Friday, August 29, 2008

Washington State: 2008-2009 Team Preview

2007-2008 Team Record: 26-9, 11-7 Pac-10 (3rd)

Key Losses: Derrick Low (14.1 ppg, 2.6 3's, 39%), Kyle Weaver (12.2 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 4.2 apg)

Key Returnees: Taylor Rochestie (10.4 ppg, 4.7 apg), Aron Baynes (10.4 ppg, 6.0 rpg)

Newcomers: John Allen, Marcus Capers, DeAngelo Casto, Mike Harthun, Klay Thompson, James Watson, James Witherill

While Derrick Low was the leading scorer for the Cougars last year, the loss of Kyle Weaver is probably going to hurt more. Weaver was a great defender who could do a little bit of everything offensively and was very unselfish, the perfect kind of player to fit into the Bennett (Dick or Tony) system. The Cougars also lose start Robbie Cowgill, meaning that Tony Bennett will have a lot of production and minutes to replace.

Wazzu does return a couple talented players and big-time contributors from last year's team. The first is center Aron Baynes, who at 6'10", 270 lb, is as big and strong as anyone in the Pac-10. He has some decent post moves, but struggles to stay on the court (24 mpg because he averaged 3 fouls per game and fouled out 7 times). They also bring back Taylor Rochestie. Rochestie is one of the more underrated point guards in the country. A lefty, Rochestie was the team's best three point shooter (43%), averaged almost 5 assists per game while sporting an 2.8 assist-to-turnover ratio. 6th man Daven Harmeling is also back.

Wazzu brings in a huge recruiting class this year with seven freshman, and two more red-shirt freshman becoming eligible to play. The best of the bunch is probably Klay Thompson (son of former #1 pick Mychal Thompson). Thompson is a long, athletic, 6'6" wing with a pretty good jumpshot. He's not the playmaker that Weaver was, but he could step in and replace some of his production. Mike Harthun should also be able to contribute right away, as he is a two-guard known for his shooting ability who should be able to slide right in for Derrick Low. The rest of the class is tough to predict as Bennett likes to recruit guys that fly "under-the-radar"; guys that fit into the system he runs. Given his track record, I would expect them to fit pretty well.

Outlook: The Pac-10 lost a lot of talent from last year, including 5 of the first 11 picks and 7 first-rounders total. Washington State is going to be young and inexperienced, especially when it comes to their bench, but Bennett is a very good young coach that has a knack for getting the most out of his players. Probably not a favorite to win the conference, but a win in the NCAA tournament is a very likely scenario.

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