Coach Tony Bennett's Washington State Cougars (12-11, 4-7) limped home last week after suffering consecutive losses to Stanford and Cal. They have their work cut out hosting the Oregon schools this week in Pullman, WA.
First up for the Cougs will be Coach Ernie Kent's Oregon Ducks (6-17, 0-11).
Though the Ducks were not expected to be a team finishing in the upper half of the Pac-10 this season, no one predicted they would be 11 games into the conference schedule and still looking for their first win.
Looking at Oregon basketball this season will have you scratching your head.
Coach Kent is not only one of the best coaches in the Pac-10, he has the most longevity following the retirement of Coach Lute Olsen at the beginning of this season. That said, coaching shouldn't be a problem.
Two of the returning starters from the Ducks squad of a year ago, Tajuan Porter and Joevan Catron, are outstanding Division I players. That should have been a plus.
Coach Kent convinced one of the top high school players in the country to wear one the ugliest uniforms in college basketball. Michael Dunigan is as good as advertised.
Yet, Oregon basketball this season is a mystery.
So what might have been, in terms of success, now has become more like a Magical Mystery Tour for Oregon. From the tone and level of grumbling in Eugene, this might just turn out to be a farewell tour for Coach Kent.
When there is mystery surrounding a basketball program that is temporarily floundering, that's the current/conventional wisdom to resolve the struggle.
Fire the head coach.
If things are going poorly for Oregon now, one can't expect a change in coaches to improve the situation. There just aren't many coaches out there who would prove to be a legitimate upgrade over one of the best in the Pac-10.
So what does all of that have to do with the game tomorrow night?
The Ducks will be stepping on to Friel Court Thursday night with every expectation to win. If Coach Bennett's team doesn't play sound, solid basketball, the Ducks will get their wish...a win.
When the two teams met up weeks ago, WSU earned a victory by turning in a record setting performance in Eugene.
In the 74-62 victory in their previous meeting, Washington State made all 28 free throws attempts, setting a Pac-10 record in the process. Senior Taylor Rochestie led the way at the charity stripe by knocking down 16 consecutive free throws, tying the WSU school record.
The Cougs score more than 70 points in a game as often as the stock market registers a gain this year. It happens, just not with any regularity.
Should you be a history buff, Oregon bested WSU 21 out of 22 games between 1997 and 2007. Part of that history includes the coach during that span. Yes, the head man was the embattled Coach Kent. The current streak of four consecutive wins belongs to Coach Bennett and the Cougs.
The young guns of Washington State will need to make one adjustment to reverse their performance trend at home in Pullman. They have to focus on playing their game and block out the reality of family, friends and fans in the stands watching them play.
Do that and they will complete a season sweep of Oregon.
Oregon- WSU in Pullman, WA
Thursday 7:00pm PST
Listen on the Cougar Radio Network