Its proving time for coach Ken Bone at Washington State. After the Cougars reached sudden heights under Tony Bennett, who soon left for Virginia, Bone has been unable to take the school back to the NCAA Tournament. A 13-19 record last year was Bone's worst in four campaigns with the program. There is an influx of talent this year, but it probably won't be enough for Washington State to compete at a high level.
DaVonte Lacy leads the team with 20.3 points per game and Ike Iroegbu can shoot the three, but the rest of the roster struggles to put the ball in the basket. The Cougars rank 198th in offensive efficiency through four games, including losses to Gonzaga and TCU. Weird stat of the day: last season Washington State had their shots blocked 14.4 percent of the time, worst in the nation. This year, the offensive block rate is down to 3.8 percent, good for ninth-best. That's mostly due to throwing up 52 percent of their shots from beyond the arc, more than any other team in the country.
Purdue Boilermakers (13.5 percent, 6.7 percent, 2.3 percent)-
Thanks to Travis Miller at Hammer and Rails for his overview of the Boilermakers:
Purdue is 5-0, but has had a few rough spots in getting there. They survived D-1 newcomer Northern Kentucky in the opener 77-76 when Errick Peck hit a three-pointer and Ronnie Johnson connected on two free throws to eliminate a four-point deficit with less than a minute left. That is pretty ironic considering Purdue has struggled at the free throw line and from long range.
The Boilers have been very balanced with brothers Ronnie Johnson and Terone Johnson leading them in scoring. Freshman Bryson Scott has been impressive at 10.6 points per game through five games. A disappointment is A.J.Hammons, who missed a game due to suspension and scored only a single point in a foul-fest against Rider. Defensively he is averaging 4.5 blocks per game, but offensively he has struggled.
Oklahoma St. Cowboys (86.5 percent, 74.1 percent, 56.2 percent)-
How good is Oklahoma State? In rising to the top slot in the current Pomeroy rankings, the Cowboys rank 6th nationally in effective field goal percentage (5th in three-point percentage), 2nd in points per game, and 5th in steal percentage on defense. They don't just score at will, they've taken the ball away from their opponents pretty easily too.
Of course, much of the credit has to go to All-Everything sophomore Marcus Smart. Smart will be in contention for national player of the year honors and he deserves it. An average stat line of 21.0 points, 4.0 rebounds, 3.6 assists, and 4.2 steals is downright pretty. Oklahoma State's closest win, by 21 points against #11 Memphis, was over by halftime. Travis Ford's squad is the clear favorite of the tournament. Even if the outcome of the tournament is decided early, this team should still make it worth watching.
Memphis Tigers (93.9 percent, 62.2 percent, 24.5 percent)-
Memphis moves to the American Athletic Conference this year to take on the rest of the old Big East. The Tigers have a lot of talent and high-expectations, but got pasted at Oklahoma State a week ago. The narrative of this tournament will be the chance for a rematch in the finals.
Nick King has feasted in limited playing time, averaging 16.0 points per game. That's almost a point per minute on the floor. Joe Jackson heads up the rest of the ensemble cast. Ten guys are averaging double-digit minutes for the Tigers' fast-paced attack.
Siena Saints (6.1%, 0.7%, 0.04%)-
Siena has really struggled in the early going and it doesn't look like they will get past last year's mark of eight wins for a while. Losses to Albany, Vermont, and La Salle set a rough tone for the year. The Saints have since rebounded to two one-possession victories against St. Bonaventure and Cornell, but there is still plenty of room for improvement.
Rob Poole leads the way with 15.5 points and 6.3 rebounds per game and freshman point guard Marquis Wright has one of the best assist rates in the MAAC, but as a team Siena can't shoot and sends too many opponents to the free throw line. Their first-round matchup with Memphis could get ugly.
LSU Tigers (54.0 percent, 20.9 percent, 5.9 percent)-
After a close loss to a good UMASS team to start the year, LSU has won three straight. Combing a good veteran core and a top-ten recruiting class, the Tigers are going to compete with anyone not named Kentucky or Florida in the SEC.
Johnny O'Bryant decided to stay for his junior year and has 17.8 points and 11.5 rebounds per game to show for it so far. Freshman Jordan Mickey is also toying with a double-double average. Only six teams in the nation are better on the offensive glass this season.
St. Joseph's Hawks (46.0 percent, 16.2 percent, 4.1 percent)-
Its hard to believe that Phil Martelli's program has been to the NCAA Tournament just once since Jameer Nelson won the Wooden Award. This year's version of the Hawks has some spunk, nearly beating Creighton at home, but has quite a few teams to hop to get back to the top of the Atlantic 10.
There are few better than Halil Kanacevic at cleaning the defensive glass, when he's on the floor. The senior has the fourth-best defensive rebounding percentage in the country but also fouled out against Vermont and Creighton. Fellow seniors Langston Galloway and Ronald Roberts, Jr. lead the team in scoring with 18.3 and 16.7 points per game respectively.