WSU Hoops Notebook

ERNIE KENT WAS ASKED Tuesday on a conference call about the strength of the Pac-12 conference compared to recent years. The general take in the media is the Pac-12 doesn't seem as strong as last year when six teams made the NCAA Tournament. Kent's answer to that question wasn't nearly as interesting as what he said immediately afterward.

Ernie Kent said some Pac-12 teams stumbled early but he expected some Pac-12 teams to rise up in the next few weeks, implying the Pac-12 in a short time could be seen as on par with last year.

"As long as we don’t beat each other up too much, I think you will be some teams that will get stronger as we get into conference play... I think there are some really good teams in this conference," Kent said.

Kent went on to say Arizona and Utah have separated themselves and then mentioned Cal, Stanford and Oregon, seemingly implying they were in the next tier.

Interestingly, Kent did not mention Washington.

Simple oversight... or a little gamesmanship?

Washington is 11-1 on the season. Before they were upset by Stony Brook on Sunday, they were ranked No. 13 nationally in both polls (UW fell to Nos. 19, 21 in the Coaches and AP polls, respectively, this week following the loss.)

Washington State plays UW in Seattle at 12 p.m. on Jan. 10.

IT'S NOT HARD to guess at Washington State men's basketball New Years' resolution heading into this weekend's games against Stanford and Cal: win on the road against Pac-12 teams. In the last two seasons the Cougars have won a combined one road game in conference play. Could redshirt-sophomore guard Que Johnson be the one who puts them over the top?

In the past two games, the Cougars’ bench has scored a combined 70 points -- Que Johnson logged 21 of them against UC Davis (14) and SJSU (7). Johnson shot a combined 7-12, hitting on 4-7 three-pointers.

And he seems to be in a good place mentally heading into Friday's tilt with Cal (Pac-12 Networks, 12 p.m.)

“Coach Kent made sure that I never kept my head down and stuck with me,” Johnson said after the win Sunday. “Basically I've got to give all the credit to Coach Kent.”

Redshirt senior center Jordan Railey has also stepped up his game, scoring in double figures in the past two times out.

“He’s stepped up,” sophomore forward Josh Hawkinson said of Railey. “He’s getting rebounds, he’s scoring for us. He’s going to be, I think, the key factor for us coming into conference play.”

The tip-off: Washington State (6-6) vs Stanford (7-3) Friday, Jan. 2 at 12 p.m. PST. The Cougars conclude their trip of the Bay Area with a game against California (10-3) on Sunday, Jan. 4 at 3 p.m. PST. Both games are on the Pac-12 Networks.

The series: Cal leads 76-47 all-time against WSU. Stanford leads 73-59 in the series against the Cougars. The Cardinal has won seven of the last 10 overall meetings, including a sweep of three meetings last season. Cal won both meetings against the Cougars last season, their first season sweep over WSU since 2010.

According to the San Jose Mercury News, there’s a possibility sophomore guard Jabari Bird could play against the Cougars on Sunday. Bird has been battling a foot injury that has sidelined him for the last seven games. Bird is averaging 11.7 points a game this season.

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