Cougar hoops ready for potential history

WSU women’s basketball returns to action next week with San Jose State



Kamie Ethridge coaches the WSU women’s basketball team on Feb. 2, 2020.

KURIA POUNDS, Evergreen reporter

This past season, women’s basketball on the Palouse got the attention of the national media after making it to their first NCAA tournament since 1991.

The Cougars competed their hearts out last year in a very top-heavy conference, finishing eighth in the Pac-12, winning their first-round matchup in the tournament against Utah to essentially stamp their March Madness ticket.

The team retained every single star from last season, including the Leger-Walker sisters, junior center Bella Murekatete and head coach Kamie Ethridge.

Before the season even tips off, WSU received nine votes for the AP Top 25 poll this preseason, trying to make their first appearance in years.

WSU has everyone back from last season where they finished 12-12 in the shortened season, being the No. 9 seed in the tournament against South Florida in the first round.

The expectations for this team are skyrocketing with the success of sophomore guard Charlisse Leger-Walker as one of the best, if not the best freshman, in the Pac-12 last season.

Ethridge now has a team in front of her that is destined to break barriers, already picked to finish sixth in a very loaded Pac-12 conference, which is already two spots better than last season.

The Cougars are also a preseason NCAA tournament team. 

Charlie Creme, ESPN women’s bracketology analyst, has the Cougars as a 10 seed in the tournament facing the No. 7 seed BYU Cougars in the first round.

Murekatete was also recently added to the Lisa Leslie Award watch list, which goes to the nation’s best Division I center in women’s basketball. She is one of three Pac-12 centers to be nominated to the watch list.

The Cougars’ nonconference slate starts with easier matchups for WSU against San Jose State, Northern Arizona, and Idaho. WSU travels to the Baha Mar Pink Flamingo Championship in the Bahamas, where they are slated to face No. 5 NC State and Miami.

Both ACC schools will be huge tests for this relatively young team before conference play tips off on the Palouse. In a very top-heavy conference, where five teams are ranked in the Top 25 in the preseason, it will not be easy for this young team.

WSU can definitely win 18 or more games with this schedule and if they get on a hot streak, watch out. The non-conference slate also features Gonzaga, who dominates the WCC throughout the season for women’s basketball, and BYU.

Women’s basketball is booming on the Palouse, and the rise in success is evident after a historic season for the Cougars.

The team has not left for the WNBA draft, and because of the youth of this team, the Cougars can look to a potential NCAA tournament birth once again and could have a deeper run than last year.