Archive for the ‘Marcus Capers’ Category

Longball’s View from the Cheap Seats

January 25, 2009

Hello Cougar Nation,

Longball here! Did anyone miss me? Does anyone even remember me? I can’t blame you if your answer is no and no, but I am here regardless to give you the View from the Cheap Seats on this year’s Cougar basketball team. So grab a hotdog and soda and join me in the orange seats way up in the rafters of Beasley.

What have I seen?

So far it hasn’t been pretty and from where I’m sitting I would advise you all to take whatever expectations you had for this season and… SELL, SELL, SELL! With remaining road trips to LA, the Bay and the Arizona schools still ahead there is no bailout package that is going to save this team. This week the Cougs had a golden opportunity to become major players in this years Pac-10 race and fell 4 points short. Que up the fat lady.

After suffering through the Baylor, Gonzaga and UW games this year I developed a strong conviction that this team was not even going to sniff an NIT bid. At the time it was a conviction founded in their inability to compete for 40 minutes with quality teams. Although we have shown an improved ability to compete recently, that conviction remains, and is quickly becoming a matter of simple mathematics. We need 7 more wins to even consider an NCAA bid and be comfortable with an NIT bid. If you can find those 7 wins on our remaining schedule, than you should be assigned to the DB Cooper task force, because they are nowhere to be found. So, what happened?

Obviously the departure of the greatest trio in Cougar history was going to be tough to overcome, but what we have learned is that the remaining veterans, who have been great roll players the last 2 seasons, are exactly that; great roll players. When it was time to take the team on their shoulders Rochestie, Baynes, Harmeling and Kopervica have not had what it takes. Caleb Forest has been a big exception, and Baynes has been dependable, but Rochestie has been maddeningly inconsistent while Nik and Harm have just vanished altogether. The success of the last 2 seasons has made the prospect of rebuilding hard to swallow, but that is exactly what we’re doing. Oh yeah, and as of now we are tied with Oregon State. Gulp.

Am I bumming you out? Here’s the good news. Our rebuilding effort may be progressing faster than we ever could have hoped. This Freshman class is lights out. Capers, Casto and Thompson are good now, and Lodwick is starting to get significant minutes. As it stands, our best lineup consists of 3 freshmen. Every night we see glimpses of what can happen when the Bennett system is being run by kids with the athleticism now being drawn to the Palouse. It is easy to imagine the names Capers, Casto and Thompson may one day be uttered with the same reverence on the Palouse as Weaver, Low and Cowgill.

As you may have noticed, I like to hearken back to past Cougar glory to gain perspective on the present, and I cant help but compare this era to the Kelvin Sampson teams of the early 90’s. That was a great time for Cougar hoops, culminating in a trip to the Dance and multiple NIT bids, but we are way ahead of where we ever got back then. This years team is going to take its lumps in Pac-10 play, but in a down year we are still as good as some of the better teams of those days. Remember Bennie Seltzer, Kenny Critton, Terence Lewis, Neil Derrick, and Rob Corkrum? Those guys never made it to the Big Dance and struggled to get more than 7 or 8 wins in Pac-10 play, but they were good. They gave us some memorable wins, like beating Herold Miner’s USC Trojans. (ESPN Broadcast the game and on Sports Center they timed Glen Johnson’s pronunciation of “Benieeeeeeeeeeeee Seltzer!”. Remember? It was 13 seconds, I believe.)

With continued improvement this year we may scratch out a respectable 7 or even 8 wins in Pac-10 play, but I’m not going to get too hung up on getting to the post season. Right now the next generation Cougar stars are just starting to emerge, and they are going to take us on a great ride. Harthun, Witherill and Watson are still waiting to get their chance and from all appearances guys like Thames and Motum should be exciting additions next year. Dick Bennett built the teams that took us dancing the last two years, and now Tony is building his team. So far , so good.

Overtime! A few extra observations from the cheap seats…

Uniforms- I LOVE our uniforms. Simple. Classic. Please join me in praying that Nike doesn’t come in next year and deck us out in the same ridiculous clown suits the rest of the league wears.

