 points per game on the season. Yet Florida limited them to FOURTEEN POINTS. This from a team that averaged 35 points in the FIRST HALF all year! Amazing.

I will also say this. There isn't a defensive tackle who would better fit the Seahawks' needs next year than Oklahoma's Gerald McCoy. Provided he comes out for the draft that is, but if you are looking for a 6-4, 300-lb disruptor up front who can power through double-teams, shoot the gaps with explosive power and also drop back in zone blitzes and grab an interception!? What a player!

So, here's a question - what would USC do to Florida, Utah or even Oklahoma? Do you think Utah has a legit claim to at least share the title? Do you think USC would handle any team in the country right now? Personally I think SC would beat Oklahoma, and probably Utah as well. But Florida, I'm not so sure. They are so physical and have so much speed on defense. I wonder if Mark Sanchez would be up to the task of beating that defense. Again, Florida just held Oklahoma to 14 points. And offensively, the one team USC struggled with this year, Oregon State, was a team that ran the ball incredibly well. Florida has been running for over 200 yards per game on everyone lately, and that's against SEC defenses. But I know this - I WOULD LOVE TO SEE IT! Wouldn't it be great to see USC and Florida, in one more game to settle it all??

That's it for today. Enjoy your Friday, and GO COUGS!
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Wednesday, January 07, 2009

USC North or USC NOT?

Well, sports fans. The UW has finally completed its off-season mission of trying to become USC North.

Funny, when I was a wee lad watching Spider Gaines and Warren Moon down the big condoms, I thought the goal of UW was to BEAT USC, not become them.

Thankfully, these recent hires and developments by the Defeateds on behalf of the Defeateds have ensured that UW will neither beat nor become USC anytime in the near future. Here's why:


Need proof of this claim? How about a quick run-down of the primary attributes of the Football Program at the University of Southern California.

1) In case you didn't know, USC is located right outside of the Hood in Los Angeles, California. This location makes USC the lifelong dream of every kid who grows up in an Urban locale anywhere in Southern California--one of the top 4 recruiting hot beds in the country. Moreover, USC's location near Hollywood and its relationship to several celebrity alumni make it attractive to kids all over the country that want 15 minutes or more of fame.

Last time I checked, Washington was not located in Southern California.

2) USC has FIVE DECADES of National Stature. Yep, a half century. USC was great in the 60's, great in the 70's, great in the 80's, pretty darn good in the 90's, and record breaking in the past decade. Washington was really good in the early 80's, great in the early 90's, and had one good year this decade. If this were a boxing match, let's call it a 3rd round TKO in favor of SC.

3) USC is Heisman Central. You wanna win a Heisman? Go to SC. You wanna go to New York? Go to Washington State.

Last I checked, the Huskies have sent NO ONE to New York even when they were great. So, if you want to strike a pose

you go to SC. Period.

4) Four and Five Star recruits go to warm weather--or they go to Ohio State. Its really that simple. Since scholarships have been reduced, warm weather teams have overwhelmingly been in National Championship games as well as the top 5. Sure there have been exceptions, but like home buying, its all about location, location, location. And Montlake sure ain't what it used to be.

5) USC motivates by both fun and fear. Everyone knows that Pete Carroll's enthusiasm is nothing short of infectious. Hell, I want to play for USC when I watch them play and I've grown up hating them my whole life. But the other factor that makes USC great are their famous OPEN WEDNESDAYS. Yep, every Wednesday, the whole team of 5 star parade All Americans strap it on to determine who starts EACH WEEK.

You wanna cool those bandits down a bit? How about putting each player's job on the line every stinking week! And you know what? Each player knows that the staff means business because SC WILL WIN with you or without you. Its plain. Its simple.

And its PROVEN.

Which brings us back to the little Defeateds.

You wanna know what it takes to re-build a last place program (which it IS by record for this decade) into an upper division team?

It takes development. It takes recruiting 2 star kids and making them 3 star kids. It takes recruiting 2 and 3 star kids and making them into NFL players.

And you know how you do that? The EXACT way that Coach Paul is doing it with our program right now.

You go on the road, you build air tight relationships with high school and community college programs, and you build the darn thing up brick, by brick, by brick. And as we know, it is a slow and VERY painful process.

Yep, the key for the UW's fortunes in this coaching cycle was to hire a builder.

Instead, they got his opposite.

Case in point:

Let's take a look at their newest hire:

In addition to setting a record for the most "awesomes" ever recorded in one press conference as he did yesterday, the former lead singer of Midnight Oil also

talked about his preference for having full contact drills each practice for the entire season next year. Really? Think that'll work with the bodies they've got on that winless roster of theirs?

