Ken Pomeroy analyzes WSU basketball team

KEN POMEROY, the statistical wizard of college basketball with a cult-like following among the most devout hoops aficianados, has some insights for Washington State basketball fans.

First, of course, there's the obvious. WSU has gone 80-86 since its high-water mark -- the Sweet 16 battle with North Carolina in 2008 -- and a return to March Madness is going to be contingent on an upgrade in recruiting. To that end, he believes Ernie Kent is the right man to rebuild the program.

Second, he projects (as just about everybody is) that this season's Cougars will finish somewhere in the bottom three of the Pac-12. But -- and this is a notable but -- he also believes the Cougars will be better than they were last season.

In his final ratings last season, he slotted the Cougars at No. 183 in the nation -- 20 spots behind the next-lowest team in the Pac-12, USC.

DaVonte Lacy and Que Johnson (pictured above) I think are two really good players and you’ll see improvement from them and they’ll probably lead the offense -- and as long as that’s the case, the offense should be a little better than last year,” Pomeroy told in a recent phone interview from central in Salt Lake City.

“Obviously, still missing a post presence is a big problem and makes the offense kind of predictable, but I think the personnel is more suited to run so they should be a little better.”

Lacy was one of the top scorers in the Pac-12 last season, averaging 19.4 points per game.

“I don’t know if there’s going to be necessarily a ton of improvement from him,” Pomeroy said. “You don’t really see mass improvement from players from their junior to senior season. If you can just hope for him to duplicate what he did last year that would be great because it’s going to take the pressure off of the other guys on the team that don’t have as much experience playing large roles in the offense.”

If the Cougars are going to spread out the scoring this year, sophomores Ike Iroegbu and Johnson will need to have bigger roles, he says.

“The question is, can these other guys create their shots? That’s what Lacy’s good at is creating his own shot,” Pomeroy said. “Que Johnson and (Ike) Iroegbu, I think those guys you would expect them to take more role in the offense this season, be able to create more shots.”

But, he cautions, “You can’t really force that, so if those guys aren’t capable of doing that then Lacy will default to being that guy (who’s the main scorer).”

Pomeroy said he is excited to see how Johnson develops now that he has a season of college ball behind him.

“He’s another guy who’s game is somewhat similar to Lacy -- he doesn’t do as much off the dribble, but obviously the shooting would appear to be there,” Pomeroy said. “(He) really didn't commit many turnovers for a freshman which is pretty impressive.”

Pomeroy believes the next step for Johnson is to do more off the dribble, inside the arc.

Last season, Johnson averaged 9.5 points a game for the Cougars and shot .393 from the field. Though in the eight games Lacy missed with injury, he stepped up his output significantly.

POMEROY SAID KENT IS IN a good situation since his team already has some personnel to fit his up-tempo system. He expects Kent will be able to implement his philosophy quickly.

“I don’t know if it (Kent’s system) will necessarily make them better (from a win-loss standpoint this season), but it’ll make the games a little more exciting,” Pomeroy said. “He (Kent) likes to push it, he likes to shoot threes and that’s basically the personnel he has is guys that can do that."

Last season the Cougars averaged 62.4 points per game, the lowest in the Pac-12, en route to a 10-21 overall mark and 3-15 conference record.

Kent told CF.C over the summer that he plans on occasion he may put five guards on the floor at the same time.

“... you probably can get away with that for ten minutes a game,” Pomeroy said. “If you’re playing three or four guards the rest of the game, that’s something that can work a little while.”

Pomeroy described Kent’s system as an up-tempo style that can benefit smaller guards, relies on the three-point shot and puts up a lot of points. Lack of defense hurt him at Oregon, he said.

“Those are the things to look for (in Kent’s system) for not necessarily this year, but as he gets his own players in, two, three years down the road that’s the kind of team you’re going to see – a team that scores a lot and probably gives up a lot of points as well,” Pomeroy said.

The Cougars shot 713 three pointers last season -- the most in the Pac-12. But they converted at a .328 rate -- the third-worst percentage in the Pac-12.

On the defensive side, Pomeroy expects the Cougars to be slightly improved and a team has the capability of finishing No.8 or No.9 in the conference in defensive efficiency. Last season the Cougars ranked No.11 in the Pac-12 in defensive efficiency.

  • Pomeroy projects Lacy as a bubble candidate for getting selected in next year's NBA Draft or making a roster. He credits Lacy as a quality perimeter shooter who can do things off the dribble, but has to diversify his game in order to make it in NBA.

  • Now-graduated post D.J. Shelton was the only Cougar last season besides Lacy to average in double-digit scoring (10.1).

  • The Cougars will open the season at home in an exhibition game against Azusa Pacific at 7 p.m. on Nov. 7. The regular season will begin Nov. 14 at UTEP.

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