Reggie Moore's ankle is feeling better, so Ken Bone's head and heart are feeling better as the Washington State Cougars prepare to take on visiting Long Beach State on Wednesday in the opening round of the National Invitation Tournament.
The 32-team NIT field was announced Sunday night. WSU (19-12) is seeded second in the Boston College Region. Long Beach State (22-11) is the No. 7 seed.
Game time is 7 p.m. Wednesday. The game will be televised on ESPNU.
Bone, Washington State’s coach, said Moore was moving better at practice Sunday. The starting point guard sprained his right ankle March 3 against USC, sat out a March 5 loss to UCLA, then played with pain and limited mobility Thursday in a loss to Washington at the Pacific-10 Conference tournament.
Moore’s ankle figures to get a stiff test Wednesday. Long Beach State point guard Casper Ware is the first player to win the Big West Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year awards in the same season.
Ware, a 5-foot-10 junior, averages 17 points, 4.4 assists and 1.7 steals. He hits 38 percent of his 3-pointers – he averages 5.6 attempts per game – but his team-leading 199 free throws (six per game) demonstrate his willingness to venture into the lane.
Ware was joined on the all-Big West first team by backcourt partner Larry Anderson. A 6-5 junior, Anderson averages 14.5 points and 6.3 rebounds.
Junior T.J. Robinson, a 6-8, 215-pound forward, averages 13.5 points and 10 rebounds. He made second-team all-Big West.
Like the Cougars, Long Beach State lacks size. The 49ers have four players scoring in double figures and a fifth averaging 9.0 points.
Long Beach State won the Big West regular-season title. The 49ers lost out on an automatic NCAA tournament berth when they lost to UC Santa Barbara in the Big West title game Saturday.
“I don’t really know much about them,” Bone said during a teleconference held less than an hour after pairings were announced. “I caught about 10 or 12 minutes of their game last night against UC Santa Barbara. I know they’re very athletic and extremely well coached. I know they’re good.”
Attendance figures to be somewhat sparse at Friel Court, since WSU students are on spring vacation.
A win would keep the Cougars at home in the second round to face the winner of the game between No. 3 seed Oklahoma State (19-13) and No. 6 seed Harvard (23-6). Second-round dates and times have yet to be determined.
“It’s an honor to be invited to the NIT,” said Bone, a longtime acquaintance of Long Beach State coach Dan Monson, who attended Moscow High School and the University of Idaho. “There’s a lot of tradition.”
Bone said he’s not worried about players taking the NIT lightly because their NCAA hopes were not realized.
“I think I would if we’d won a couple more games and were truly, truly right on the bubble and there was a lot of talk about us getting in,” Bone said. “I think we pretty much knew that once we lost to Washington that our chances of getting into the NCAA tournament were slim and none.”