NEW YORK — The Washington State Cougars, staring intently into their crystal ball, got an early peak at life without Klay Thompson Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden.
Based on initial results, the Cougars hereby forfeit their 2011-12 season.
Oh, it wasnt that bad. Close. But not that bad.
Now, if DeAngelo Casto follows Thompson out the locker room door, then a forfeited season might very well be in order. Besides, look at all the savings on travel! Gotta find the cash to build that football training facility, ya know.
A Cougars season filled with ups, downs, marijuana busts and controversy ended in disastrous fashion when Wichita State clobbered WSU West 75-44 in the semifinals of the National Invitation Tournament.
The Cougars played horrendously, but make no mistake — Wichita State is the best 28-8 team no one has ever heard about. The Shockers are loaded with depth, size and experience, all of which Washington State lacks. Wichita State played harder and better than the Cougars from the opening tip, and the final score did Washington State a favor, because it wasnt that close.
Of course, it never hurts when some guy named Garrett Stutz — previously known as The Worlds Most Invisible 7-Foot Man — suddenly develops an itch to transform himself into Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
Stutz, who came into the game averaging 6.7 points and 3.3 rebounds, racked up a career-high 24 points on 10-for-13 shooting. He wound up one shy of his career high of 12 rebounds, but that worked out all right, since the Shockers nipped the Cougars 52-25 — 52-25! — on the boards.
Theyre just bigger and stronger, shell-shocked Cougars coach Ken Bone said. They literally just manhandled us on both ends of the court.
Thompson, meanwhile, turned into The Worlds Most Invisible NBA Prospect. Who knew that Washington State would learn all about life without Thompson when he was still in uniform?
Thompson never found any semblance of rhythm, drew three fouls in the first 10 minutes and finished with six points on 1-for-10 shooting. What, if any, impact that will have on Thompsons pending decision on turning pro or returning for his senior year remains to be seen.
Thompson and fellow junior DeAngelo Casto continue to contemplate the pros and cons of the pros and college. In other words, they havent decided whether to bypass their senior year to go pro. Thompson has been mentioned as a possible NBA first-round draft pick; Casto, who hates school and has a young child, most likely would head overseas.
Given that Thompson is one of the nations leading scorers and Casto is WSUs only major impact player on the front line, the loss of one of both players could be fatal to the Cougars next season. Washington State only went .500 in the Pac-10 with Thompson and Casto, so the Cougars may be destined to finish below Walla Walla Community College in the Pac-12 next season.
Regardless, Bone and school administrators need to look long and hard at current disciplinary policies during the off-season.
When Bone waited forever before suspending point guard Reggie Moore for one game for marijuana possession, critics wondered if such a light penalty might lead to further transgressions.
Sure enough, a few weeks later, Thompson got caught with pot. His suspension? One game.
A few weeks later, Casto went to pot. His suspension? Indefinite.
Until the following day.
When his suspension disappeared faster than the Cougars did against Wichita State.
Anybody noticing a trend here? Illegal drug possession plus no real consequence equals no change in player behavior.
With or without Thompson and/or Casto next year, the Cougars obviously need better focus and discipline. There were far too many slow starts in halves, botched box-outs under the boards, defensive breakdowns, reckless shots.
That said, the Cougars had no seniors, and recruiting seems to be at least adequate. If Thompson and Casto return, the Cougars have to be considered contenders for their first conference title since 1940-41.
If Thompson and Casto depart well, the season will go up in smoke in an entirely different way.