clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Pac-12 Basketball Team Preview: Washington State Expected To Be Cellar Dwellers Once Again

It may be another tough season for the Cougars in Pullman.

NCAA Basketball: Texas-El Paso at Washington State James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

Washington State Cougars

  • Last Season: 13-18 (6-12)
  • Head Coach: Ernie Kent (4th Season)
  • Projected Media Poll Finish: 12th (33 Points)
  • Leading Returner In Scoring: Malachi Flynn (9.7 PPG)
  • Leading Returner In Rebounds: Robert Franks (3.3 RPG)
  • Leading Returner In Assists: Malachi Flynn (2.9 APG)

The Skinny

As Washington State enters year four of the Ernie Kent era, the Cougars program currently sits as a crossroads. Not only did Washington State drop eight of their last ten games to end the 2016-2017 season (with what was considered maybe the best line-up Kent has had in Pullman), but they’ve also been a program hit by an unprecedented number of transfers over the past few seasons as well. In general, the trajectory of the Washington State program is not heading in the right direction.

And while the administration still opted to extend head coach Ernie Kent’s contract through the year 2022, a move made in hopes of finding some stability within the program, the progress over the past four seasons has not yet been evident. The Cougars desperately need an influx of talent and a change in mentality to make some waves in the conference and it’s unknown if that type of mindset is coming anytime soon.

In terms of trying to forecast what will be a completely unproven roster heading into the 2017-2018 campaign for Washington State is a tall task, but the one known commodity for a group who loses four of their top five scorers from a season ago will be sophomore point guard Malachi Flynn (9.7 PPG). Flynn, one of the league’s more underrated talents who has legitimate All-Pac-12 capabilities over the next few seasons, will be handed the keys to this group from day one. Alongside Flynn will likely be guard Viont’e Daniels (2.9 PPG), whose had flashes of brilliance throughout his career but has lacked much-needed consistency. As the start of junior campaign approaches, it’s expected that Daniels will develop into one of the league’s most improved guards.

NCAA Basketball: Pac-12 Conference Tournament-Colorado vs Washington State
Robert Franks will be the anchor of a thin Cougars front-court.
Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

In the front-court, forward Robert Franks (6.3 PPG) was a major role player last season (often deferring like Flynn), who will need to take a colossal leap into a featured part of the Cougars’ dynamic, as will 6’ 9”, 240-pounder Jeff Pollard (1.8 PPG). Between Franks and Pollard, the big men up front for Washington State are shaping up to be more of a blue-collar than finesse group, who also may need to throw JUCO transfers Kwinton Hinson, a 6’ 5” swingman, and Davante Cooper, a 6’ 11” forward, into the mix from day one. Simply put, things could get ugly once again for the Cougars, as a sheer lack of depth haunts this roster.

While the depth chart isn’t quite where Ernie Kent probably wishes it would be, Washington State needs to start making some on (and off) court improvements to find some positive momentum going forward in the Pac-12. They have one serious bright spot in Flynn, two potential break-out performers in Franks and Daniels and a core of players who have been with Kent for a few seasons now. However, you need a pure load of talent to win in the ever-challenging Pac-12 and that’s something that this group just seriously lacks at the moment.

Player To Know: Malachi Flynn (SO)

As a freshman last season, Flynn often spent much of his rookie campaign deferring to more reliable options in Josh Hawkinson and Ike Iroegbu. However, heading into the 2017-2018 season, it’ll be Flynn’s turn to run the show for the Cougars. The 6’ 1” guard from Tacoma should take a major leap from his 9.7 points, 2.9 rebounds and 2.9 assists average per game and become one of the league’s more impressive guards, even if the Cougars struggle to find victories along the way.

NCAA Basketball: Pac-12 Conference Tournament-Colorado vs Washington State
Malachi Flynn will be the star for Ernie Kent. Can he lead Washington State to a surprise campaign in Pullman?
Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

Key Non-Conference Games

  • 11/23 v. St. Joseph’s* (Wooden Legacy)
  • 11/24 v. Harvard/Saint Mary’s* (Wooden Legacy)
  • 12/20 v. Kansas State*