Last time I checked, when teams that are not 17 deep and try to do that kind of stuff, they wind up having nationally publicized try outs for quarterback at Week Six of the season. Moreover, the last time that tricky Nicky was charged with a development project, it didn't work out so well did it? (although his dome sure was perfect for the University of Spud Hub, no?)

So, in a nutshell, when you try to make Walter Matthau

into Brad Pitt

you run the risk of getting a really ugly outcome:

And such is the case with the Defeateds. They shot for the stars and got a constellation of White Dwarfs.

So, watch the recruiting wires in the coming months and years: If this group can't land 4-5 star guys in the next two, then this is a train wreck just waiting to happen.

And I for one am looking forward to Episode I of that sixteen car crash around the week of November 22nd next year.

Nice job of keeping alive your current streak of wonderfully bad coaching decisions.

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Monday, January 05, 2009

2009 Schedule Now Complete; Pac-10 Good After All?

After some delays and speculation, including the "future" schedule just showing the 2008 season from the WSU website, things are finally complete. June Jones' SMU Mustangs will come to Pullman on 9/19, completing the three game non-conference slate for the upcoming season.

SMU pretty much stunk in '08, rolling out a 1-11 season in their first season under Jones. We'll take a closer look at them this spring for our fish wrap series, but they struggled big-time. They did hang in there against bowl teams like Houston (44-38), Memphis (31-26) and Tulsa (37-31) but 1-11 is 1-11. Awfully bumpy. SMU was the only Conference USA team to not win a conference game, going 0-8, with their only victory was against Texas State, an FCS school out of the Southland conference.

The schedule also includes the news that Hawai'i will be the Seattle game opponent on September 12th. I don't think this is a surprise to many, as it was rumored for some time that they would be the match-up in Seattle.

Here's a question for you - Do you like the Seattle game? Hate it? I have to admit that I loved it at first and have liked it less over the last few seasons. But I think it is a necessary thing now and is here to stay. Even in some down years they have been drawing a decent crowd to Qwest, and it does give a lot of west side alums a chance to see the team. In these tough economic times, a trip from Seattle to Pullman might be harder to pull off next fall. Having the team come to Seattle makes sense, maybe more than ever. I just hope we never see a conference home game in Seattle. Make the conference travel to Pullman!

So that makes it Hawai'i, SMU and Notre Dame at San Antonio for the non-conference games. Then in the Pac-10, we have home games against Stanford, ASU, UCLA and Oregon State, with road games against Cal, Arizona, USC, Oregon and UW. Most likely opening up with Stanford in Pullman on 9/5, but that's all we know right now. Dates and times TBA.

Moving on, so, how about that weak Pac-10? 5-0 in bowl games, including USC destroying Penn State in the granddaddy of them all. Speaking of USC, did you see what Rey Maualuga did to Erin Andrews before the game??

Whatever. EA 's taken a lot of crap for being attractive on the sidelines, from blogs to broadcasters to athletes. But it has to be said - fair or not, it more or less comes with the territory in the testosterone-elevated world where she works. It's not fair, obviously, but it's true. We've even made fun of her a few times, but nothing too bad. We like her. Quite a bit actually. But that wasn't a real classy move by Rey. Remember, Maualuga once claimed "he owned the police" after an incident a few years ago in LA. To come up behind her and shimmy, with thousands of people watching? Again, whatever.

But anyway, the Pac-10 went 5-0 in the bowls? How could this happen after such a national beating the conference took in 2008? I think a big part of it is that, quite frankly, the Pac-10 was much, much better at the end of the season than it was in the beginning of the year. And the biggest reason? The QB situation. Think about it for a moment:

1) USC was starting a brand new QB in Mark Sanchez after John David Booty graduated. USC walloped Virginia in their opener, then beat an incredibly overrated Ohio State team in LA. But then they had to travel to Corvallis on a Thursday night and got beat by a fired-up Oregon State team. At the time that loss looked bad, and Sanchez was rather ordinary if not bad for about three quarters of that game. Yet Oregon State turned out to be a win away from the Rose Bowl. It wasn't looked at as a "good" loss at the time, but by the end of the year it didn't look too bad. That early-season road loss was their only blemish on their season. Mark Sanchez settled down after that first month of the year, and SC was rarely threatened the rest of the season. And a MAJOR hat-tip to Pete Carroll and USC. Did you know that they just had their SEVENTH season in a row with at least 11 wins!?!? A few years ago we ran with our media guide saying how great it was to win 10 games three years in a row. But 11 wins seven years in a row?? Unreal.

