REGGIE MOORE: Pac-12 assists king
NCAAs? CBI? End of the season? It’s all in play, certainly not in equal chances, for Washington State as it begins action Wednesday in the Pacific-12 Conference tournament in Los Angeles. The Cougars (15-15) open the tournament as the No. 8 seed, playing No. 9 Oregon State (17-13) at noon in the Staples Center.
For the Cougars to land an NCAA berth, they’ll have to do the near impossible: win four games in four days and claim the tournament championship.
It would be an unprecedented accomplishment, as the highest seed to win the conference tournament title was USC as a No. 6 in 2009. And that year, the Trojans won three games in three days.
The Cougars didn’t prove during the Pac-12 regular season that they could play well in back-to-back, so winning back-to-back-to-back-to-back figures to be as likely as Sekope Kaufusi's neighbor showing up at the spring game.
More likely are the last two options: CBI or end of the season (BCS schools aren't eligible for the CIT) Even if the Cougars win three consecutive games and reach the Pac-12 title game, it’s unlikely they would attract the attention of the National Invitational Tournament. WSU’s best shot is a pay-to-host tournament like the CBI.
With the CBI, the guess here is money talks, and WSU probably is eligible win or lose against OSU if its offer to host a game is lucrative enough. But end of season seems like the right alternative if Washington State loses to Oregon State; do you really think the Cougars deserve to play in a postseason tournament with a losing overall record?
As for a few Washington State tourney-related tidbits, here goes:
The Cougars have been a No. 8 seed twice in tournament history. In 1989, they were 1-1, and were one-and-done in 2004.
Washington State has never played more than two conference tournament games. The Cougars lost their tournament opener the past two years.
No school (except for newbies Colorado and Utah) has played fewer conference tournament games than Washington State. The Cougars are 5-12 overall in the tourney.
Should Washington State beat Oregon State, it would face No. 1 seed Washington. In tournament history, the No. 8 seed is 3-6 against No. 1s. Not so bad.
Of note: The Cougars, who played at USC on Saturday, stayed in Los Angeles afterward rather than return to Pullman where they would have had to short stay before returning south for the tourney.
SIZING UP OREGON STATE: Too bad the Cougars couldn’t have played Oregon State 18 times during the Pac-12 season. The Beavers seemed to bring out the best in Washington State, which beat OSU 81-76 in Spokane and 83-73 in Corvallis. The latter, on Feb. 9, was WSU’s first road win of the season.
Washington State’s win in Corvallis was arguably the Cougars’ best performance of the season. WSU rolled to a 15-point halftime lead, shot better than 50 percent from the field, while holding the Beavers to 37 percent shooting. Brock Motum, as usual, led the Cougars with 24 points and nine rebounds.
The Cougars controlled the game in Spokane, leading for all but a few moments. It got a little hairy in the end, as OSU pulled to within three points with 51 seconds remaining. But the final score was a little misleading in that the Beavers were able to significantly chop the margin when Ahmad Starks hit four 3-pointers during the game’s final five minutes.
STATISTICALLY SPEAKING: The Cougs vs. Beavs will feature the Pac-12's top two scorers. OSU's Jared Cunningham narrowly beat Motum for the regular-season scoring crown -- 18.2 points per game to 18.1. Or did he? The NCAA counts conference tournaments as one of the allowable number of regular season games, so it's still up for grabs.
Motum is fifth in the conference in rebounding (6.5 per game) and eighth in field goal percentage (.549).
Cougar point guard Reggie Moore is on pace to capture the regular-season assists title, with 160 dishes that average out to 5.33 per game. Cal's Justin Cobbs is second at 4.97.
Pacific-12 Conference tournament
At Staples Center, Los Angeles
Game 1: No. 8 Washington State (15-15, 7-11) vs. No. 9 Oregon State (17-13, 7-11), 12:10 p.m., FSN
Game 2: No. 5 UCLA (18-13, 11-7) vs. No. 12 USC (6-25, 1-17), 2:40 p.m., FSN
Game 3: No. 7 Stanford (20-10, 10-8) vs. No. 10 Arizona State (10-20, 6-12), 6:10 p.m., FSN
Game 4: No. 6 Colorado (19-11, 11-7) vs. No. 11 Utah (6-24, 3-15), 8:40 p.m., FSN
Game 5: No. 8/9 vs. No. 1 Washington (21-9, 14-4), 12:10 p.m., FSN
Game 6: No. 5/12 vs. No. 4 Arizona (21-10, 12-6), 2:40 p.m., FSN
Game 7: No. 7/10 vs. No. 2 California (23-8, 13-5), 6:10 p.m., FSN
Game 8: No. 6/11 vs. No. 3 Oregon (22-8, 13-5), 8:40 p.m., FSN
Semifinal 1: 6:10 p.m., FSN
Semifinal 2: 8:40 p.m., FSN
Championship Game: 3:10 p.m., CBS
Read Nick Daschel’s occasional Pac-10 ramblings at twitter.com/nickdaschel