Bennett unveils challenging hoops schedule

WITH THREE STARTERS to replace, Cougar head basketball coach Tony Bennett had one goal in mind as he and his staff built their 2008-09 schedule: "to prepare us for the rigors of the Pac-10 and reveal both our strengths and the areas we need to improve for league play. In my six years at WSU this will be the most challenging nonconference schedule we will have faced."

The non-conference slate includes LSU in Baton Rouge, Baylor and Gonzaga in Pullman, plus a series of contests in the prestigious Legends Classic.

In all, WSU will play at least 11 games against teams that participated in post-season action last season.

The Cougars open up the campaign with their first-ever appearance in the Legends Classic, as they host two games in Pullman (Nov. 15 and 18) and follow it up with two games at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J. (Nov. 28 and Nov. 29).

Twelve teams compete in this event, hosted at four on-campus arenas throughout the country before moving on to the tournament championship in Newark, N.J.

Between Legends Classic games at Pullman and Newark, the Cougars host Sacramento State (Nov. 21) and 2008 NCAA Tournament-participant Mississippi Valley State (Nov. 23) at Friel Court.

Following the Legends Classic, WSU returns home to host three-straight games: Idaho State (Dec. 2) and fellow NCAA Tournament participants Baylor (Dec. 6) and Gonzaga (Dec. 10). WSU and Baylor meet in the Big 12/Pac-10 Hardwood Series, while the Cougars' meeting with the Bulldogs marks their final nonconference game of the season at Friel.

The Cougar Hardwood Classic returns to KeyArena for the fourth-straight year as WSU takes on Montana State (Dec. 13).

Following a short trip across the border to take on Idaho (Dec. 20), the Cougars will conclude their nonconference schedule as they travel to Baton Rouge, La., to take on SEC member LSU (Dec. 27) led by former Stanford head coach Trent Johnson.

The Cougars open Pac-10 play with three-straight home games, beginning with in-state rival Washington (Jan. 3/away, March 7). Following the conference opener, WSU hosts two teams with new coaches in California (Jan. 8/away, Feb. 7) and Stanford (Jan. 10/away, Feb. 5), who advanced to the Sweet 16 of last season's NCAA tourney.

The Cougars' other five 2008 postseason opponents on the schedule this season come from the Pac-10 in Oregon (away, Jan. 17/home, Feb. 12), UCLA (home, Jan. 22/away, Feb. 21), USC (home, Jan. 24/away, Feb. 19), Arizona State (away, Jan. 29/home, Feb. 28) and Arizona (away, Jan. 31/home, Feb. 26).

WSU faces one more Pac-10 coaching rookie when it takes on Oregon State and head coach Craig Robinson (away, Jan. 15/home, Feb. 14).

The Pac-10 Tournament takes place at Staples Center in Los Angeles, March 11-14.

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