Daily Sports Thought 2/26

The WSU women’s basketball team needs more respect. There I said it. A lot of people probably aren’t thinking that because they have kind of flown under the radar. But if you pay attention to the season that the Cougars are having you would realize that they aren’t getting the respect they deserve. This team just put together the best season in WSU women’s basketball history and earned a first-round bye and third overall seed in the Pac-12 tournament. Yet ESPN’s bracketology had them projected to be a 10 seed in the NCAA tournament when it was last updated on Friday. There are three teams projected to be higher seeds than the Cougs in the NCAA Tournament that are not even higher seeds than the Cougs in the Pac-12 tournament. WSU beat one of those teams (Colorado) lost a close game to another (Utah) and split the series with the third (Arizona) but beat them when they played a week ago.

The reason WSU is not getting the respect it deserves is because there are a few bad losses that are holding it back. They come in at an underwhelming 59th in the NET ranking largely due to tough losses to Stony Brook, UCLA, and an absolute shellacking in the form of a 53-point loss to Oregon. But if you look at the rest of the Cougars’ losses it actually doesn’t look that bad. Three of those losses are to teams currently ranked in the top three (NC State and Stanford twice). An additional three games are to other ranked teams (BYU, Arizona, and Stanford). That means two-thirds of WSU’s losses are to teams in the top 25 and feasibly games they weren’t really expected to win. One more loss is to a team projected to be in the NCAA tournament (Utah) so really there are about seven losses that may not be too bad, other than that Oregon one. But you know what matters more than anything in basketball: Wins. And that is something this Cougar team is familiar with. Sometimes the numbers don’t always back up how good a team actually is when they step on the court and I think WSU falls into that category. The Cougars won 19 games this year, four of which were against projected tournament teams with another against a team in the ’next four out’ category. Plus they did it in the Pac-12 which is regarded as one of the toughest, if not the toughest, conferences in the nation. This is a conference that accounted for both teams playing in the 2021 NCAA championship game.

I get that advanced analytics and statistics are becoming more prevalent in sports in general, which is not something I am opposed to, but some cases can’t be totally defined by numbers. The Cougars may not be the best team on paper but they have demonstrated 19 times this year that they are the best team when they step on the court. And regardless of where they end up seeded in the NCAA tournament, they have definitely earned their spot and will be there in March. And once the table is set and the bracket is drawn, the numbers go out the window. There is a reason that we actually play the games out on the court, and not just decide it on paper, and when the sneakers are laced up and the nets are strewn up on the rims, the Cougars have a chance to take down anyone.