"Our record at Washington State is not indicative of where we'll probably be because we played a whole different level of opponents," Bone said.
Translation: WSU's non-conference schedule has included a few cupcakes. However, it's worth noting that the Cougars' only losses came on the road against teams currently ranked in the Top 25 -- No. 15 Gonzaga and No. 17 Kansas State.
The Cougars' 8-2 start has been fueled by Thompson, a sophomore wing averaging 25.1 points per game. That ranked first in the Pac-10 and fourth in NCAA Division I through Wednesday, but Bone said he doesn't expect Thompson to maintain his current pace.
"I don't think at the end of the year he will be averaging 25, because we're going to start facing some different competition," Bone said. "But I do think he'll end up being our leading scorer and probably end up (averaging) in the low 20's."
THE PAC-10 HAS been hit hard by a long list of high draft picks departing early for the NBA in recent years, but Bone says he considers Washington, California and Arizona State to be "really good."
Outsiders aren't so sure. The Huskies are the only ranked team from the Pac-10, and they're barely hanging on at No. 24. ESPN "bracketology expert" Joe Lunardi predicts that only Washington and California will play in the NCAA tournament, and you have to go back to 1988 to find the last time the Pac-10 sent only two teams to the Big Dance.
With two games left in their pre-conference schedule, the Cougars have the best record in the Pac-10 despite the fact that reserve senior forward Nikola Koprivica is the only upperclassman on the roster.
"I'd be really pleased if we can compete with the better teams in the league," Bone said. "But the reality is, I think if we can be somewhere in the middle, I'd be extremely happy."
His Cougs are slotted better than that in the latest Pac-10 power rankings from the Seattle Times, compiled by longtime scribe Percy Allen. He has the Cougs at No. 2 in the Pac-10, behind Cal. The hometown Huskies rate third.
A YEAR AGO, WSU basically played 4-on-5 at times, because defensive whiz Marcus Capers rarely shot the ball (69 attempts in 32 games) and even more rarely made a shot (29 percent from the field). The freshman averaged just 1.7 points per game.
Fast forward a year, and Capers has already made two more baskets than he did all last season. Thanks partly to some dazzling dunks, Capers leads WSU starters with 53.7 percent shooting from the field.
ONE YEAR AFTER leading the nation in defense and ranking near the bottom in scoring, the Cougars are still adjusting to Bone's up-tempo style of play.
The Cougars average 79.7 points for and 68.2 against. Last season, when the Cougars finished 17-16 and advanced to the NIT with four seniors starting much of the way, WSU averaged just 59.2 points for and 55.4 against.
"I'm not extremely pleased with (WSU's defense)," Bone said. "I understand with more possession people are going to score more points."
BONE HOPES WSU's defense and offense will soon receive more of a boost from true freshman guard Xavier Thames and redshirt freshman forward James Watson.
Thames, averaging 4.5 points, 1.4 assists and 14.4 minutes, is awaiting results on physical tests.
"For some reason, he gets fatigued easily," Bone said.
Watson averages just 1.4 points, 1.6 rebounds and 4.0 minutes. Bone says the 6-foot-7, 213-pound Watson can help the undersized Cougars with his size and athleticism once he demonstrates "a better understanding of what we're trying to do on the court."
BONE COACHED Portland State the previous four seasons, but he had a quick response when asked if he will experience "mixed emotions" when he faces his old team Saturday at Kennewick's Toyota Center.
"No," he said. "I enjoyed my time there and I enjoyed the kids there. I hope they win every game except this one."
The Vikings (5-5) are one of the busiest and best 3-point field-goal shooting teams in the nation, but they're not real keen on playing defense. The Vikings average 79 points offensively but surrender 81.7 on defense. PSU has four players averaging 12.2 or more points, led by senior guard Dominic Waters at 17.9.
FSN-Northwest picked up Saturday's game for a 4:30 p.m. telecast. The women of WSU (4-5) and San Francisco (4-8) play at 1:35 on Spokane's KHQ 6 and on tape delay at 10 p.m. on FSN-NW. Both games will be locally produced by FSN-NW in HD.
The Cougars finish pre-conference play next Tuesday with their third straight "home" game outside Pullman, a KeyArena contest in Seattle with Louisiana State (6-2). (Finals week ends this Friday in Pullman, so the campus is largely deserted.) WSU opens Pac-10 play Dec. 31 in Pullman versus Oregon (5-4).
FORMER WSU STAR Marcus Moore scored a season-high 38 points last Thursday in his Mexico pro league. The sweet-shooting guard hit a whopping 11 of 20 treys to boost his scoring average to 23.1.
Taylor Rochestie and Aron Baynes are enjoying solid seasons as rookie pros out of WSU. Rochestie, a guard, averages 14.3 points and 3.3 assists and nails 46 percent of his 3's in Germany. Baynes, a center, averages 10.7 points and 5.6 rebounds in Lithuania.
Derrick Low, a second-year pro, averages 14.1 points and 4.6 assists for another pro team in Lithuania.
Forward Ivory Clark averages 9.8 points and 6.7 rebounds in Hungary. Guard Josh Akognon, who played two seasons at WSU under Dick Bennett before finishing his career at Cal State Fullerton, averages 17.1 points and 1.7 assists in his first pro season in Estonia.
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