Ahead of Oregon State’s clash on Thursday night with Washington State, we decided to reach out to our friends over at CougCenter, SB Nation’s Washington State site, to learn just a bit more about the adversaries visiting Corvallis.
1. Washington State was projected to finish last in the Pac-12 preseason coaches poll before the season, after finishing 11th last year. What’s been the main issues with the program since Ernie Kent has taken over? Do you think Kent will be fired anytime soon?
Nearly everything has been the problem, but the biggest is that Kent has never been able to deliver on his promises of talent acquisition. When he showed up, he boasted about the players he was able to recruit to Mac Court, which he intimated was a dump, as coach of Oregon. He assured everyone that, despite being away from the game for years, he still had loads of connections in the high school ranks. It turned out to be a bunch of baloney, and the roster is now stocked in such way that at least 3/4 of the players don’t belong anywhere near a high major scholarship. When you compound that with the fact that Kent is actually a terrible coach -- particularly on the defensive end -- you get the disaster we’re currently living through.
He almost certainly won’t be fired at the end of this year; Bill Moos gave him a five-year contract, and while this is the fifth year, Moos also gave him one-year extensions after each of the first three seasons -- bringing his fully guaranteed amount to $11.2 million over eight years. WSU would be on the hook for $4.2 million if it decided to fire him. Our budget situation is ... not great. It’s hard to imagine a scenario where WSU can pay that full amount, and it’s hard to imagine a scenario where Kent decides he’s tired of swindling the university out of its money and walks away.
(Oh, what might have been had Bill Moos pursued Wayne Tinkle, rather than giving his buddy a golden parachute!)
2. Guard Viont’e Daniels was a player who was kind of expected to take a leap into one of the better guards in the conference for his senior campaign. Why hasn’t that reality come to be? And has it been for better or worse (in terms of opening up more avenues for other players to develop)?
Daniels’ skill set is pretty limited, which is why his usage has remained steady for all four years. He’s an excellent spot-up shooter, but that’s where his Pac-12-level skills end. He’s not dangerous going to the basket unless it’s on the break, which limits what he can do. He has proven to be a capable ball handler when asked to play limited point guard minutes, but he’s just never going to be able to create for anyone, and I think we knew that coming in. He’s a steady player who would give most other Pac-12 teams 10-15 minutes off the bench, but because he plays for WSU, he’s a crucial component. He’s just had a tougher time finding his shot this year because teams realize that’s about all he can do offensively, and he’s not tall enough to get his shot off against close defending.
3. Robert Franks (when in the line-up) has been all he’s hyped up to be. How much of a concern should Oregon State fans have that Franks can singlehandedly win the Cougars the game on Thursday night?
Probably not much. He’ll probably drop 20+ and WSU probably will still lose by double digits. The only way they keep it close is if someone else comes in with 20+, or if a couple of other guys somehow end up with 15+ to complement him. CJ Elleby would be the most likely candidate, although the true freshman seems to be wearing down under the tremendous weight Kent has thrust upon him as one of the few talented players on the roster. Marvin Cannon is a springy wing who can also cause some problems if refs are calling the game tight around the basket. Those would be my x-factors.
4. The Cougars are 8-10 on the season have lost seven of their last eight games. What’s been the latest issues with this team in terms of finding success?
Frankly, it’s just that the level of competition has gone up. WSU played the eighth-easiest non-conference schedule in the entire country, and couldn’t really come close to emerging from that unscathed. It also obviously hasn’t helped that Franks has been hurt -- Kent loves to remind everyone of that -- but as you saw from the Stanford game, the problems are bigger than that. They’re just a bad team that is lucky Cal is even worse.
5. And finally, give your prediction for the game.