Washington State Cougars
Overall Rank: #13
Conference Rank: #3 Pac-10
2006-07: 26-8, 13-5, 2nd
2006-07 postseason: NCAA
With an extremely experienced and versatile backcourt and a steady frontcourt, Washington State surprised everybody last year going 26-8. With four starters returning and plenty of depth down the bench, Coach Tony Bennett is expected to have another run at the Pac-10 title. The conference will be brutally tough once again, but the Cougars will be right in the mix.
The lone starter lost is Ivory Clark, who averaged 8.4 points and 4.7 rebounds during his senior campaign. A couple transfers will hurt the perimeter depth a little bit, but not enough to cause any concerns. Mac Hopson and Chris Matthews both averaged over ten minutes per game, but were by no means the only options off the bench. Little used Antonio Chavers has wrapped up collegiate career after playing in just three games as a senior.
It is never a bad thing to have more big men, especially for the Cougars who will consistently be outrebounded yet again. Fabian Boeke, a 6-11 forward, will not be that tough rebounder under the basket that the team needs, but the German is expected to provide a scoring punch off the bench. He is a typical European player with solid shooting and perimeter skills, but he has room to grow in the strength department and, once that happens, could become an asset on the glass. Fellow forward Charlie Enquist is more an under the basket, shot blocking threat, but he will need some time to adjust to the level of play in the Pac-10. At 6-6 and 6-7, Thomas Abercrombie and Abe Lodwick will provide some height and depth on the wings. With so much talent in front of him, combo guard Stephen Sauls will not find much playing time this year. However, he has the reputation of being a great defender and that could earn the 6-3 Missouri City, Texas native some minutes.
Who to Watch:
Their names might not be too well known outside Pac-10 country, but Derrick Low, Kyle Weaver and Taylor Rochestie form one of the best backcourts in the nation. Low is the best scorer and shooter of the bunch, averaging 13.7 points per game and nearly eclipsing the 40 percent mark on his three-pointers. Low will not create shots for himself, but as long he continues to knock them down, it does not matter. The 6-6 Weaver is what makes the backcourt go. The do-everything guard averaged 11.2 points, 4.6 assists, 5.6 rebounds, 2.2 steals and 1.2 blocks during his breakout campaign. It is hard to imagine what he will do for his senior season. The duo spent their summer representing the United States in the Pan American Games and will be the leaders of WSU. Rochestie moved into the starting point guard spot late last season and proved to be a smart floor leader. He will not turn the ball over too much, but the team will need him to look to score more often if he is going to be a vital player on the team. Nikola Koprivica earned a few starts last season, but was sidelined with a knee injury. If he can return to form, the 6-6 wing will be the first guard off the bench.
Much of last season Washington State started three forwards. With Clark gone, Daven Harmeling should move from the small forward to the power forward spot. And that will cause more problems in the rebounding department. At 6-7 and with a great outside shot, Harmeling is a match-up nightmare for the opposition, but he only averaged 2.9 rebounds to go with his 8.9 points per game. When the team needs another rebounder on the floor, Robbie Cowgill and Aron Baynes will be playing. Cowgill, one of only two players to start all 34 games last year, is a decent post scorer and rebounder, but lacks the strength to battle against bigger opponents on the glass. The Cougars will get outrebounded quite a bit. That is the style of play they are running, so it is fine, but they better not do much worse than eighth in the conference again this year or WSU could run into some problems. They are good defensively, but nobody is going to win close games when they give up a handful of offensive rebounds down the stretch and have to play defense for a couple minutes straight. As long as Weaver can replace some of the rebounding production of Clark or Cowgill hit the weights hard, the Cougars will not run into many teams that can beat them.
Projected Post-season Tournament: NCAA
Projected Starting Five:
Taylor Rochestie, Junior, Guard, 4.6 points per game
Derrick Low, Senior, Guard, 13.7 points per game
Kyle Weaver, Senior, Guard, 11.2 points per game
Daven Harmeling, Junior, Forward, 8.9 points per game
Robbie Cowgill, Senior, Forward, 8.1 points per game