Countdown to College Basketball: #42 Washington State Cougars

Before you ask, no, this is not a misprint, Washington State is actually the #42 team in the Top-50 team countdown. While Washington State hasn’t been good since the Tony Bennett era, that is set to change this season as the Cougars have a team capable of making the NCAA Tournament. The team returns four of five starters, adds a Top-50 recruit, and adds one of the most sought-after transfers of this offseason. With this roster, the Cougars should at a bare minimum be in the middle of the pack of a competitive Pac 12 and at best, could be a Top-3 team in the conference. 

Isaac Bonton is the lone Cougar starter that departed a season ago and while he led the team in scoring, he was oftentimes turnover prone and was not an efficient shooter. Now adding a player like Michael Flowers who is a more efficient shooter, and a like-minded passer, making him a seamless addition. Noah Williams could lead the team in scoring, while Williams had some games where he was a non-factor, when he’s on he has shown an ability to score 25+ with ease. Consistency will be key but if he can avoid having games where he is a non-factor, he should be able to put up numbers. 

Washington State has a real chance to have one of the most athletic and physically dominant frontcourts in College Basketball. Mouhamed Gueye represents one of the biggest mystery box recruits of this season. The four-star recruit has all the skill sets needed to be a productive center this year and could be a one-and-done prospect, but it is no guarantee he pans out. As someone expecting Washington State to be a Tournament team, I will bank on Gueye being to that level of talent. Efe Abogidi will start inside, he’s shown himself to be an effective five-man, he’s a good shot-blocker, defender, and rebounder while he showed an ability to shoot it as well. His ability to space the floor even with a mid-range jumper could ultimately unlock the keys to a truly special frontcourt duo. 

Andrej Jakimovski provides the Cougars with a modern-day forward who could play minutes at the 3 and the 4. Jakimovski has a good ability to stretch the floor, is a mobile wing, and has guard skills. DJ Rodman is unlike Dennis Rodman in that he’s an elite rebounder, that said at 6’6 he provides physicality and toughness as well as the ability to space the floor. TJ Bamba can space the floor, but as a guard, he primarily tries to score around the basket. Dishon Jackson will rotate minutes at the center spot, he’s a good interior scorer and shot-blocker. 

For the Cougars to achieve their NCAA Tournament goals, they will need major contributions from Michael Flowers. The guard was one of the elite mid-major guards, but he must translate his scoring and passing abilities to the high-major level. Noah Williams will also need to be a great scorer and a consistent one at that. Williams flashed his scoring prowess a year ago but can’t afford any sort of major valley’s like he had a year ago. The other key will be up front, Mouhamed Gueye has to be a good interior scorer, shot-blocker while being a good defender. The rest of the team will need to continue to play their roles by spacing the floor and providing defensive help. 

If all the things mentioned above come to fruition, Washington State has legitimate Top-25 upside. There’s also a chance this team bottoms out and misses the NCAA Tournament altogether. I will bet on Williams being a consistent high-level scorer, Flowers being able to bring his contributions to the PAC-12 and their frontcourt to dominate. If all three of those things happen, maybe I’m a little bit low on Washington State. 

Projected Rotation

PG: Michael Flowers

SG: Noah Williams

SF: Andrej Jakimovski

PF: Efe Abogidi

C: Mouhamed Gueye

B1: DJ Rodman

B2: TJ Bamba

B3: Dishon Jackson

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