Fans- Beasley is always going to be hard to fill because most fans live 300 miles away, the nearest population center, Spokane, has its own very popular and successful basketball team, and everyone 6 miles to the West also has their own team, the Vandals. But still, is it too much to ask all the old fogies in the season ticket section to actually SHOW UP once in a while? Or hell, I’ll take your ticket if you NEVER intend to use it! The decision to shrink the student section this year was a bad one. They are the only dependable fans we have.

Jumbo Tron- Or heck, any kind of ‘tron will do! Right now we project replays onto a movie screen that can barely be seen. And if you sit with me in the cheap seats, forget about it! We need one of those things that hangs in the middle of the arena with scores on all sides, so us folks with obstructed views don’t have to keep score ourselves. I’ll donate the first dollar, lets do this!

Thanks for hanging out in the cheap seats with me. Until next time…

Go Cougs!

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Brinkhater’s Season Basketball PRE View

November 15, 2008

Happy Saturday to you all, Cougar Nation.

Hard to believe, but today is GAME DAY for the 2008-09 Basketball season, so I thought I’d give you my annual PRE view of the upcoming tilt.

Like my dear friend and colleague Vincent Grippi noted last week on Sportslink, there are a lot of Blogs out there with a bunch of yahoos who have not been to practice, not watched video, and not talked to any players, coaches, or anyone who has a real idea about what is going on inside the program.

Sound like anyone to you?

Exactly.

Which is why I once again am going to give you all a quick glimpse into what I am looking for heading into this very important 2008-09 campaign.

But first, here’s the BIG picture:

1) This basketball season portends to be the equivalent of our 2003 Football team. I am actually expecting big things out of this group.

2) Next year will be a somewhat down year for the program, so I urge you all to really enjoy this year. I think its going to be really fun!

3) Brinkhater is predicting a 9-4 preseason.

4) Brinkhater is also predicting an 11-7 conference (t-4, Pac-10 gets five births with a low seed for us because of few quality wins).

5) Brinkhater is further predicting an 11 seed in the NCAA tournament.

6) Brinkhater sees us winning a 1st round NCAA game, winning a second game, and bowing out once again in the Sweet 16.

But for this fairy tale season to reach its fruition, let me give you what I think NEEDS to happen and then follow up with what I am assuming will happen.

THINGS THAT NEED TO HAPPEN

1) Marcus Capers’ Floor Leadership

If you all have been reading, you know that Marcus is the 6 foot 4 point guard out of Florida that Rochestie gave his scholarship up for (initially). Of all of the accolades thrown at this kid, the biggest upside he is supposed to carry is his defense–which is a good thing! But what this team is going to need more than that is for him to become a steady floor general.

Last year, one of our main achillees heels was our lack of depth in the backcourt. Thankfully, we overcame that depth issue because both Low and Weaver were able to assume the point guard duties when a) we needed Taylor to shoot the rock and b) when the guy sat down to get a blow.

Unless I missed something, we have no Weaver, and while I love Cassius Klay Thompson (see next), he isn’t a point guard. Capers will have to play well in the conference for us to do anything. Thus, I will be looking closely at his minutes in the pre-season. Hopefully, T-Bone will throw this kid to the Wolves even if it costs us against Pitt, Baylor, and/or LSU. We need this kid to develop in a hurry.

2) Cassius Klay Thompson MUST be Efficient

Nation, there’s a lot about this team that I haven’t seen. But, Klay Thompson I have seen–in the 2008 California State Championship game. Nation, this guy is a Kyle Weaver (not as good defensively, but who is or ever will be?) and Ike Fontaine mix. He is NBA special.

That said, we all remember the type of “off” nights that freshmen stars OJ Mayo had last year don’t we?

With the make-up of our team, we simply will not be able to stand many 7-20 nights because we don’t create enough possessions to compensate for being innefficient. I look for Thompson to get a few Dick Bennett style lashings from T-Bone early on.

