This Week in Cougar Hoops

IT WAS PROPOSED to me by a media friend late last weekend that our version of March Madness in the Northwest this year might be a CBI regional. No NCAAs. Just a CBI throwdown between Washington State, Washington, Oregon State, Oregon, Gonzaga, Eastern Washington, Portland and Seattle University.

That would be kind of fun. Although I'm sure more than a few Washington State fans are hoping the Cougars will just shut down altogether after a what-the-hell-was-that performance at Oregon.

I know, I know. The gutty Cougars showed their bounce-back mettle by rebounding at Oregon State. I'm not even sure that's a good start. It's going to take a lot more than that to make up for the 69-43 stinker in Eugene.

Washington State has an NCAA tournament team, folks. But the Cougars are doing their best to mess it up. And I'm afraid the loss in Eugene could turn out to be the death blow.

Look, Oregon is to be admired for what it has made out of this season. The Ducks came into the year with scant talent and not a lot of offensive firepower. In his first year, Dana Altman is getting the most out of his team.

But the Ducks shouldn't beat Washington State. Not in Pullman, in Eugene or the moon. And certainly not by 26 points.

WSU coach Ken Bone said he didn't have the Cougars ready to play. That's a coach willing to take a bullet. But the truth is, this one is on the players. They didn't take Oregon seriously, and got what they deserved.

Two days later, Washington State came to play and beat an Oregon State team that in my opinion, is better than Oregon. It is these sort of inconsistent performances that have to frustrate Cougar fans.

Instead of returning to Pullman on a three-game winning streak and making a bona fide NCAA tournament run, Washington State is now on the outside looking in. Way on the outside.

At this point, the Cougars have given themselves precious few options for getting to the Big Dance. The two most obvious are winning the Pac-10 tournament (an option open to every team in the league) or running the regular-season table (which would mean winning at Arizona and Washington, who collectively are 25-0 at home this season).

So thanks to the no-show in Eugene, the Cougs are a step closer to the NIT than the NCAAs. Or better yet, the knock-down-drag-out that would a CBI Northwest regional.

ON TAP THIS WEEK:
The Cougars (16-7, 6-5) play host to the Bay Area schools, facing Stanford (12-10, 5-6) on Thursday at 7 p.m. and California (13-10, 6-5) on Saturday at 3 p.m. Both games will be Webecast live via wsucougars.com.

The Cougars go for the season sweep of Stanford after beating the Cardinal 61-58 on Jan. 15. Klay Thompson and Faisal Aden combined to score 41 points in the win.

Stanford tries to grind out games by playing at a modest pace and good defense. The Cardinal are highly ranked in scoring defense (61.5 points) and field goal percentage defense (41.4).

Since 2006, Washington State is 4-8 against Stanford.

California is right there with Oregon as the Pac-10's most surprising team this season. The Bears were gutted by graduation, yet have been remarkably competitive this season. Cal heads to Washington off a triple-overtime loss to league-leading Arizona, the Bears' first defeat in five games.

Cal freshman Allen Crabbe hurt Washington State the last time the two teams played, scoring 30 points in the Bears' 88-81 overtime win over the Cougars on Jan. 13. Thompson scored a season-high 36 points in that game.

California has won five consecutive games over Washington State, and are 10-3 against the Cougars since 2005.

Statistically, the Bears are average like their record. From a numbers standpoint, the things Cal does well is rebound and pass. The Bears are poor from the perimeter, averaging just five 3-pointers per game.

Read Nick Daschel's occasional Pac-10 ramblings at twitter.com/nickdaschel

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