WSU basketball is currently in purgatory

It is almost merciful that both the WSU men’s and women’s basketball teams’ seasons have reached their ending point for the 2015-2016 season.

With a brief season in review for each team as the sports scene shifts over to springtime and Cougar baseball, it is clear that Head Coaches Ernie Kent and June Daugherty will need to use these next six months to decide which direction they want to take their respective program.

Neither the men’s nor the women’s team are totally off the college basketball radar, but both programs are not members of the top echelons in the Pac-12 or west coast basketball. They are stuck smack dab in the middle right now, and have a choice to make on which party to join.

The men’s team finished dead last in the Pac-12 with a record of 1-17 and is heading into their first round matchup in this week’s conference tournament on a 16-game debauchery of a losing streak.

Daugherty’s bunch was upended last week in the first round of their own conference tournament last week to end their season short of an NIT bid and lost six conference games this year in which they led, were tied in or trailed by one possession in under two minutes.

Led by last year’s No. 1 and No. 4 ranked international recruits Borislava Hristova, who lead the team in scoring this year in averaging 16.1 points per game, and Maria Kostourkova, the women’s team (14-16, 5-13) had a host of talented underclassmen on the roster but could not put together consistent enough efforts to return to the postseason.

Both groups and head coaches differed in the challenges they faced this winter, yet the storyline remains the same. With combined three, four and five-star recruits signing with either the men’s or women’s program and set to touch down in Pullman this fall, considerable potential for improvement in the win-loss column and concurrent fan support is present.

Such headway, however, will only come to fruition with a remedy of the wrongs from this past November through February.

Seven international players filled out this year’s roster for the women’s team while an equal amount of newcomers (freshman or junior college transfers) largely comprised the in-game lineups and rotations used by Kent for the men’s team.

With individual talent reeled in by the coaching staff in each bunch, stronger coexistence and chemistry may serve to better promote each player to the fan base. Better collaboration on the two teams will allow all of those close losses in the second half or final minutes of play to reverse themselves into wins.

Kent has got to redefine his “up-tempo” offensive approach and his players are equally deserving of a lesson in learning how to effectively communicate and run their coach’s defensive formation.

The women’s team was frequently out-rebounded by margins upward of 20 boards in conference play and never quite figured out who its second and third scoring options on offense were. It left Hristova, a freshman, out to dry against stiffer competition as the entirety of an opponent’s defensive game plan was geared around covering her.

Beasley Coliseum seats a maximum capacity of 11,671 people, though only three of a combined 30 home games between the two teams saw more than half of the seats filled.

The men’s team’s matchups with Gonzaga, Washington and California, their three games with the greatest localizing effect, saw Jack Friel Court rocking with an energy somewhat close to the passion fans brought to Pullman in the mid-2000’s when they flocked to see Tony Bennett’s nationally ranked squads.

Beasley, with the arduous travel required to get to Pullman and raucous fans, was once one of the toughest places to come and play on the West Coast.

It is not as though good basketball is alien to this university. Each program has talented athletes and experienced coaches at their disposal right now, and are set to bolster their rosters with highly-rated recruits this fall.

The room to improve is certainly present. Even though Kent and all coaches alike will state in truth that a stronger home crowd makes a stronger basketball team, the players and coaches have to do their part first.

All the makings of two tough-minded programs who boast a premier home court advantage have the appropriate roots in place. Fans will make the commute to Pullman if a worthy product is put on the hardwood.

But as was the case all season long, it is time for Cougar basketball to deliver on its potential and promises.