Before the season started, Kyle Smith and the data-infatuated assistants on his Washington State coaching staff tried to handicap where the Cougars would land on Ken Pomeroy’s rankings map when 2019-20 campaign finished.
Kyle Smith may not be instructing young adults on the anatomy of pick-and-roll defense right now, but it doesn’t mean the first-year Washington State basketball coach is fully escaping teacher mode in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic.
Not until he woke up Thursday morning could Jeff Pollard fully grasp the breadth of the history he and his Washington State teammates had made the night before, beating Colorado 82-68 in the Pac-12 Tournament.
Washington State and seven of its peers in the Pac-12 didn’t get the closure they desperately wanted when the conference decided last Thursday to cancel the remainder of its tournament in Las Vegas, following the lead of others in the college basketball world amid coronavirus worries.
Wednesday’s nightcap between No. 11 Washington State and No. 6 Colorado at T-Mobile Arena was the final game of the Pac-12 Men’s Basketball Tournament, after the conference decided to cancel the remainder of the 2020 event due to concerns about the coronavirus illness.
Before WSU’s 2019-20 season started, the Cougars staged two closed-door scrimmages against opponents from the Big Sky. Perhaps it’s a positive sign the Cougars did well in both – blowing past eventual Big Sky regular-season champ EWU 96-75 before beating Montana 65-63 – because they’ll encounter a similar situation against ASU in the Pac-12 Tournament.
The lead already seemed good enough when Jeff Pollard caught the ball down low and slipped an inside bounce pass to Tony Miller, who drove to the basket, cocked his right arm back and punched the ball through the net, putting all 6-foot-8, 262 pounds of Evan Battey on Washington State poster.
Unless Washington State can win four games in Las Vegas, the Cougars’ 2019-20 basketball season will presumably end this week at the Pac-12 Conference Tournament.
Kyle Smith was a 39-year-old assistant at Saint Mary’s – three coaching stops and 11 years removed from where he is now – when Washington State last won a game in the Pac-12/10 Conference Tournament.
A statement from the Pac-12 Conference on Tuesday has reaffirmed that in the wake of concerns surrounding coronavirus, the league will still hold its men’s basketball tournament without interruption this week at T-Mobile Arena.
CJ Elleby picked up where Robert Franks left off at WSU, leading the Cougars in both scoring and rebounding this season. The standout sophomore followed in Franks’ footsteps again on Monday, joining his former teammate to become the second WSU player in as many years to earn All-Pac-12 First Team recognition when the conference announced postseason awards.
For the third consecutive year, Washington State will hold the No. 11 seed, take on the No. 6 seed and play in the late game on the opening day of the Pac-12 Tournament at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.