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Nebrasketball: Washington State Preseason Preview

Huskers head to the beach to take on an almost totally revamped Cougar squad

NCAA Basketball: Pac-12 Conference Tournament-Oregon vs Washington State Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

We’ve arrived in the non-conference schedule to the annual tradition of Thanksgiving basketball tournaments in warm climates: Hawaii, Vegas, the Bahamas, Puerto Rico, and now the Cayman Islands Classic.

While its inaugural tournament was a bit rough, the Caribbean overall certainly has a draw to it, even if large servings of turkey don’t mesh well with beach body aesthetics. Speaking of the beaches, how many islands have you been to in the Caribbean? What’s your favorite? Tell us in the comments.

Say hello to the new and improved team accommodations

I’ve been to the Dominican Republic, Bahamas, Puerto Rico (numerous times, including my wedding there), St. Thomas/St. Johns, and Barbados. Personally, I’m not in any hurry to visit the Cayman Islands for personal reasons and Aruba is high on my to visit list. Besides your favorite islands and where you have been, what’s high on your list to visit next? Answer in the comments, and now onto the preview!

Washington State University

Date: November 25th 7:30 PM ET

Location: Georgetown, Grand Cayman

2018-2019 Season Record: 11-21

2018-2019 Conference Record: 4-14 (11th)

Conference: Pac-12

Mascot: Cougars

Head Coach: Kyle Smith

Entering his 1st season after Ernie Kent—Bill Moos’ truly mind-boggling hire—finally got the long deserved pink slip in Pullman. Smith begins with the Cougars after coaching 3 seasons at San Francisco and 6 seasons at Columbia before that. Coach Smith has a respectable resume with only two losing seasons and an overall record of 164-122. While he never managed to finish higher in conference play than 3rd (twice in the Ivy League), he did manage to lead Columbia to the CIT title in his final year and was runner up in the CBI at San Francisco his second season. Coach Smith played at Hamilton College in New York, where he still holds the career three-point shooting percentage record for the school, and worked as an assistant at San Diego, Air Force, and Saint Mary’s.


My immediate take-away looking at their results for last season is that their biggest margin of victory was over the Delaware State Hornets, which is sadly the only opponent I’ve seen Nebraska play at PBA. So a fun coincidence there. Oh, and the Cougars were pretty terrible last season to put it kindly. WSU finished 11th in the conference, managing just 4 wins. To be fair, this included impressive back to back road wins at Arizona State and Arizona, but only otherwise included home wins over Cal-Berkley and Colorado. Their overall SOS was 140 and their non-conference had a mere two teams with an RPI inside of 100. This meant in the end that they lost to #36 New Mexico State twice, once on the road and again on a neutral court, and had a neutral court loss to #79 San Diego. After that, their highest rated opponents resulted in a loss to #184 Santa Clara and a win over #194 Rider. This upcoming season will include a common opponent in the non-conference in UC-Riverside, but not until after the tournament. Cougcenter has its own brief non-conference preview here.

The Cougar squad ended up with almost as many roster changes as the Huskers, seeing just 6 players return and 8 newbies via transfer and signings. They also suffered 3 departures, 4 transfers, and 3 decommits. Gone to the NBA is leading scorer and rebounder, forward Robert Franks, who also saw the second most minutes. Along with him, other key players who won’t be seen in Pullman again include guard Viont’e Daniels who averaged 6.2 points a game and 2.7 assists over 24.5 minutes, guard Carter Skaggs and his 6 points per game over 16.8 minutes, and forward Isaiah Wade with his 4.7 rebounds and 14.4 points a game in 14.4 minutes.

Needing to step up will be sophomore forward CJ Elleby who becomes the team’s leading returning scorer after averaging 14.7 points a game in 30.8 minutes. Elleby also lead the team in assists and steals, averaging 3 and 1 respectively. Other key returnees include senior Marvin Cannon (7.9 points and 3.4 rebounds a game) and senior guard Ahmed Ali (7.3 points and 2.9 assists a game).

Notable additions to the roster include former Detroit Pistons bad boy Dennis Rodman’s son, two star and 6’4” DJ Rodman, who will be a small forward for the cougars. Higher ranked additions to the roster include small forward Noah Williams (301st nationally, 68th in position per 24/7) and JuCo transfer Daron Henson (18th ranked JuCo, 4th in his position).

For the team numbers, Ken Pom had Washington St. at 207 in RPI, coming in at 140th in adjusted offense and 284th in defense. They did come in strong at 50th in adjusted tempo.


If things have gelled among the team and gone the way we all hope, this tournament should result in new hardware adding cargo weight on the return flight. The Cougs don’t present much of a road block as the cupboard was left fairly bare by Ernie Kent. Following the first game, the Huskers will face either George Mason or Old Dominion on Tuesday, time TBA. Wednesday will be the final game of the tournament, and ideally will be the title game for Nebraska. Depending on the time of tip off, it will be a great opportunity either to avoid those pesky visiting Spartan in-laws or distract yourself at the office when the boss isn’t looking. GBR!