2) Oregon started over at QB, losing Heisman hopeful Dennis Dixon, and it was a big QB roulette early on. They blew it at home vs. Boise State when they played three different QB's and didn't even have the starter coming into the season, Justin Roper, due to injury. They were also hammered vs. USC and lost on the road vs. Cal, a team they never seem to beat. But they did end up going 6-1 over their last seven games, including the embarrassment in Corvallis and the Holiday Bowl shootout over Okie State. Oregon was considerably better in the last month of the season, and a ton of their improvement can be attributed to Jeremiah Masoli taking control of the QB position.

3) We know the tale of the Beavs. Two losses to start the year, including their pants being pulled down to their ankles vs. Penn State. But after starting 2-3, they finished with their usual kick, winning seven of their last eight games. We should also consider their tough three-point loss at Utah, a game by all accounts they should have won. The same Utah team that just completed a perfect season by trouncing the uninterested Crimson Tide and Nick Saban. But the Beavs had QB issues early on with some erratic play, including some injury issues from Lyle Moevao. Yet just another nine-win, bowl-winning season for Oregon State. Ho-hum.

4) Cal kind of slogged through the meat of the season, at one point 6-4 and looking pretty shaky. But they would win their last three, including their bowl game over Miami, to finish with an impressive 9-4 record. That said, their QB play was up-and-down all year. Some games they had Kevin Riley looking like the MAN (remember how good he looked vs. WSU?) and then other games, Nate Longshore would split the time, and there were moments where they both would kind of wander through games. A weird year for them, but they closed it out on top.

5) Finally, Arizona. They were the only team of the Pac-10 bowl teams who actually had a seasoned starter in Willie Tuitama. After a hot 4-1 start, they almost blew it, at one point at 6-5 and a showdown with ASU looming in what could have been a winner-take-all bowl bid (although that is unlikely. The Pac-10 didn't fill all their bowl slots this year, so, any Pac-10 team with six wins was going to the post-season). But the Mildcats beat ASU for the first time in four years, and then won the Vegas Bowl over a bored BYU team to finish 8-5.

So there you have it. While the bottom two teams were pretty much automatic wins for every other team in the conference in '08 (and we know which two teams were in the bottom ten for the majority of the season?!?), the end-result for the conference was pretty damn good. And all five bowl teams finished with a kick. USC 11 wins, Oregon 10 wins, Oregon State and Cal both with nine wins, and Arizona with eight. Not so bad is it?

That's about it for a Monday. Enjoy your week, and GO COUGS!
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Saturday, January 03, 2009

Defeateds No More?

(Well, at least where basketball is concerned, we know about Football).

Greetings Cougar Nation, welcome to Apple Cup time, basketball style.

Its pretty darn hard to predict this game because by the time that game time nears, I am so fired up about beating the Defeateds that it is pretty hard to come up with anything but a MASSIVE Cougar Victory.

Unfortunately, today I am going against my burning urge to declare victory, and will predict a temporary end to our World Class Domination of our non-friends to the West:

That said, if we DO win today, here are some ways that we will do it:

1) Protect the Ball.

This obviously goes without saying, but Washington is long and athletic. This will matter in two ways: 1) If we allow them to get out in transition. 2) If we try to shoot over them--which will get them out in transition. So, protecting the ball means doing just that when their defense extends, but it also means taking that mid-range jumper like we did in spurts last week. Those shots will be open, so if we win, expect 15-18 from Thompson and another dozen or so from Forrest.

2) Make them shoot Free-Throws.

Granted, the last thing we need is for Forrest and Baynes to pick up 4 fouls in the first two minutes like last week, but this would be a good week to hack a little especially against Brockman--as well as any time that they get out in transition. If you make UW shoot over the top and not give up layups they'll shoot themselves out of the game.

3) Establish Baynes and Hold Your Breath.

Baynes is either going to be an aggressor early or he'll be trying to "not pick up" fouls after the first two minutes. So, when he gets the ball early on the left block and barges into the lane for the right handed hook, hold your breath that it goes in and that they do NOT call him for a charge.

4) Coaching of Freshman.

Both Thompson and Thomas have shown flashes of brilliance in their early freshman campaigns. My sense is that one of them is going to go off today while one will disappear. Both teams have the ability to completely throw off these two kids today, so it will be interesting to see which kids are the most coached up. Thompson in particular is going to be pressed, so it will be VERY important for him to come closely off of those ball screens and to establish that mid-range game EARLY.


