Christian Caple covers Washington State sports for the Spokesman Review newspaper in Spokane, Wash. He answered five questions I had for him about Monday’s CBI second-round game between Wyoming and Washington State, and I answered five questions for him. First are his answers to my questions, followed by my answers to his questions.
Here are my questions for you. I answered yours below.
Seemed like Washington State played well in its first-round CBI win at San Francisco. Is the team excited to play in the CBI and what did it do well at San Francisco to win? Hard to say if they’re necessarily excited, but they’re certainly focused. Coach Ken Bone has been pleased with the effort they’ve brought to practice, noting that it could have been easy for them to lament the fact that they’re missing their spring break and spending it practicing, instead. But if any of the players are thinking that, they’re not showing it. They looked a lot looser against San Francisco – shared the ball, shot well, made free throws. The Dons trap a lot in the halfcourt, and WSU has played pretty well against teams that do that this season. They dissected USF’s defense with great efficiency, and assisted on 20 of their 29 made field goals.
What are the strengths and weaknesses of this Washington State team? They’re a pretty solid offensive team, and that obviously starts with Brock Motum, who could wind up as the Pac-12’s leading scorer when all is said and done. And Reggie Moore has quietly had a pretty good season as a distributing point guard, leading the conference in assists. They execute pretty well in the half-court. But their defense — especially on the perimeter – has been their Achilles heel this season. Opponents have benefited from quite a few open looks from 3-point range. And their relative lack of interior size has made it difficult to keep opponents off the offensive glass, too.
If you were a coach and had to game plan to beat the Cougars, what would you do? Well, you’ve got to limit Brock Motum’s touches. So I think I’d go zone, pack the middle and make them beat you from the perimeter. They’ve got a few solid shooters – Motum, DaVonte Lacy, Abe Lodwick – but the Cougars are at their best when they’re getting the ball to the middle and finding cutters, particularly Motum. Force the ball elsewhere and WSU has a much harder time scoring.
Do you think there will be a good crowd for Monday’s game and how good of a home-court advantage is Beasley Coliseum? I can’t imagine there will be more than 3,000-,3500 or so people there. Attendance wasn’t great this season to begin with. That said, you have to remember that even when there isn’t much of a crowd here, it’s still going to be relatively loud because the student section is such a huge part of the total attendance. And students will be back from spring break, so maybe they’ll get a decent turnout there. It can be a very tough place to play when the seats are filled, though some would say a big part of the advantage comes from the visiting team simply having to spend so much time traveling in order to get there. Not sure I buy that, but who knows?
What are your impressions of Wyoming, and who wins? All I know is what the numbers tell me – they’re not favored by a fast pace, but they seem to be pretty tough defensively. Doesn’t look like they’re a very good rebounding team, either, which could work in WSU’s favor. But I haven’t seen them play this year. I think WSU takes it.
Could you give us a quick synopsis of Wyoming’s season, in terms of pre-season expectations and how they progressed compared to that? There were not a lot of expectations heading into the season after the team won 10 games in each of the last two seasons. Fans liked the fact Wyoming hired Larry Shyatt as its coach. He was at Wyoming for one season in 1997-98 and led the team to 19 wins and a NIT appearance before he left for Clemson. The team was picked to finish sixth in the preseason. The team bought into Shyatt’s system and it used a soft non-conference schedule to bank some wins and gain confidence. The Cowboys played well early in conference play, and even though it struggled at the end of the season a solid foundation is in place. Their motto is ADU: Aggressivness, Discpline, Unselfish. For the most part, this team does that night in and night out.
Leonard Washington is a name WSU fans might recognize. How did he decide on Wyoming, and how does he impact the game? He was recruited by the prior coaching staff. He’s a small-town kind of guy from Louisiana and I think just didn’t fit in well in the hustle-and-bustle of Los Angeles. With everything that happened at USC he needed a fresh start and Laramie was a good place: quiet and unassuming. Washington has thrived here and has fit in well, and gives Wyoming a player with a lot of athleticism and ability.
Are the Cowboys excited to be playing in this tournament? At first there was some disappointment they didn’t make the NIT. But I do think this team is happy to still be playing. They didn’t play that well in their first-round CBI game against North Dakota State defensively and also committed 17 turnovers. But Wyoming won so I think the more they win the more they want to see what it can do in this tournament.
What has Wyoming done well this season? Play defense. It has been one of the best scoring defenses all season, and the 78 points it allowed against North Dakota State was a season-high. It also has done a good job of dictating pace and limiting possessions. When it does well offensively, Washington and senior center Adam Waddell score inside which opens up shooting lanes along the perimeter for guards Francisco Cruz and Luke Martinez.
What would you say is their biggest weakness? Depth is one. Wyoming plays about eight guys and any production off the bench is a plus. Wyoming isn’t the most dynamic of offensive teams and has to work real hard to get good shots. That’s OK, but there are not a lot of guys that can create their own shots.