PULLMAN – Seven consecutive Washington State men’s basketball seasons have ended in Las Vegas at the Pac-12 tournament.
It’s unlikely the streak reaches eight this March.
Even if the Cougars bow out of the conference tournament at T-Mobile Arena, there should be more basketball ahead for Kyle Smith’s team.
The first-year WSU coach confirmed the Cougars, who are 14-10 overall and 5-6 in Pac-12 play after the victory Sunday over Washington, have received an invitation to the College Basketball Invitational – a lower-level postseason tournament that takes many of the teams not invited to the NCAA tournament or the NIT.
“We got an invite to the CBI, which is no knock, it’s something,” Smith said Sunday. “But we want to keep going and seeing what can happen. The league’s really good, top to bottom. … so who knows, so we just have to keep pushing along.”
Should they accept an invitation to the CBI, or continue winning and push for a spot in either of the other two tournaments, the Cougars would be making their first postseason appearance since 2011-12, when WSU went to the CBI under coach Ken Bone and lost two of three games to Pittsburgh to concede the championship.
After the victory Sunday, the Cougars sit in a tie for eighth place in the Pac-12, though Utah holds a head-to-head tiebreaker. The latest NCAA tournament projection from NCAA.com writer Andy Katz has five Pac-12 teams making the March Madness field, which would presumably send one or two more to the NIT.
Elleby earns Pac-12 player of the week honors
For the second time this season, Washington State’s CJ Elleby was selected the most outstanding player of the week in the Pac-12 Conference, the league announced Monday afternoon.
Elleby won the award despite playing just one game, and earned it just three weeks after the conference recognized him for his performance in a home sweep against Oregon and Oregon State.
This time, Elleby was handed the award for his 34-point performance against Washington, which allowed WSU to beat the rival Huskes 79-67 Sunday at Beasley Coliseum. The 34 points were a career-high for Elleby, who’d scored 27 points four times this season. They also matched the fourth-most scored by a Cougar against the Huskies, they were the most for an underclassman in the rivalry and they were the second-most by any WSU player against a UW team coached by Mike Hopkins.
In addition to the 34 points, which came on 9-for-16 shooting from the field, 6-for-9 shooting from three-point range and 10-for-10 from the free-throw line, Elleby also grabbed 10 rebounds for his fourth double-double of the season, and contributed three blocks, two assists and one steal.
Elleby becomes the first WSU player to win the award twice in the same season since Brock Motum did it in 2012-13, and the first underclassman to win it twice in a year since Klay Thompson in 2009-10.
The Seattle product has scored 20-plus points on 14 occasions this season and has been in double-digits all but three games. Elleby’s 19 points a game rank third in the Pac-12 and his team-leading 7.3 rebounds a game are eighth in the conference.