WSU hoops has insiders’ attention – is NCAA Tournament next?

Feb 18, 2024, 1:19 PM | Updated: Feb 19, 2024, 10:52 am

WSU basketball Isaac Jones Cougars...

Isaac Jones rises to the hoop in a WSU basketball game against Cal on Feb. 15, 2024. (AP Photo/Young Kwak)

(AP Photo/Young Kwak)

Update 10:52 a.m. Monday: WSU men’s basketball made the new Associated Press Top 25 poll, ending a 302-week drought. Read the story at this link for more info.

If you haven’t been paying close attention to what the WSU men’s basketball team has been doing this season, you’re in for a surprise.

Pac-12 parts ways with George Kliavkoff, who oversaw end of league

The Cougars are in the midst of one of the best seasons in program history, reaching 20 wins with Saturday’s 72-59 win over Stanford in front of a crowd of over 5,600 at Beasley Coliseum.

The 20-win mark is something WSU has hit just seven times since 1980, and with five games to go in the regular season plus the Pac-12 Tournament and NCAA Tournament, it’s possible these Cougs could approach or even break the program record of 26 wins in a season.

Hold up. Wait a second. We’re talking about the WSU men’s basketball team in the NCAA Tournament?

We sure are.

Yes, the possibility of the Cougs (20-6 overall, 11-4 conference) dancing next month is becoming very real, especially as Myles Rice, Isaac Jones and company have reeled off seven straight wins and victories in 10 of their last 11, with the lone loss in that stretch coming in overtime.

Stats, standings and more info on WSU men’s basketball

At this point, the Cougars are clearly at least the second-best team in the Pac-12, trailing only No. 5 Arizona (20-5, 11-3) by a half-game in the league standings. And by the way, the first time WSU and Arizona played, well, the Cougs won 73-70 in Pullman.

College basketball insiders are rightfully taking notice.

Like Tate Frazier of The Ringer, who hosts the One Shining Podcast covering college hoops. He said the Cougs should be ranked when the new Associated Press top 25 poll comes out Monday and “will be a tough matchup come March.”

Or how about CBS Sports insider Jon Rothstein, who does his own podcast, College Hoops Today? He seems confident after Saturday’s win that Kyle Smith “is on his way to becoming the fourth” WSU men’s basketball coach to take the Cougs to the NCAA Tournament.

And then there’s ESPN’s Joe Lunardi, whose latest Bracketology prediction on Sunday for the field of 68 has Wazzu as a No. 8 seed and the No. 31 overall team in the bracket.

This is rarefied air on the Palouse. The last time WSU made the men’s basketball tournament was 2008, and the Cougs have made the field only six times in history.

The AP poll has been just as elusive for WSU. The Cougs were last ranked in the top 25 in the final poll of that same 2007-08 season, and they’ve appeared in the poll in only six separate seasons.

If the Cougars don’t have voters convinced enough with their current résumé to crack into this week’s poll, the good news is they’ll have a pretty strong opportunity to sway them with their next game. That’s at 8 p.m. Thursday when they travel to Tucson, looking to sweep the season series from Arizona and take the Pac-12 lead away from the Wildcats all in one fell swoop.

The WSU radio broadcast of the game between the Cougs and fifth-ranked Arizona will air live Thursday on Seattle Sports 710 AM, the Seattle Sports app and, beginning with a 7:30 p.m. pregame show. The TV broadcast will be on FS1.

More on WSU men’s basketball

WSU beats Stanford 72-59 for Cougars’ seventh straight win
Adam Lewis: How WSU has emerged as unlikely NCAA Tournament contender
After losing season to cancer, Myles Rice helps lead WSU basketball resurgence


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