Pac-12 preview: Washington State University

This is the third in a 12-part series previewing the Pac-12 teams.

This year June Daugherty enters her fifth season of a seven-year contract at Washington State University. Will the school cut her loose early? If they do so, it would be understandable.

Under the former University of Washington coach, WSU has not had a winning record. In 2010-2011, the Cougars were 8-23. Even deconstructed Oregon State, with a team of unknown, unranked players had a better record last year. WSU hasn’t landed any top recruits since Daugherty’s first year, and those two – April Cook and Jazmine Perkins – are about to graduate. No one on the team has a double-digit scoring average.

The Cougars technically return one starter, as only junior center Carly Noyes started every game last year – undoubtedly because she’s the tallest on the squad at 6-foot-5. Perkins and sophomore guard Ireti Amojo each started 21 games; top scorer Sage Romberg (9.5 points per game) started 17 games. The top rebounder was Perkins, at 5-foot-10, who averaged 5.3 boards per game.

Bench players Katie Madison, Lexie Pettersen and Katie Calderwood graduated. They are replaced this year with three unknown freshmen: Tia Presley of Spokane, Wash., Jordan Kelley from Gillette, Wyo., and Shalie Dheensaw of Victoria, B.C. The fact that for the second consecutive year Daugherty is able to land only one in-state recruit from a talent-laden area says a lot.

Perhaps WSU is used to basketball mediocrity. Before Daugherty there was coach Sherri Murrell, whose Cougar teams lived at the bottom of the Pac-10 Conference. WSU has been to the NCAA Tournament once, in 1991, where they lost in the first round. They don’t even play in the WNIT.

The school should get un-used to underachievement. It happened to neighboring Gonzaga, whose ascension to elite program status was cemented last year. There is room for another great team in the Washington outback. The win-starved Pullman community would embrace them in a heartbeat.

As nice of a person as Daugherty is, she doesn’t seem to have what it takes to effectively coach a team. Whether or not WSU will come to the same conclusion remains to be seen. But in the meantime, it looks like Cougar fans will have to suffer through another sub-par season this year.

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