Try talking to an ACC fan about getting a Pac-10 'Split', and they'll think you were talking about gymnastics ... or that you were talking about a home game and a road game with one opponent. The same goes for someone in the Big East, the Big 12, or the SEC. It's also unique that a Pac-10 fan can explain the entire format and schedule of the best conference on the West Coast - in under five minutes. Of course once you walk a fan through the geographical makeup of the Pac-10, and how two teams from one state often play two teams from another on any given weekend, they'll understand what it means to get a Pac-10 'Split'.
There's another word you can apply too, and that is 'Sweep'. The problem is, those are few and far between for many Pac-10 programs. Even Cal, over the past twenty seasons, has won back to back same-state-games on just 9 occasions. Five times they have done it in Washington (the last time in 2001), and four times in Oregon. The Bears have never in those twenty years been able to break out their brooms in Arizona.
The Washington State Cougars have sunk to a level that simply cannot spiral much lower. The Cougars have been at the bottom of the Pac-10 for some years now, and we might not see that change during Coach Paul Graham's tenure. The Cougars are currently 5-9 (0-5 in the Pac-10), and finished 6-21 a year ago (1-17 in the Pac-10). Last year's lone conference win was against in-state rival Washington, and there are today some Cougar faithful who will admit that this year's goal is to once again get that one conference win. If things are going to change at Wazzu, a different mind-set and a different coach will be required.
Here is a quick look at the 2002-03 Washington State team:
Projected Starting Lineup: (Returning starters in Bold)
PG- Marcus Moore 6'6, 208 Jr (20.0 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 4.4 apg, 32% 3-Ptr's)
SG- Thomas Kelati 6'5, 185 So (9.9 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 3.7 apg, 47% 3-Ptr's)
SF- Cedric Hughey 6'6, 200 Sr (6.9 ppg, 4.4 rpg)
PF- Chris Schlatter 6'6 210 So (7.0 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 2.2 apg)
C- Justin Kordsmeier 7'0 275 Jr (3.5 ppg, 1.9 rpg)
Key Returning Reserves:
Jerry McNair 6'2 175 Sr (5.5 ppg, 1.0 rpg, 1.0 apg)
Milton Riley 6'8 200 Sr (7.4 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 1.0 apg)
Nick Graham 6'0 180 Jr (2.2 ppg, 0.1 rpg)
Justin Bellgarde 6'9 240 Jr (2.2 ppg, 3.1 rpg)
Justin Lyman 6'5 195 Sr (9.7 ppg, 2.4 rpg, 1.0 apg)
Shami Gill 6'7 235 So (Injured)
Ezenwa Ukeagu 6'7 250 Jr (Injured)
A first observation: the Cougars are depleted. Marcus Moore is playing with bone chips in his ankle, and Senior Milton Riley suffered a fractured back against USC Jan 2nd. Still, Riley managed somehow to play against Stanford, so we have to wonder if the WSU website is accurate in reporting Riley's injury as a fractured back. Whatever the case, those are only the "walking wounded". The Cougars have two other individuals who are not walking at all, starting forwards Shami Gill and Ezenwa Ukeagu. Gill has a stress reaction in his leg, while Ukeagu suffered appendicitis Tuesday. On top of that, senior Justin Lyman did not play against Stanford, perhaps due to illness.
There is no team in the Pac-10 that shoots more three-pointers than the Cougars, out-gunning even the Oregon Ducks who fire up a ton. WSU has actually put up 28 more than the Ducks so far this year, and 149 more than the Bears. They average over 26 three point attempts a game. Many of you have heard the old adage: "Live by the three, die by the three". Noting that the Cougars are now 2-26 for their last 28 Pac-10 Games, we'd have to say they've done a lot of dying. The only team they've beat during that interval has been Washington.
The Cougars actually shoot an adequate 35% from beyond the arc, though that's just 7th best in the conference. Did you know that the Bears are the number one three-point shooting team in the Pac-10? WSU shoots the three decently thanks primarily to one of the Pac-10's best long distance shooters, Thomas Kelati, who has knocked down 47% of his threes. Frankly, Kelati needs to shoot more as he has made the same number of threes (36) as has Marcus Moore with 35 less attempts.
Moore is, however, the star of this team, and one of the top players in the Pac-10. He's lanky and swift, with the height of a small forward. Moore also possesses excellent moves. He was the Pac-10's top scorer before last night's loss to Stanford where he scored only 7 points on that bad ankle.