But then, look out. This kid WILL score over 30 in a game this year.

3) Baynes’ Feet and (Half) Courtvision MUST Improve

Last year in the NCAA tourney Baynes was the only Cougar in my book who rose to the moment on the national stage. Now, with Love and the Dummy Twins out of the League, Baynes figures to be your first team All-Conference center.

But, in order for him to ascend to such honors, there are two basic things he must do to improve his offense and defense.

First, on the defensive side, he needs to keep his feet. Last year, on two many occasions, Baynes was airborne after the first pumpfake. The result: fouls and duck-unders by Love and other savy 4’s and 5’s which would also give away the glass. This year, with the potential talents of Casto (and maybe Watson) in the mix, Baynes should realy just make people shoot over him. If he does, his rebounding totals should increase nicely. Even more importantly, he’ll be in the stinking game.

Now on offense, Baynes needs to be quicker to recognize the double team and needs to distribute much better than he’s done in the past. Last year, when we tried to establish Baynes early, he was often painfully slow and deliberate, and as a result, so were we. This year, we won’t be good enough defensively to score only 4-6 points in the first 8 minutes of games. Baynes will average 14 and 8 this year. But HOW he does that will be what matters for our fortunes.

3)Harmeling’s Jumper Must Have a Prayer

Two years ago, Harmeling was the 28 point bombshell against Gonzaga and Arizona. Last year, he fell off the map.

This year, he simply needs to shoot well from anywhere. If he can shoot well from behind the arc, then we will challenge for the second spot in the conference. But what we really, really need is for him to just shoot well in the midrange game. Remember, in games last year where Cowgill hit the 12-15 jumper off the glass, we KILLED teams. If Harmeling can stretch the defense at the 4, then Baynes has space to go off and the slashers like Nick and Thompson have room to take the ball to the rack. THAT leads to dish-offs to Baynes and the take-off of this basketball team.

Just like last year, Harmeling is your X man.

WHAT BRINKHATER’S BANKING ON

1) Nick’s Steady Play

There’s going to be a lot of pressure on Nicky boy to fill the shoes left by Kyle Weaver. But, I’m trusting that he’s been through enough to not get bogged down by that pressure. I think Nick is going to be a solid guy on the baseline. And, from what I’ve seen in past years, a capable man in the pack defense. Remember, this team will be starting FOUR GUYS that have been in the program for three years. So, he should be able to be the steady Eddy that we need him to be.

2) Casto’s Emergence as ‘The Real Deal’ by season’s end.

If you want to know why I have the audicity to think that this team is going back to the Sweet 16 it is because of this kid. After decades of watching the tourney, the recipe for advancing is simple: good guard play and shot blocking underneath. With Casto, we’re going to have the latter (and the former with Rochestie, Thompson, and bench). While I’ve heard that his timing is natural, I suspect that there will be some short performances for this kid early on (like 4 fouls in 15 minutes). But, as the season progresses, I am banking that he will develop the discipline necessary for us to emerge among the nation’s elite.

3) Improved Shooting

It may be hard to remember this, but there were several games and stretches last year where Rochestie was the only guy on the team that could hit the broad side of a barn. This year, with Rochestie taking more of a role in the offense, with a leaner and more polished Baynes, and with Thompson’s long range genius (wait til you see it!), this team will be much improved offensively. The question, of course, is how much we will drop-off defensively. With improved shot-blocking and a deeper 3-Point line, I’m guessing not much.

4) Taylor Stays Healthy

We can’t afford to lose Baynes for a long stretch at any time this year. But losing Taylor would flush the season down the toilet. I’m banking that Taylor stays healthy. And I’m also banking that there’s nothing called a “Brinkhater Curse.”

Final Thought:

I really do believe that this is a 2003 WSU Football type season. Enjoy it, enjoy it, enjoy it, because at this point, we all could use a few Cougar Victories.

And, thanks to T-Bone and company, we’re going to get about 23-24 of them this year.

(WSU 71 MSVSU 48 in the opener)