5. Washington State Cougars - 9-2
Considering that the top five scorers from last season either went pro or transferred out, there were plenty of questions about how good this group would be. But they’ve looked solid, thanks to the return of guard Myles Rice. He missed the past two years due to Cancer (Hodgkin’s lymphoma) but has been one of the best players in the Pac-12, averaging 15.5 ppg and 2.9 apg.
Just as important to Washington State’s success has been Isaac Jones, one of the top impact transfers in the conference. The former Idaho star leads the team with 15.6 ppg and 7.3 rpg, shooting 63% from the field. The team has had other key support including JUCO forward Oscar Cluff and big men such as Andrej Jakimovski, Jaylen Wells, and Rueben Chinyelu.
The collective size has given the Cougars a big advantage inside the paint, making up for a lack of shooting ability outside. They have wins over Rhode Island and Boise State, along with a couple of defeats to Mississippi State and Santa Clara. It’s not an NCAA Tournament resume just yet but they’ve certainly looked better than most of the conference.
Wazzu has a couple of huge tests coming up to start league play, with road games at Colorado and Utah as part of the infamous high-altitude away trip. A split would be welcomed but a sweep would put the conference on notice.