It’d been a decade since the Washington State men’s basketball team was picked to finish this high in a preseason conference media poll.
Still, it didn’t feel high enough.
The Cougars came in at eighth in the Pac-12 poll, released Wednesday morning as part of the league’s media day in San Francisco.
WSU has been called a dark-horse NCAA Tournament team by college hoops experts. The Cougars beat two eventual Sweet 16 qualifiers last year and topped UCLA, which fell to Gonzaga in the Final Four.
In the offseason, WSU pulled in its second straight top-60 recruiting class in the country, per 247Sports.com. Two key players have departed, but the Cougs’ talent level has likely improved with the addition of super-scoring South Alabama transfer Michael Flowers, 6-foot-11 rookie Mouhamed Gueye and Division II star Tyrell Roberts.
Two familiar standouts earned preseason all-conference accolades. Junior guard Noah Williams was a first-team pick after adding high-volume scoring capabilities to his already impressive defensive skill set. Ultra-athletic sophomore big man Efe Abogidi got an honorable mention.
WSU defeated five NCAA Tournament teams last season en route to a 14-13 finish – the program’s first winning record in nine years.
The Cougars open their season Nov. 9 at home against Alcorn State.
UCLA was a big favorite to win the conference.