Moore shooting less might actually be a good thing for WSU. For example, when leading the Cardinal by 14 in the second half, Moore started rushing his game, going 0 for 7 while attempting a series of difficult shots - and let Stanford back into the game. Were Moore to stay focused on point guard responsibilities, the Cougars might well win more games.
In the front court, WSU is certainly being tested now. Without Ukeagu and Gill, Coach Graham is relying on three newcomers and two under-achieving seniors. Starting at center is the large Justin Kordsmeier, a JC transfer from North Arkansas Community Tech. Kordsmeier is really just a space eater who might clean up a basket or two but certainly does not possess Pac-10 ability. Chris Schlatter and Cedric Hughey have mirror-image numbers, but Schlatter is the more active player. Schlatter is a transfer from St Mary's (CA), and Hughey came over a season ago from Westark College in Arkansas. Backing up the starters are Milton Riley and Justin Bellgarde, the latter a JC-transfer from Mendocino JC (CA). Riley is noticeably the best front court player that the Cougars have at the moment as he has quality skills and always shows energy, though he is somewhat foul prone. If that fractured back is real, we have to wonder how he is even playing.
There is no doubt that we are going to see a ton of bombs from the Cougars, and almost every shot will be from the perimiter. One exception: Marcus Moore will take the ball right at Richard Midgley, and he might even try that against A.J Diggs.
California 2002-03 Team
Projected Starting Lineup: (Returning Starters in Bold) 2002-03 Statistics
PG- Richard Midgley, 6'1 200 Fr. (9.0 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 2.9 apg, 46% 3-ptrs)
SG- Brian Wethers, 6'5 215 Sr. (14.1 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 3.0 apg, 35% 3-Ptr's)
SF- Joe Shipp, 6'5 220 Sr. (20.5 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 2.5 apg, 44% 3-ptrs)
F- Amit Tamir, 6'11 260 So. (17.5 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 3.0 apg, 48% 3-ptrs)
C- Gabriel Hughes, 6'11 230 Jr. (2.0 ppg, 3.2 rpg)
A.J. Diggs, 5'9 165 Jr. (4.8 ppg, 3.0
rpg, 2.6 apg, 2.3 spg)
David Paris, 6'9 260 Fr. (2.1 ppg, 1.7 rpg)
Erik Bond, 6'7 205 Fr. (2.7 ppg, 1.8 rpg, 0.8 apg, 32% 3-Ptr's)
Conor Famulener, 6'6 230 Jr. (2.8 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 1.2 apg)
Donte Smith, 6'2 190 Sr. (Has Not Played)
Rodrique Benson, 6'10 195 Fr. (Limited Minutes)
Martin Smith (Limited Minutes)
Tashaan Forehan-Kelly, 6'3 170 So. (Limited Minutes)
Jordi Vilardell, 6'10 190 Fr. (Limited Minutes)
The Bears will walk onto Friel Court Saturday evening looking to remain one of just two unbeaten temas in the Pac-10. Cal is playing with a lot of confidence, knowing that even if Pullman is generally a tough place to play for road teams, the Bears have managed a 50% winning record there over the past 20 years.
Joe Shipp and Amit Tamir are leading the Bears in just about every statistic, including scoring in each game of 2002-03. Shipp is now the Pac-10's scoring leader with a 20.5 average, and Tamir is just 5 spots back with 17.5 per game. Brian Wethers and Richard Midgley have supplied the aggression, though, giving Cal energy and confidence with their excellent back court play. Midgley has now started just 3 games this season but possesses the look of a veteran, and the savvy of a player who has done this all before. Wethers might be playing the best basketball of his Cal career right now, and that's saying something for the Pac-10's senior most athletic 2-guard.
Rebounding will again be the big key for Cal against Washington State, most notably the long rebounds that will result from the bucket-load of three-pointers that the Cougars will attempt. This will be an additional responsibility for Cal's back court players. I certainly do not see WSU driving the ball much, or suddently developing an inside game.
Cal will be the heavy favorite, though the game might be close through the first 15 minutes. I think the Bears will be up by 7 at the half, then extend their lead the rest of the way. I don't think we'll see a blowout, but I believe Richard Midgley will put on a show, likewise Joe Shipp. I don't know who is expected to guard Amit Tamirr, but whoever it is will have their hands full. We can anticipate that Brian Wethers will do more rebounding and passing than scoring. In this context, Midgley might have his best game to date, so I'll pick him as the Player of the Game. I think Shipp will lead the Bears in scoring, but I believe the Cougars are the type of team Richard can carve up. I'll say 81-67 Cal; I am 12-1 in my predictions this year.
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