Charlotte, N.C. - Bobcats Arena
7:27 p.m., CBS (Dick Enberg, Jay Bilas)
"What we have to do is figure out how to score more than 40 points a game and how to see if we can speed them up when they're on offense, because they hurt you with tempo and they hurt you with low-scoring games on both ends of the floor…They really do a lot of really good things. Tony [Bennett's] done a great, great job." – UNC head coach Roy Williams
"There's a big collision coming, isn't there?" – Washington State head coach Tony Bennett
"They are the most impressive team in the country in getting down the floor and scoring in transition, on your misses and makes. We are playing against extreme talent." – Bennett
Season to Date: Washington State enters Thursday night's contest with a 26-8 record. The Cougars won their first 14 games before falling to UCLA, 81-74, on Jan. 12 in Los Angeles. Head coach Tony Bennett's second squad in Pullman posted an 11-7 mark in the Pac-10, and beat Oregon, 75-70, in the opening round of the conference tournament, before falling to Stanford, 75-68. Washington State holds down the No. 21 spot in the most recent RPI standings.
NCAA Tournament Results: The Cougars imposed their defensive will on both Winthrop (71-40) and Notre Dame (61-41) in opening weekend action in Denver, Col. WSU is allowing just 40.5 points per game in the two NCAA Tournament games thus far, holding their two opponents to a combined 27.6 percent on 29-of-105 shooting.
Veteran Value: Much has been made about Washington State's style of play, but a lot of the program's success this season has centered around skilled veterans that have plenty of experience. Red-shirt junior point guard Taylor Rochestie (10.7 ppg, 4.8 apg) leads the Pac-10 and ranks 7th nationally with a 2.81 assist/turnover ratio.
Senior guard Derrick Low (14.1 ppg) has knocked down 90 3-pointers this season, and senior wing Kyle Weaver (12.2 ppg, 4.3 apg) is believed to be the first player in Pac-10 history to record 1,000 points, 500 rebounds, 400 assists, 150 steals and 75 blocks in a career. Weaver also played with UNC guard Wayne Ellington in the Pan-Am Games last summer.
Senior Robbie Cowgill (7.4ppg, 5.0 rpg) has been a four-year starter for the Cougars, and 6-foot-10, 270-pound junior Aron Baynes (10.3 ppg, 5.9 rpg) grew up playing rugby in Australia.
Defensive Presence: In the typical Bennett family mode, Washington State is dominant on the defensive end of the floor, holding its opponents to 56.1 points per game, good for second nationally, with a 41.3 field goal percentage defense (33 percent from 3-point range).
Protecting the Ball: The Cougars rank third nationally in turnovers per game (9.9), which translates into an eighth-place national ranking in the assists/turnover ratio (1.4).
Postseason Awards: For the second-straight season, Low and Weaver earned Pac-10 All-Conference honors. Low was named to the third team, while Weaver picked up second-team accolades and was also included on the All-Pac-10 Defensive team. Cowgill was also honored as the Pac-10 Conference Men's Basketball Scholar-Athlete of the Year.
Odd Fact: Washington State's roster includes just one in-state product (freshman forward Charlie Enquist), while boasting international players from four different countries – sophomore guard Nikola Koprivica (Belgrade, Serbia), Baynes (Cairns, Australia), freshman forward Fabian Boeke (Kummerfeld, Germany) and freshman guard Thomas Abercrombie (Auckland, New Zealand).
Random Note: Thursday's game will also mark the first time the Cougars have played in a directional state – they have yet to play in North Carolina, North Dakota, South Carolina, South Dakota or West Virginia.
Series History: This is the first ever meeting between these two programs.
Projected Starters: 10 Taylor Rochestie (6-1, 186, Jr.) – 10.7 ppg, 4.8 apg 2 Derrick Low (6-2, 196, Sr.) – 14.1 ppg 25 Kyle Weaver (6-6, 201, Sr.) - 12.2 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 4.3 apg 34 Robbie Cowgill (6-10, 211, Sr.) - 7.4 ppg, 5.0 rpg 11 Aron Baynes (6-10, 270, Jr.) – 10.3 ppg, 5.9 rpg Key Reserves: 32 Daven Harmeling (6-7, 216, Jr.) – 5.7 ppg, 2.1 rpg 52 Caleb Forrest (6-8, 228, Jr.) – 3.5 ppg, 2.1 rpg 4 Nikola Koprivica (6-6, 211, So.) – 2.6 ppg, 1.0 rpg
Taylor Rochestie ... Kyle Weaver
Robbie Cowgill ... Derrick Low
Tony Bennett ... Aron Baynes