Katz predicts Memphis, which also didn't lose anyone early to the NBA, as the next national champion. He has North Carolina slotted for second, Kansas third and Georgetown fourth.
"Wazzu will be a tough out no matter where they play," says Katz. "Last season was hardly a fluke. The Cougs are a fad pick right now because of their oodles of experience and the chip they'll carry after getting knocked out by Vandy in the NCAAs."
The Cougars' road won't be easy. Katz's top 16 includes some familiar crimson foes: UCLA (sixth), Gonzaga (11th), USC (12th), Arizona (13th), Stanford (15th) and Oregon (16th).
NIKOLA KOPRIVICA, a true freshman for the Cougs last year who worked his way into the role of part-time starter/sixth man before blowing a knee in the first Oregon game, is recovering nicely from surgery, say Cougar coaches.
A sense of his outlook for this season will be better gauged once he starts jogging and cutting on the court. Head coach Tony Bennett said in a recent interview with Ian Furness of KJR-AM in Seattle that losing Koprivica last season was a big blow to the team because of his size and athleticism on the perimeter.
Speaking of Koprivica, who is from Serbia, Bennett quipped in that KJR interview that he's not sure if it's reflection on education in America or overseas, but all of the Cougars' foreign players -– Koprivica, Thomas Abercrombie (New Zealand) and Aron Baynes (Australia) –- are all outstanding students. And he says incoming recruit Fabian Boeke, from Germany, is in the same mold.
The Cougars are eyeing another foreign born player, according to Scout.com's national recruiting analyst, Dave Telep. Olek Czyz, a 6-7, 195-pound forward from Reno who moved to the U.S. from Poland three years ago, has received a scholarship offer from the Cougs, Telep reported from the Cactus Classic in Tucson last weekend.
Athletic with a nice jumper and no fear of knocking shoulders down low, Czyz also has offers from Arizona State, Pepperdine, Colorado State and hometown Nevada.
KYLE 'DREAM' WEAVER
BENNETT AND COUGAR assistant coach Ben Johnson recently were inducted into the athletics hall of fame at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, where they starred under head coach Dick Bennett. While back for the festivities, the Green Bay Press-Gazette floated the notion that Tony, a former Charlotte Hornet, might someday be more easily lured away from Pullman by an NBA team rather than another college.
Bennett's new, seven-year contract with WSU -- believed to pay him a base salary of around $750,000 a year -- still hasn't been signed. But neither Bennett nor Athletic director Jim Sterk are concerned, each saying in separate interviews that some final touches remain but the ink on a signature should be dry quite soon.
NOTABLE HOOP NOTES:
• Bud Withers of the Seattle Times reported this that Cougars have pulled out of their scheduled trip this season to the Great Alaska Shootout, and are working instead to put together their shootout of sorts in Spokane that weekend. The reason for the move is to cut down on what is shaping up as an already heavy non-conference travel schedule.
• The Cougars will welcome two new walk ons this fall -– both from the state of Washington –- but their names have yet to be disclosed by the coaching staff.
• Tony Bennett will be on hand for the King County Cougar Golf Classic, co-sponsored by CF.C, at the Newcastle Golf Club on May 31. Single slots are still available for the golf tourney, but the dinner banquet that evening has plenty of room remaining. Bill Doba and other coaches also will be attending. Registration and social hour begin at 5:30 p.m. For more information, call Michelle Primley at WSU West, 206/448-1330.
• Bennett said in his KJR interview a week ago that he and his lone senior from last season, Ivory Clark, have talked a number of times since Clark's post-season outburst about not getting enough playing time and that there are no hard feelings. "I think some of his comments were taken a little out of context ... he's an emotional guy who wears his emotions on his sleeve, everything is fine .. I think he really appreciate his time here." In fact, Bennett and his staff are working now to secure Clark a professional tryout.
SKY KING IVORY CLARK