Even if the Cougars' win over Utah wasn't the most eye-catching, it was a win. Washington State did have its moments against Colorado in the overtime loss to the Buffaloes. It's not quite time to toss in the towel yet.
With DaVonté Lacy indefinitely out of the lineup, the Cougars' offense is challenged. Heck, it was challenged with Lacy ready for action. That puts some pressure on WSU's defense.
Even though the Cougars are among the league leaders in fewest points allowed, they're really not an elite defense. They must improve in two critical areas: field goal and 3-point field goal defense. WSU ranks near the bottom half of the Pac-12 in both categories; for this team to succeed, it needs to be among the league's upper half.
There was improvement last week, as Washington State held Utah and Colorado to combined percentages of 35.8 percent overall and 18.5 percent from 3-point land. Another effort area that could use fine-tuning is rebounding; the Cougs have been out-rebounded in three of four league games, and rank 10th in rebounding margin.
The Bay Area hasn't been kind to the Cougars of late. WSU has a four-game losing streak in Berkeley, while the Cougars have dropped six of their past seven at Stanford. Last year, Washington State lost by double digits at California and Stanford.
Stanford is coming off an 82-80 win over Oregon in Eugene, technically a win over a top-25 opponent but in reality, a spot where the Cardinal handed a reeling Ducks team its third consecutive loss. Interestingly, Stanford is 2-0 against ranked opponents this season; in December, the Cardinal beat then-No. 10 Connecticut 53-51.
Fun with numbers? Stanford is currently seventh in the Pac-12 standings. The Cardinal rank seventh in scoring offense (76.7 ppg) and seventh in scoring defense (70.5 ppg). Stanford has good interior defense, but is one of the Pac-12's most charitable in giving up 3-pointers.
. Stanford's top scorer is Chasson Randle, third in the Pac-12 at 19.5 points per game. The 6-foot-2 junior guard lit up the Oregon schools last week for 53 points, including 30 against the Beavers. Randle's season high is 33 points, and only once this season has he failed to reach double figures. Randle is among the Pac-12's top 10 in 3-point field goal percentage at .429.
Senior forward Dwight Powell is Stanford's best inside player, at 14.3 points/7.5 rebounds. Powell has four double-doubles this season, and his season-high is 28 points. Also to watch is guard Anthony Brown (13.7 points, 5.5 rebounds) and forward Josh Huestis (10.5 points. 8.1 rebounds).
California is producing like a typical Mike Montgomery team, even if the Bears have yet to sniff the Top 25. The Bears will be there soon if they continue to replicate trips such as last week's to Oregon, where they rolled the Ducks and rallied from a 10-point halftime deficit to beat the Beavers.
Cal has won six of its last seven games, losing only at Creighton, a virtual lock for the NCAA tourney. As a bonus, the Bears' 3-0 start including three road wins.
Senior guard Justin Cobbs has been Cal's most reliable scorer, averaging 15.1 points per game. Cobbs scored 20 points in the Oregon and Oregon State games, and only three times has scored fewer than 13 points this season. Cobbs can shoot the 3, but he's more effective inside the arc.
Senior forward Richard Solomon is among the Pac-12's top big men, as he leads the league with 10.2 rebounds a game. Solomon is Cal's No. 2 scorer at 12.1 points a game. All told, the Bears have five players averaging double digits in David Kravish (11.9 ppg), Tyrone Wallace (11.8) and Jabari Bird (11.3).
One player to keep an eye on is freshman guard Jordan Mathews. He killed Oregon with a career-high 32 points, hitting 10 of 14 shots. But two days later, Mathews had just a single basket and two points against Oregon State.
Read Nick Daschel's occasional Pac-12 ramblings at twitter.com/nickdaschel