Time: 8 p.m., Tucson time
Location: Friel Court (11,671), Pullman, Wash.
Radio: IMG College/Wildcat Radio Network (Brian Jeffries/Matt Muehlebach)
TV: Pac-12 Networks (Kevin Calabro/Brevin Knight)
Lute Olson prided himself on not swearing. He was the anti-Bob Huggins. Washington State coach Ken Bone has the same principle as Olson but with different results. Olson coached teams to five Final Fours and he won a national title with Arizona in 1997. Bone is still trying to make his mark as a Division I coach in his seventh season as a head coach. He is 145-106. The Spokane (Wash.) Spokesman-Review reports that Bone has refrained from using expletives since becoming Seattle Pacific’s coach in 1990-91. He is in his fourth season with the Cougars. “Since I’m the head coach, there’s a couple little things that I’m going to have control over,” Bone told the Spokesman-Review. “I don’t care to hear it. I don’t think the fans there care to hear it, (and) I don’t really care for my young daughters to hear guys coming out of games or in the game or whatever, cussing and swearing.” If an expletive is muttered, the entire team must run continuous sprints in practice. Olson’s presence commanded respect; swearing was not necessary. Bone? It’s respectable what he’s trying to do, but heavens to Betsy, given his early track record as a Division I coach, maybe he should be a little more bad to the bone with his players.
Arizona coach Sean Miller has taken care of business in games the Wildcats have no business losing. With Thursday’s victory over Washington, the Wildcats improved their record to 13-0 against teams ranked after the Top 40 in the RPI according to CBSSports.com. The average margin of victory in those games is 18.3 points. They are a 5-0 in such games on the road with wins against No. 60 ASU, No. 73 Washington, No. 123 Clemson, No. 159 Oregon State and No. 199 Texas Tech. Washington State’s RPI is No. 164. The Cougars conversely are 0-4 vs. Top 40 RPI teams. Their most notable victory to date is at Oregon State last weekend. A Washington State victory over Arizona would be by far the most significant upset in the Pac-12 this season, supplanting No. 103 USC’s victory at No. 40 UCLA on Wednesday. Poor losses is one important element for a team when the NCAA tournament selection committee convenes. The Wildcats have avoided those to this point as well or better than most Olson-coached teams.
Washington State point guard Royce Woolridge, a Phoenix Sunnyslope grad, is one of 43 Arizona-bred players playing for Division I basketball programs other than Arizona and ASU. Former Arizona player Daniel Bejarano (Phoenix North) of Colorado State, Matt Carlino (Gilbert Mesquite) of BYU and Bryce Cotton (Palo Verde) of Providence are some of the more notable players who left the state. Woolridge’s late father, Orlando Woolridge, averaged 16 points per game in 13 NBA seasons. His great-uncle Willis Reed starred for the New York Knicks and is enshrined in the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame. Woolridge, who averaged 30.2 points a game as a shooting guard his senior year at Sunnyslope, redshirted at WSU last season after playing minimal minutes with Kansas as a freshman in 2010-11. Woolridge verbally committed at age 15. He told the Tacoma News-Tribune he received recruiting letters from schools such as Gonzaga, UCLA and Arizona but his early commitment to the Jayhawks warded off recruiters. Other schools that showed interest in him when he left Kansas included ASU, Marquette and Pepperdine. Woolridge is averaging 30.2 minutes a game for Washington State. He leads the Cougars with 56 assists and 22 steals.
Arizona senior forward Solomon Hill, a Pac-12 Player of the Year hopeful entering this season, did not attempt his first field goal against Washington until 6:17 remained in the first half. His jumper cut the Huskies’ lead to 20-15. By that time, senior point guard Mark Lyons attempted four shots. Hill seemed out of rhythm all night, going 0 of 4 from three-point range and 5 of 12 from the field. Different from other past Arizona small forwards who merited player of the year status, Hill is not the main focal point on offense. Sean Elliott and Chris Mills were go-to guys. Hill averages 9.4 field-goal attempts a game this season, behind Lyons (11.1) and Nick Johnson (9.6). As seniors, Elliott averaged 14.9 shots a game and Mills 14.5. Derrick Williams, as a sophomore before jumping to the NBA, averaged 10 field-goal attempts a game, not much more than Hill. Miller stresses balance. Olson was smart to get Elliott and Mills in as many scoring situations as possible. Give credit to Miller for spreading opportunities, which is appropriate for the talent on this year’s team. Hill also deserves credit for understanding his role.
Washington State senior forward Brock Motum, who will likely match up against freshman Brandon Ashley, leads the Cougards with 18.5 points and 6.8 rebounds per game. He’s scored at least 11 points in all 21 games this season. He’s averaging 16.5 points in WSU’s eight conference games. Motum, from Brisbane, Australia, has reached double figures in every game this season. With 20 points and 10 rebounds at Oregon State last weekend, Motum is one of just four Pac-12 players to record at least 20 points and 10 rebounds in a conference game this season, joined by ASU’s Jordan Bachynski and Carrick Felix and UCLA’s Shabazz Muhammad. Kevin Parrom (16 points and eight rebounds against Colorado) and Hill (19 points and six rebounds against Utah) are the Wildcats who have come closest to that mark this season.
PAC-12 RPI ASSESSMENT
RPI based on CBSSports.com
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*-Wins vs. Top 50 teams
**-Losses vs. Top 100 teams or higher
SOS-Strength of schedule
Site publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner