Pac-12 Season Preview: Washington State enters season with new faces on bench

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In preparation for the 2018 women’s basketball season, Can Sarioz will preview each of Cal’s Pac-12 opponents.

New team, who dis?

After a bumpy 2017-18 campaign, Washington State enters the season with a brand-new coaching staff looking to bring a new identity to the Cougars.

Last season marked the end of the June Daughtery era in Pullman, which experienced its fair share of ups and downs for 11 years. The Cougars finished with their worst Pac-12 record since the 2009-10 season with just three wins in 17 games, losing the final seven contests.

After a No. 10 finish in the Pac-12, the preseason coaches’ poll ranks Washington State second to last in the conference. It’s fair to say Pac-12 coaches envision a struggling chance for the Cougars.

The new look in Pullman starts with coaching and continues with players as a total makeover is in progress on the Washington State roster. Half of the team from last year’s roster left, and four incoming freshmen will join the seven returning players.

Rebuilding will undoubtedly be the theme initially; however, that’s definitely not what the Cougars are going for down the road.

New head coach Kamie Ethridge has the benefit of the top three scorers returning — redshirt junior forward Borislava Hristova, senior guard Alexys Swedlund and junior guard Chanelle Molina.

Rebounding, however, seems to be the biggest headache for the Cougar faithful. Washington State allowed opponents to grab 40-plus boards per game, and the Cougars only got smaller over the summer. Only two Cougars are listed at taller than 6 feet this year, compared to last year’s five.

Senior center Maria Kostourkova and redshirt sophomore forward Jovana Subašic will likely see a solid increase in minutes and responsibility, as they combined for less than 24 minutes per game last season. That said, the team will rely on them to transition from defense to offense.

Washington State scored 65.1 points and surrendered 71.6 points to its opponents per game in conference play, but the Cougars had six games in which they scored less than 55 points — all of which resulted in losses.

On the other hand, they also had five games in which they scored 75 or more points, and all of their conference wins came when they reached that plateau.

One thing that is certain is that Washington State will have a variety of talent up and down its new-look lineup. More than half of the Cougars’ roster consists of international players, and the chemistry on the team is fueled by the Molina sisters — Chanelle, Celena and Cherilyn.

Washington State will need an adjustment period with the new coaching staff and perhaps a new playing style, but it will definitely have a decent chance against any and all opponents when it hits its stride on offense.

Considering the Cougars lost five games within 3 points in conference play, including their first-round loss in the Pac-12 Tournament, they have a good chance of surpassing the expectations displayed on the preseason coaches’ poll.

There is nothing to do other than wait and see how a new identity fits the Cougars as they build toward a brighter future.

Can Sariöz covers women’s basketball. Contact him at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @can_sarioz.