Cougar Time

By - December 08, 2006

We at the Max like to think of ourselves as champions of the little guy. Far from spending all of our time talking about the Ohio State’s, Duke’s and USC’s of the world we like to keep an eye on the forgotten programs that are making noise. Earlier this year we talked about San Jose State (headed to their first bowl game since the 1990 California Raisin Bowl), Rice (rebounding from a one win season to finish 7-5 and win a bid to the New Orleans Bowl) but now it’s basketball season and so we go in search of moribund hoops programs that look like they may be making a comeback, enter Washington State.

After finishing 11-17 last year Dick Bennett stepped down as head coach and handed the reigns to son Tony who has the Cougars playing as well as they have in years. It all came to a head earlier this week when they used a late 14-1 run to top Gonzaga and move to 8-1. As you would expect of a team coached by the son of Dick Bennett the Cougars are doing it with defense, ranking just 192nd in scoring offense but 34th in scoring defense. They also take care of the ball averaging just under 10 turnovers per game. Against Gonzaga they turned the ball over just seven times while forcing 17 on the other end. They struggled a bit on offense in the first half but had their way with the Zags after the break shooting 72% from behind the three-point line.

Others to keep an eye on…

Clemson- It seems like every year the Tigers get off to a fast start. They’re 10-0 this year with some mildly impressive wins over Old Dominion, Minnesota and NIT powerhouse South Carolina.

Baylor- If you’ve read this blog before you should know that these are my guys. They are 6-1 so far with games against Syracuse and the aforementioned South Carolina on the horizon.

Michigan- Another team that always seems to raise some eyebrows in November only to disappoint down the stretch. They are currently 9-1 but the wins have come against suspect competition.

Southern Mississippi- They are 7-0 but the real test will come this weekend when they face Alabama. Otherwise their marquee win is over UT-Martin, never a good sign.

Illinois State- It’s hard to steal attention away from Wichita State and Missouri State in the Valley but the Cardinals are doing their best. After losing their first two games of the year to SMU and Florida State they’ve reeled off six straight wins including one over St. John’s of the Big East. And their leading scorer is a guy named Dom Johnson which is good for all kinds of Miami Vice references.

Posted by at 02:16 PM on December 08, 2006
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