The WSU men's basketball team has not won more than two games in a row since December.
The NIT champion must win five consecutive games.
That might be an ominous sign for the Cougs, but they will try to get one win out of the way Wednesday night in Pullman against Long Beach State. The 49ers were throttled by the two other Pac-10 teams they played this season, UW and Arizona State, but they gave North Carolina and Saint Mary's a run for their money, losing by fewer than 10 points. Long Beach also went 14-2 in the Big West and reached the conference tournament final.
Given the Cougs' inconsistent play, I don't expect them to have an easy time against the 49ers. The Cougs must play a full 40 minutes, which has been a struggle throughout the season. In the last two games, the Cougs let sizable halftime leads disappear and ended up losing. Sure, one could argue WSU didn't stand a chance against Isaiah Thomas and UW's outside shooters in the second half of the Pac-10 tournament quarterfinal, but the Cougs seemed to think the best defense was a good Klay Thompson offense. They'll need to do better than that in the NIT.
The biggest thing WSU will have in its favor Wednesday is home-court advantage. The Cougs are 10-4 on Friel Court this season — and three of those losses were by five points or fewer. The only problem is it's spring break in Pullman, so the student section likely will be thin. Nonetheless, not having to travel will be a plus for the Cougs.