I'm thinking that we still won't get it yet on O in order to keep them out of transition. I think we're going to see too much Nick and not enough Casto--who needs to play about 20 minutes today. And I am not convinced that Taylor believes others on this team can get it done. Until that trust is there, we won't win. And, yes, I think we'll see a lot of Casper and not much Daven.

UW 67 WSU 54.

Let me be WRONG. Let me be WRONG.

Back at Gametime.
15:40 1st. 4-2 Good Guys. I know its only a few minutes into the game, but you can see that if we don't turn the ball over, the Dawgs just don't match-up. Taylor is doing a nice job of taking it at Thomas, but it is simply MIND BOGGLING that Baynes has touched the ball ONCE on the block (and of course, he scored in spite of the double team). Meanwhile, there is NO WAY that Dentmon can guard Klay. Make this the Klay-Baynes show and we'll run away with this one.

Casper CAN NOT play the three against this team. Bring in Casto.

3:00 1st 24-21 Dawgs. Are we playing at home or in Seattle? Damn, I thought that the days of having every single call go against us were over. Interesting game, Dentmon is hot as hell, and we are not. Yet, we're only down three in spite of playing a bunch of the kids as well as a five minutes stretch with a four forward line-up. Overall, I'm still puzzled by the lack of involvement with Baynes. So far, he has made ONE mistake off the double, but his production warrants us taking more chances with him.

Halftime. 30-28 Dawgs

Overall, they're playing well and we're really not. And yet, the score is near dead even. In the second half, I hope we establish Baynes (duh) and I hope we can get something going with Thompson on the block given his HUGE advantage in length. Best way to slow Dentmon down is to make him work on the defensive end and get him in foul trouble.

Also: Casto needs to be more assertive offensively. And he needs to be in the game for most of the second half. His presence on defense is desperately needed. As we had to learn last year, let the other team penetrate a bit more to minimize the WIDE OPEN kick-out three. If we have two bigs underneath, we can let that first penetration go a bit without so much help.

Does this feel like LSU all over again?

17:00 2nd. UW 37-30. This does feel JUST like LSU--but worse. Remember when I said earlier that one of the two frosh would star while the other would disappear? Well, Thomas is starring and Thompson is disappearing. This team is becoming increasingly frustrating to watch, we're slow moving the ball along the perimeter and VERY unsure of ourselves at both ends of the court. We are running out of time to learn on the fly.

11:00 46-38 Dawgs. Well, Taylor is picking it up a bit offensively, but overall we look over-matched. This team is ONE scorer short which is exacerbated by how little we use Baynes. The only recipe for getting back into this game is through the foul line. We need to start hacking a bit. Lets make them earn them the rest of the way.

7:28 51-41 Dawgs. We made it a five point game at 46-41 followed by a 5-0 run that makes the game out of hand. We got to the penalty with 10:00 left but have taken the ball to the rack once since. Our lack of ability to involve Baynes is still painful. Romar has seriously outcoached Bennett in this one.

4:45 55-43 Dawgs. Ballgame. Here comes Medina Booster. If anyone forgot what being lower division feels like, now we know.

Where's Casto? Why can't Baynes get the ball more often? Why are we not at the rack when we've been in the penalty for 7 minutes? Why can't we get Harmeling set up on the weakside perimeter baseline?

We're very confused and not very well coached right now. This will be an interesting test for T-bone and the Cougar program.

FINAL SCORE UW 68 WSU 48 UW finishes on a 22-7 run.

One word: OUCH!!!!!!!!!
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Friday, January 02, 2009

8th Aint Enough

Merry New Year Cougar Nation and Brinkhater Army.

Hope you all have recovered from your merriment and are ready for the primary slate of Cougar Hoops 2009.

As I noted here on this blog a couple of weeks back, I thought that the twin bill of purple and gold (LSU and the Defeateds) represented our first set of "must win" games of this season.

While I could have been wrong about the former, there is little doubt in me brain


With that in mind, here are my thoughts on what I think MUST happen for us to make the dance, what I think will happpen, and a quick prediction on the conference.


Folks, in my view the way that the conference schedule shapes up does NOT favor this team and its development. Simply put, I think that if this team had a favorable second half schedule, I would be MUCH more optimistic about this team's prospects for the upcoming season.

On the bright side, we are now entering conference play at 8-4 having played about as bad as we can play. Think about it: only Baynes and Thompson should receive high marks for their pre-season play, while the others (with maybe Forrest as an exception) all should get C's or below. So, in my book, if you take where we are as "as bad as it gets" then you get the 8th place Pac-10 team that I think we are right now.

So, back to the schedule.

