Thursday, February 20, 2014

The State of Washington Basketball

Take a look at this picture. Just a brief glimpse. You may notice several things: the heads in front of me, the upside down Cougar logo, the players on the court, the "State" on the bottom of the jumbotron, etc. The one thing I do want you to take away from this picture is the student section and attendance, or lack thereof. I took this picture only a few minutes prior to tip-off, and only a few hundred people were sitting in the stands, waiting for the game to begin. 

I don't blame the students for not showing up since it was a weekend afternoon, there was a heavy drizzle outside, and they were probably burying their nose in a book studying... Wait a second, that's exactly why students come to the game. People like to entertain themselves with sports because they are a means of escaping their everyday, ordinary lives. I personally can't think of many places that could benefit from the drug that is sports than Pullman, WA. And it's a possibility too. This season has been a forgetful one, but it also hasn't been the best of seasons for other teams in this area. Now is the time to capitalize on the weakened state of Northwest collegiate basketball. 

Let's take a look at the other schools that WSU has to compete with both on the court and in recruiting. The University of Washington is their main rival, which also has the greatest recruiting capabilities while based in an urban setting. It seems almost impossible to compete with a school that has those tools, yet the Cougs have been able to do so as they regularly snatch a victory from the Huskies. The reality is that the Washington Huskies basketball program is extremely underachieving given the amount of quality players that pass through that program year Ina md year out. They have a number of players that would go on to become stars in the NBA that are from the Metro-Seattle area. However, the last time they made the Final Four was 1953. In fact, the last time they advanced to the Elite Eight was also 1953. So what is wrong with UDub basketball? Like the Cougs, they have issues in coaching. To put it into perspective, both of the State schools of Washington could dismiss their coaches by the end of this season. Lorenzo Romar has put together a number of fine regular seasons, but a of late, they have become a dissapointment to Huskie fans. The advantage they have over WSU is that they can recruit enough talent to save some face. It's time to hire a new coach who can recruit some of those players away from UW.

What other schools do the Cougs have to compete with for the Northwest recruiting pipeline. The two Oregon schools aren't doing particularly well. The Oregon Ducks started off the season on an absolute scoring tear; however, when conference play began, they realized they couldn't win games without defense. On the positive side, Oregon will have no trouble recruiting since they have the Nike headquarters closeby. As a result, they have become one of the recruiting capitals in college basketball, the other being Iowa State. On the other hand, the Oregon State Beavers seem like one of the more stagnant teams in the PAC-12 over the past few seasons. I don't think either team is in the current position to be a serious threat in recruiting if they play the way that they have been playing recently.

The closest recruiting threat that is closet to the Cougs is the Gonzaga Bulldogs. Gonzaga has been riding their wave of some tournament succes in the late 90s for about a decade now. Given the amount of national coverage that they recieve year in and year out, I actually think that they are a highly underachieving program at this point. Last year, they had a No. 1 seed, but they couldn't even make it past the Round of 32. I think that it is only a matter of time that Gonzaga loses their charm as a successful team from a poor conference. If the Cougs can get a coach who puts together a solid first season, he can expand his recruiting search into British Columbia, just like Mark Few for the Bulldogs. Canada has vastly improved in basketball as of late, and I think that they could prove to be a serious recruiting pipeline for the Cougs.

All in all, the Cougars need to make a push in hiring a coach with a plan and a good recruiting résumé. While other coaches are seeing the end of their tenures approach quickly on the horizon, Washington State needs to be the first to make a move. If they can get the jump on the others, they'll have the best team in the Northwest in only a few years. The time is now. It's time to get the Northwest hooked on WSU basketball. Make a move.

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