MEDIA DAY: Will new BB rules harm Coug D?

WASHINGTON STATE WAS picked to finish dead last in the conference by the media who follow the league on Thursday -- but Ken Bone remained upbeat and optimistic in large part because of what the Cougs will be doing differently on defense this season. Yet what about the multiple rules changes this season that are going to likely have a significant impact on how aggressive defenses can play?

New NCAA basketball rules changes will be implemented this season to increase scoring and limit how physical a defense can play. So get ready for a lot more whistles and foul calls. But Ken Bone remained strong in his belief at the Pac-12 Media Day that the Cougs' new full-court, deny the ball pressure style of defense will be successful.

"The last two years we've played fairly passive (defense). I don't think what we are trying to do now will be a whole lot different than other teams who get out and play aggressive... (we're not going to be) using our hand a whole lot and fouling, right DaVonté?" Bone quipped to guard DaVonté Lacy, who joined Bone on stage. Lacy, smiling, agreed with his coach.

Bone lauded the addition of assistant Rod Jensen and what the longtime defensive guru brings to the 2013-14 mix, bringing "a new ingredient to our program, and a very up-tempo and aggressive style of defense which I think the players are excited about."

See below for more on the new NCAA defensive rules changes.

BONE SAID he is "extremely excited about this year's team." One reason for that undoubtedly has to do with the progress of Que Johnson, who returned to practice two days ago from a stress fracture.

"He was back out there and I think DaVonté would attest to it, he was thrown out there and he was pretty good immediately. And I like that group of five guards," said Bone.

Bone tabbed Johnson and center Jordan Railey as two of the reasons he's optimistic on WSU this season -- neither played last season. Railey has been suspended since Oct. 1 but Bone mentioning him in that vein at the Pac-12 media day would seem a sure-fire indicator he should be back soon with the program. Bone tabbed the collective work ethic, attitude and "coachability" of the squad as major positives.

BONE WAS ASKED about the wealth of close game losses from last season and who he envisioned being the Cougs' closer in 2013-14. Bone was also asked that by CF.C a few weeks back and said the Cougs might not have a Klay Thompson or Brock Motum type on this year's squad, but what they do have is a lot of guys who can be "the guy" on any given night. At the media day event, Bone said he hopes for more poise down the stretch from everyone.

"The bottom line is we did not win some close games and a lot of that's on me as head coach," said Bone, who went on to quip that hopefully he's a better coach this year than last year.

AS FOR THE perimeter strength on offense, Bone offered five reasons why CougFans should feel optimistic -- and they all play guard.

Bone pointed specifically to Lacy, Royce Woolridge, Dexter Kernich-Drew, Johnson and Ike Iroegbu and their versatility in terms of scoring.

"He's going to be a very good player in this league," Bone said of Iroegbu. "He's going to be really good."

THE MEDIA VOTING for the Pac-12 poll tabbed the Cougs to finish last in the conference by a wide margin, behind Washington (8th); Utah (9th); Oregon State (10th) and USC (11th).

Arizona was the overwhelming choice to win the Pac-12, with all but two first place votes, followed by No. 2 UCLA and No. 3 Colorado. The fourth through seventh place predictions were for Oregon, Cal, Stanford and ASU, respectively.

NOTABLE NOTES
  • Bone said while the Pac-12 has been seen as a weaker conference in recent years, those days are over. He thought there would be 6-7 teams from the Pac-12 in the NCAA Tournament this season and said he wouldn't be surprised if someone advanced beyond the Sweet 16. He cited coaching stability, returning veterans and an influx of new players coming into the conference this season who are "really good" as the reasons behind that.

  • Bone later said in an interview with the Pac-12 Networks that he sees the Cougs passing the ball more and screening more effectively on the offensive end.

  • Lacy said his main emphasis this offseason was to get both healthy and stronger, which will in turn allow him to be a more consistent scorer. He said he never said anything at the time but he wasn't 100 percent out on the court at times. "Some of those nights (last year) my back wasn't feeling right, or my knee wasn't all the way there yet," said Lacy.

  • Bone reiterated that Woolridge at the point in practice has been very poised. He's not a "true" point guard, Bone said, but he's very comfortable with Woolridge there.

  • Lacy, asked the toughest place to play in the Pac-12, besides "when Beasley is rocking", named Arizona, with Colorado also in the conversation because of what it can do to players who think too much about the altitude effect.

    ** The new NCAA rules for 2013-14 say a defensive foul should be consistently called:

    • When on a block/charge, a defensive player moves into the path of an offensive player once he has started his upward motion with the ball to shoot or pass. Previously, the defensive player was, according to the rules, permitted to slide while the offensive player was in the air.
    • When a defensive player keeps a hand or forearm on an opponent.
    • When a defensive player puts two hands on an opponent.
    • When a defensive player continually jabs by extending his arm, placing a hand or forearm on the opponent.
    • When a player uses an arm bar to impede the progress of an offensive player.