Hello Followers. Hope you’re having a great pre-Holiday week.
You all remember the Christmas tune that says “All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth?”
Well, for this Sutra, the song has been re-written. Now the lyrics say “All I want for Christmas are the finger nails on my right hand.”
Yes, there is only skin and bones left following our young lads’ 72-70 overtime victory over Trent “Mr. Bitter Beer Face” Johnson and his pesky LSU tigers.
Followers, before this noble fortnight, I told Uncle SeanHawk that this was a MUST WIN game for our Cougar’s fledgling NCAA tournament hopes. Win this game and the only two non-conference losses were ON THE ROAD to two future NCAA tournament teams.
So, with this win in tow, when tourney czars like Andy Katz wax about a team’s “body of work” come late February, you will not be able to hear anyone talk about us in terms of any “bad” non-conference losses. And that should make you all very, very happy.
With that in mind, the barrier that now exists between us and a third NCAA tourney birth in four season is a 12-6 conference record. In my view, that 12-6 record requires at least one win against CAL or Washington, one win against USC, and a sweep of Arizona State. Do that, and I think that we cement third place in the conference, finish a gaudy 22-8, and land a 12 seed somewhere VERY far from home. But I’ll take that any day of the week, won’t you?
In terms of tonight’s game, well, there were several nice stories.
The first was our ability to build a couple of nine point leads while both Klay Thompson and Reggie Moore couldn’t find the broadside of a barn with their jumpers. The second was SOLID, TOUGH, and PHYSICAL play by all of our kids around the basket. Casto was great, Nick played his second great game in a row, Capers was SOLID, and our two guards made just enough plays to bring this one home down the stretch (and beware foes, in the next year, Moore will develop his left hand around the rim. And when he does, well, good luck with that).
And, of course, all of our good play came against an LSU team that is more athletic than any team we will play in conference that is not named CAL or UW. It was a solid, solid victory by any measure.
In terms of weaknesses, well, rebounding was certainly one of them–especially late. But the biggest issue for us continues to be our play on offense from the 10:00 mark in the second half all the way to the 5:00 minute mark. As I told the two fifth graders that I was watching the game with, that stretch threatens to kill not only us and our post-season aspirations, but the nails on my left hand as well.
You see, tonight with 9:54 left, we had a seven point lead. At that point, I told the boys, “If we’re up at least by five with five to go we win. Otherwise, we’re in deep, deep trouble.” Five minutes later, we’re deadlocked at the five minute mark. LSU had all the momentum, and I started chomping on my finger nails, completely assured that Gonzaga II was unfolding right in front of my very eyes.
But thankfully, we found a way to get it done, even thought at times it seemed that we did so in spite of ourselves.
So, our ability to put ourselves squarely on the NCAA path will rest on how we play during that crucial five minute stretch, particularly on the road against the likes of Arizona and Arizona State two weeks from now, as well as our home tilts against the Beavs and CAL.
In my view, Bone is going to have to find ways for Thames, Moore, and Capers to become more instrumentally involved in the offense during that critical stretch. Meanwhile, guys like Nick need to continue to elevate their games, and at times, play a bit above their heads. All of these things are possible given our talent level and the down year for the conference.
That said, at this point, one thing has become abundantly clear: This team is finding their identity BEFORE the start of conference play. That development stands in sharp contrast to our boys of yesteryear, who found their individual (Taylor) and collective moxy when the road to March Madness was already covered in a thick layer of black ice.
So brace yourselves, followers, this group may indeed turn out to be special THIS YEAR. So, strap it on and savor the joy of being compelled by WSU sports once again.
Happy Christmas and Merry New Year!