While it's not completely certain with three games remaining in the league season, odds are Washington State will land the No. 8 or 9 seed in the Pac-12 tourney. At 6-9, the Cougars are currently eighth, one game ahead of No. 9 Oregon State. Except for the jersey color, it doesn't matter if WSU is No. 8 or 9, as those two teams play each other in the Pac-12's opening round.
It would take a combination of a hot finish by one school and a cold end to the season by another to move Washington State out of the 8-9 game. What's left on the Cougars' schedule is Saturday's Apple Cup game vs. Washington in Pullman, followed by a season-ending road series vs. UCLA and USC March 1-3.
First, moving on up: Washington State is alive for the No. 7 seed if it can tie Stanford, currently 8-7. The Cardinal have road games remaining against Colorado and Utah, and finish at home against league-leading California. WSU has a chance to make up the two-game deficit if it sweeps the remaining three games on its schedule (the glass is entirely full viewpoint). Stanford will have its hands full winning at Colorado, and Cal certainly isn't a gimme. Even Utah has shown signs of life at home.
WSU owns the tie-breaker should it share seventh place with Stanford because of the Cougars 81-69 win over the Cardinal on Jan. 19.
Getting to No. 7 would be a boost, for two reasons. The Cougars probably would open against Arizona State, on paper an easier first-round match up than Oregon State. And second, WSU may be able to avoid California, currently the co-leader but the league's best looking team on a neutral floor.
Second, moving on down: While catching Stanford is a long shot, falling to No. 10 is an off-the-charts event. We bring it up only because it's mathematically possible. Arizona State (4-11) is currently No. 10. For WSU to drop to No. 10, it would have to lose its remaining three games, while Arizona State wins out. If you saw the Sun Devils in Pullman last Saturday, you know ASU beating UCLA, USC and Arizona – even with all the games in Tempe – is practically impossible.
So, let's just assume Washington State finishes No. 8 or 9. The Cougars likely plays Oregon State, a team it has beaten twice this season. You know how coaches caterwaul about the perils of beating a team three times in one season, but let's face it: WSU has supreme confidence when it plays Oregon State. This is a good pairing for the Cougars. Not as sure thing as getting Arizona State, but a good match up.
Should WSU survive this, it will advance to play the Pac-12's regular season champion, California (12-3), Washington (12-3) or Colorado (10-4). All present problems for Washington State, but it's not as if any of these three teams can't be beaten by the Cougars. In fact, the Cougars already have a win over Cal this season and had Washington in the crosshairs in their game at Seattle. Colorado simply isn't the same team away from Boulder, as the Buffaloes have several one-sided road losses on their schedule.
By no means is this a prediction that the Cougars are set up for success at the Pac-12 tournament. This team has rarely put together solid back-to-back performances this season, let alone four wins in four days. But the task isn't as foreboding as it might be in another year.
The week ahead: Just one game on this week's schedule for Washington State (14-13, 6-9). But it is a big one, the final home game of the regular season, as the Cougars take on Washington (19-8, 12-3) at 5 p.m. Saturday (TV: Root Sports).
Probably not much reason to rehash the previous meeting between these two schools. In what was one of the most disappointing losses of the season for Washington State, the Huskies prevailed 75-65 on Jan. 15. The Cougars built a 47-37 lead with 12 minutes remaining, only to have Washington go on a 26-6 run and roll to victory.
This is a typical Washington team: great at home, not so great on the road. The Huskies lost by 16 at Colorado, and 25 at Oregon, but have one impressive road win, a 69-67 win at Arizona. If the Cougars can minimize turnovers and challenge the Huskies' 3-pointer shooters (see Terrence Ross, who hit six on Jan. 15), they have a good chance to knock off UW.
Since 2006, Washington State is 9-6 against Washington. The Huskies lead the overall series 173-100.
By the numbers: Washington State ranks among the country's top 100 (out of 331 schools) in these statistical categories: field goal percentage (No. 38, 47.2 percent), 3-point field goal percentage (No. 47, 37.6 percent), assists per game (No. 66, 14.3) and free throw percentage (No. 69, 72.4 percent).
In the Pac-12, WSU's highest-ranked statistical category is field goal percentage and free throw percentage, both No. 2 behind California.
Individually, the top-rated Cougars in the Pac-12 are Brock Motum, second in scoring (17.8 ppg) and fourth in field goal percentage (56.7 percent), sixth in rebounding (6.5 pg) and Reggie Moore, first in assists per game (5.6 apg) and fourth in assist/turnover ratio (2.31).
Read Nick Daschel's occasional Pac-10 ramblings at twitter.com/nickdaschel
This week in Cougar Hoops
Cougfan Top Stories
What They're Saying: Refuse to be ReprimandedIT WAS A NIGHT OF broken records, snapped streaks, a nail biting fourth quarter and an unpleasant post-game handshake. In other words, the storylines abounded following Washington…
Relive Gabe Marks’ mad dash to the houseUNDER THE RULES, Washington State’s Mike Leach felt he could only walk away from his ASU adversary without exposing his wallet to more damage. But Cougar wide receiver Gabe Marks,…
WSU outside looking in AP, Coaches pollsWASHINGTON STATE can't go any higher in both the AP and Coaches poll voting without actually being in the top 25. After knocking off ASU on the road 37-32, and with a trip to…
Coug Confidential: Lightbody & Co. weigh inWASHINGTON STATE SET ASIDE 15 years of frustration and defeated ASU for the second consecutive year. This time around it was on the Sun Devils' home turf which had been the scene…