PULLMAN, Wash. — We took a stab at Gonzaga’s starting lineup for next season and how the staff will divvy up minutes on Wednesday. Now it’s WSU’s turn as their roster came into shape just a few days ago.
Once again, getting the obvious starters out of the way here with Mouhamed Gueye and TJ Bamba. That leaves three starting slots to fill.
WSU'S STARTING LINEUP
The point guard position is the most obvious in terms of who will start. Myles Rice redshirted last season, so he hasn’t see a moment of playing time, but the staff is very high on him and has been public about how impressed they were with him in practice. Rice is the only true point guard on this roster and is going to have a significant amount of weight to carry for someone who hasn’t played a minute of DI basketball. I think he is WSU’s most important player next year because if he does well, everyone does well. If he struggles, it will also impact everyone’s play.
Let’s move on to shooting guard. Once again, I think that this is pretty obvious in Justin Powell, who just transferred from Tennessee this week. Powell didn’t find himself in the Vols’ rotation last year, but his freshman year at Auburn he averaged 11.7 points per game before a concussion ended his season ten games in. The Cougs are hopeful that Powell returns.
Down low the Cougs have a decision to make. Go small with Andrej Jakimovski at the 4 and Mouhamed Gueye at the 5 or go big and put Gueye at the 4 and Dishon Jackson at the 5. I’m picking the big lineup.
So, in summation, that’s Myles Rice at the point, Justin Powell at the 2, TJ Bamba at the 3, Mouhamed Gueye at the 4, and Dishon Jackson at the 5.
DIVVYING UP STARTING MINUTES
Like I said Wednesday with Gonzaga, I’m talking about how minutes will shake out in big games, not minutes against lower-level competition. Also, keep in mind there are 200 minutes per contest.
Let’s start with Gueye and Bamba since they were my obvious starters. I’m bumping them both up to 30 minutes per game. Gueye averaged 24 minutes per game in conference play last year, so I think that’s a totally realistic bump. Meanwhile, Bamba isn’t playing with Tyrell Roberts or Noah Williams anymore, so he's going to get those starting guard minutes.
Let’s go to Myles Rice and Justin Powell. I think Rice is up to 30 as well because he is the only true point guard on the roster. I have Powell at 25 minutes. That means that Powell plays point for 10 minutes a game to help spell Rice and then plays the other 15 at shooting guard.
Dishon Jackson averaged around 16 minutes per game last year. I see that going up to 20.
DIVVYING UP BENCH MINUTES
That leaves us with 65 minutes for the bench.
There are two guys off the bench who I would have a hard time seeing their roles diminish. Those two players are Andrej Jakimovski and DJ Rodman. DJ’s a great spark of energy and Jakimovski has proven that he can play both the guard and forward positions. They both averaged around 20 minutes per game last year, so that leaves us with 30 minutes to go around.
When I spoke to Kyle Smith a few months ago, he originally saw Saint Mary’s transfer Jabe Mullins starting. I don’t think that’s the case now with Powell transferring in, but I still see Mullins playing a role, so I’m giving him 15 minutes.
That leaves us with freshman Adrame Diongue. I think the seven-foot Senegal native will be big in backing up Jackson, so I’ll give him the remaining ten minutes.
Overall, I think this team is in a pretty good place considering WSU fans were pretty concerned about a month ago.
We’ll see if they can finally break that NCAA Tournament drought, which will now hit 15 years this season.