In my book, the next five games are key. If we want to be on that bubble, we need to be 4-1 in the first five if not 5-0. So, we need to beat UW, sweep the Bay Area and split the Oregons, or split the Bay Area and sweep the Oregons.

Then, you have the LA schools at home followed by the roady to the Arizona schools. Split those puppies and you have a 6-3 first half which is a MUST for us. Why?

Check out the second half schedule: @Defeateds, @The Bay Area, @LA-LA land. That means that only the Oregon schools and the two AZ schools are at home in the second half. So, if you sweep Oregon at home, split at the Bay, split the AZs at home, you get a 4-5 split that puts us at 10-8. Then you're a conference tourney game from the Dance.

From my perspective, that is the ONLY chance that we have.

There have been several articles written in the papers and on other blogs citing differences between this year's team and last year's. In my book, the differences are plain and simple:

1) This year's team does not CREATE turnovers at the defensive end. As a result, this team has no current ability to score points in transition which makes us extremely vulnerable if we're not right in the half-court.

2) This year's team is a better half-court offensive team than last year's. However, that potential is obscured because of the lack of points generated in transition and our puzzling unwillingness to establish Baynes and his 63% field goal percentage early, mid, late, and often in games.

This team will meet last year's conference record IF it can better establish Baynes in the left block early, IF Taylor can look to distribute first and take care of the damn ball, and if Klay Thompson and Baynes both put it up 15 times a game. The more those two shoot, the better. Taylor, meanwhile, needs to get his 10 or 11 a game from making 6 free throws in the final minutes. He MUST focus on distributing first. And, Nick MUST find his role as a spot energy guy. IF T-Bone makes him something else, then its a long, long year for us.

Right now, this team is a 6-12 group which is 8th in the conference. If things go right in the next three weeks, this team could also be a 12-6 group which would be 3rd. That makes me think that 9-9 is probably squarely in the cards. That spells NIT and 8th place in what will be a VERY middle heavy conference.

Arizona is the only team that I think we CAN NOT and WILL NOT beat in the conference. While I don't think we'll beat UCLA, I think that we could as they have not beaten ANYONE of consequence so far and lack a low-post threat that can stop Baynes if he's used and on his "A" game.

The fate of the Bay Area schools will be known in the next two weeks as they open with the Arizonas and then have to travel North to play us and the Defeateds. I think both of those schools are also mid-tier teams which makes the first two weeks for both them and the Washingtons all the more crucial.

While I like UCLA as a top-two team, I'm not ready to crown them outright like everyone else. I also HATE USC right now. While they have the athleticism for their customary upsets of USC and Arizona, they still lack too much D to command a top 3 finish. And I don't think they make the Dance.

Meanwhile, ASU still plays down to their competition and are EXTREMELY vulnerable to problems if Harden gets hurt or is in foul trouble, and AZ still shows much inconsistency for a group that is so darn talented. Neither Oregon school can contend.

Predicted Order of Finish:

1. Arizona Call me cwazy, but in an open year, this is my pick to win the conference at 13-5. A lot of balance, a lot of athleticism, and a nice edge.

2. UCLA. This is a co-championship because I also think that UCLA goes 13-5. There's a lot of strengths here to be sure, but there's also enough weakness coupled with a lot of teams in the Pac (USC, both AZs, both Washington Schools, and both Bay Area schools) that could conceivably split with them.

3. Arizona State. This team COULD be a dangerous tournament match-up but they remind me a lot of a counterpoint to last year's SC team: One great player. That means a few W's that coulda been L's as well as a few headscrather L's (see ASU's one point win against Indiana University-Purdue-Indianapolis an example)

4. Washington. They fall to 8th in my book depending on what happens in THEIR first three games. But, a win against us sets them up for two HUGE home games. They too are shooting for a 4-1 start. My sense is that they get it, while we don't.

5. CAL. I'll eat my hat if they don't get fifth. CAL is a 10-8 team if I've ever seen one.

6. USC. I'll eat my hat if they finish above fifth. This is a 10-8 team if I've ever seen one.

7. Stanford. See-saw, see-saw. Can they make the tourney going 9-9 after an undefeated start? They'll have to win a couple in the Pac-10 tournament. Goods and Hill are great, but they aren't that much better than other wings to make up for spotty PG play and no post presence.

8. WSU. Like I said, 9-9. But, with a lot of potential to switch with the Puppies. That's how important tomorrow's game is.

9. Oregon. Very long year for Kent's crew.

10. OSU. Mr. Robinson will build this program over the coming years. But if you think our offense looks bad at times, check out what they've got.

The proverbial "we" will be back tomorrow with a quick prediction and another irrelevant game thread.
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