Let the post-Klay Thompson era begin in Pullman, Wash.
After losing Thompson to the NBA, where he became the highest draft pick ever in Washington State basketball history after going No. 11 to the Golden State Warriors, the team returns nine players, including three starters.
Along with Thompson, last year's leading rebounder and shot blocker, DeAngelo Casto, also left after his junior season and decided to go pro and is now playing overseas in Turkey.
What's left in the Palouse is a mystery.
From a distance, one might think a team returning nine players is primed for similar results that helped guide it to a 22-13 record and reaching the NIT semifinals last season, but when the two players that departed contributed to 47 percent of the scoring, that leaves huge holes in the offense.
Leading the Cougars this season will be junior guard Reggie Moore. After a productive freshman campaign, Moore regressed due to nagging injuries and an off-court run-in with the law when he was cited for marijuana possession.
Last year Moore averaged nine points and three assists but did not show floor leadership like he did as a freshman. With Thompson gone, look for Moore to become more of a vocal leader and for his numbers to improve across the board.
Senior Faisal Aden is the top returning scorer from last season, having averaged nearly 13 points while coming off the bench. With Thompson's departure, Aden will most likely slide into the starting lineup and look to continue to score. Aden has never found a shot he doesn't like, having last season attempted 100-plus more field goals than any other returning player.
Where will the Cougars finish in the conference?
While Thompson may have been the bigger profile, Casto's presence may leave the greater void. Casto was the Cougars' lone interior presence on defense and was also their most tenacious rebounder and the conference's second-leading shot blocker, averaging nearly two a game.
Inside, the Cougars return big man Brock Motum, but that's it. Motum last year did not play as often as I think he should've but was effective and efficient when stepping on the court. The left-handed Motum led the conference last season, shooting almost 60 percent from the field while averaging eight points a game.
The Cougars return other "tall" players, but they're more perimeter-oriented.
Senior Charlie Enquist (6'10") played sparingly in 26 games and will need to take on a bigger role this season.
Sophomore Patrick Simon (6'8") returns for another year but is more of a three-point threat (and I use that term loosely) as 62 of his 89 shots were from downtown.
Transfers Mike Ladd (Fresno State) and DJ Shelton (Citrus College) and with freshman DaVonte Lacy are just three of a handful of newcomers who will make an impact this season.
Shelton, a 6'10" 240 redshirt sophomore, will most likely take Casto's place in the paint and try and provide some interior defense.
The Cougars' schedule starts out difficult when they take on No. 23 Gonzaga just an hour away in Spokane, Wash. Last season when these two teams squared off in Pullman, the Cougars won easily, 81-59.
After the early test, the rest of the non-conference schedule gets easier before heading into conference play with the new schedule that won't have them playing a round-robin style. In previous years, all conference teams played each other twice, but this year the Cougars will only face Stanford and California once (both in Pullman) and newcomers Colorado and Utah once (both on the road).
Scoring will not be this team's problem. Third-year head coach Ken Bone likes to run a fast tempo style of offense and the Cougars have plenty of guards to do that. However, if they run into teams with a strong interior presence, the Cougars will struggle.
The Pac-12 media has picked the Cougars to finish near the bottom, and I have to agree purely on the fact that this team relied so heavily on Thompson in the clutch that you have to wonder where it's going to come from.
Due to other teams improving—Oregon, Oregon State, Arizona State—and top teams reloading—Arizona and Washington—the Cougars will have their struggles and fall towards the bottom while they rebuild.
Final season record: 12-16 (5-13 in conference)