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Should we be worried?

Posted by Jeff Nusser on February 26, 2008

After yet another disappointing loss at the hands of Arizona and just three regular season games to go, we now arrive at the million-dollar question: Should we be worried heading forward?

I say probably not as worried as most of you are.

The fact that this team still has not learned how to deal with the bullseye on its back this far into the season clearly is disturbing. But is that prohibitive to their success heading forward? I don’t think so; we’ve seen the cold efficiency with which this team can win when it’s locked in, and I don’t see any way that laser-like focus doesn’t make an appearance come postseason time.

I know this team has no right to be bored, but it certainly seems at times like the Cougs know they’re headed to the dance and just want it to hurry up and get here already, especially since the Pac-10 title has more or less been out of reach for a few weeks.
The only major concern I have is that they’ve done too much damage to their potential seed in the tournament.

After the latest loss, Joe Lunardi over at ESPN has the Cougs slotted as a No. 7 seed — this, after having them slotted as a No. 5 after the ASU win. I’m not exactly sure how a loss to Arizona drops you two seed lines (and moves the Wildcats up two seed lines to a No. 7, too), but I’m not going to pretend I know as much as Lunardi.

Clearly, a No. 1 or 2 seed is far out of reach, but I think a No. 3 seed is still attainable. Why is that No. 3 seed so important?  Traditionally, there is a big difference between the No. 14 seed you’d face as a 3 and the No. 13 seed you’d face as a No. 4. And once you’re a No. 5 or lower and you get to the No. 12 seeds or higher, anything can (and does) happen. So getting to that No. 3 should be a very real goal for this team.

The selection committee makes it clear they don’t compare one season to the next, but history can be a good guide for what those guys are likely to do. Win out the regular season — which would include a road win over a top-10 Stanford — and make it to at least the semis of the Pac-10 tournament, and WSU would have won eight of its last 10 and finish with an 11-2 road record. Although our conference record would only be 12-6 at that point, that’s only one game worse than the 13-5 we put up last year in a considerably tougher conference en route to a No. 3 seed.

Additionally, for all the crap the selection committee has taken in the past, I think the past five years or so they generally have gotten things right and have started to evaluate which teams they think really are best at large teams. No rewarding mediocre big conference teams, no excluding a deserving mid-major because of poor RPI. And I think the same goes for seeding — remember, a lot of eyebrows were raised last year when the Cougs were given a No. 3, and we don’t have a bad loss along the lines of Utah on our resume this year.

In short, most of the goals this team had its eye on in November still are attainable. I think it’s totally doable to win the last three games — I think the way we played in the four-game win streak is much more indicative of where this team is at right now — and a run to the Pac-10 tournament championship isn’t out of the question, either. But it’s going to take a little more work at this point than we all hoped coming into the season.


4 Responses to “Should we be worried?”

  1. johnnycougar said

    Good points Nuss. I happen to think we just match up poorly with Arizona, especially when they outwork us for boards and loose balls, so I too hope that the four game streak is more indicative of where we are right now. Winning at Cal and vs. UW is pretty much necessary for our confidence heading into the tourney, and if we grab a winnable game at Stanford we are in business.

  2. Nuss said

    That’s the thing about Arizona, though — I’m not so sure that we match up that poorly with them. The first game we got shot out of the gym, which will happen occasionally. The second game, we were right there but got outworked down the stretch and were done in by some really awful offense. I will say this: Outside of UCLA, Arizona has BY FAR defended us better than any other Pac-10 team. If they played defense like that every night, they might be an elite team. But with so little depth, I just don’t think they can do it consistently.

  3. johnnycougar said

    Yeah, I just wish they were inconsistent against us instead of against UW.

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