The outlook appears bleak for the Washington State men’s basketball team that finished tied for last place in the Pac-12 last season and must replace Brock Motum, who led the conference in scoring.
There have been abrupt departures (junior-college transfer Danny Lawhorn), speculation about coach Ken Bone’s job security and changes on the staff.
Junior guard DaVonte Lacy is doing his best to block out the distractions, but he was forced to confront critics Thursday at the Pac-12 media day, where the Cougars were picked to finish last in the conference in a preseason media poll.
“I feel like everyone is entitled to their opinion,” Lacy said. “It’s just something else that we have to listen to, but we don’t have to subscribe to it.”
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Bone added veteran assistant Rod Jensen, and he’ll help implement a new pressure defense. For a second straight season, the Cougars will rely on a rotation at point guard that includes junior Royce Woolridge and Lacy. Bone hopes freshman Ike Iroegbu will also help take care of ball-handling duties.
However, the biggest concern is replacing Motum’s 18.7 scoring average.
Candidates include newcomer Que Johnson, who has been slowed by a stress fracture, Woolridge, Lacy and junior guard Dexter Kernich-Drew.
“This year I’ll be looking more to score,” said Lacy, who averaged 10.5 points last season. “Brock is gone, so those shots are there.”
There are 28 rules changes in college basketball this season, from uniform regulations to governing how teams defend. There are three areas of officiating concern — hand-checking, freedom of movement and the block/charge call — intended to increase scoring.
Scoring in Division I men’s basketball last season dipped to 67.5 points, the lowest mark since the 1951-52 season.
“It could really have a revolutionary effect on the game,” Arizona State coach Herb Sendek said.
Bobby Dibler, the officiating coordinator for the Pac-12 and the Mountain West conferences, believes there’s going to be growing pains this season while players, coaches and fans adjust to the new rules.
“I expect we’re going to have more whistles in the basketball game,” he said.
Washington coach Lorenzo Romar isn’t a fan of the rule changes, which he believes hinders aggressive, defensive-minded teams like the Huskies.
“It could be problematic for us in what we do,” he said. “We’re not going to change what we do. We have to adjust and make sure we’re fundamentally sound in defending that ball so that we’re not reaching.
“Because of our pressure, we place a premium in taking charges. If we can’t take charges and we can’t keep people in front of us, it makes it difficult.”
• Arizona coach Sean Miller downplayed being tabbed the favorite in the preseason media poll. “We’re not experienced enough to be head and shoulders above the field,” he said.
• Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott said the NCAA will take a look at the NBA one-and-done rule, which “threatens to make a mockery” of the student-athlete ideal.
• California’s Justin Cobbs, who had surgery on his foot in August, said he is about “80 percent” and expects to be ready for the season opener in Maui.