Pac-12 preview: Washington State University

This is the eleventh in a series previewing the Pac-12 teams

As Washington State coach June Daugherty enters the seventh and final year of her contract, her record is 56-129: a 30 percent winning margin. Will she be re-signed at the end of the year? Probably. The coach before her – Sherri Murrell – had a record of 27-114. The bar for the Cougars is set low.

They are likely to have a record similar to what it was last season (11-20) due to a collection of good and bad factors that cancel each other out.

On the upside, sophomore Lia Galdeira (14.8 ppg, 5.2 rpg) returns, and dynamic junior guard Tia Presley (13.3 ppg) is back after having her season cut short last year with an ACL tear. Out of the three players lost from 2013, only one was a starter, and all five freshman stayed and are now sophomores. With only one freshman this year, continuity will be maintained and players will have more experience overall.

On the down side, there is a steep drop off in offensive production between Galdeira and Presley and the rest of the team. Senior guard/forward Sage Romberg (6.1 ppg, 4.4 rpg) and sophomore Mariah Cooks (5.7 ppg, 3.5 rpg) are the next leading scorers, and everyone else has 3.9 ppg and 2.3 rpg or less. The newcomer is forward Ivana Kmetovska, from Macedonia. The remainder of the Cougars will have to step way up.

Daugherty’s defenders like to say that you can’t recruit to Eastern Washington. But tell that to Gonzaga, which sells out just about every home game in their 6,000-seat arena just a few miles up the road. WSU just doesn’t pay much attention to women’s hoops, so mediocrity is the norm.

Strangely enough, however, the Cougars like to schedule games against quality opponents as if they were actual contenders. In preconference play they’ll face Syracuse, West Virginia, BYU, Nebraska, Dayton and Gonzaga. They open their Pac-12 schedule at home, Jan. 3, against Arizona State.

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