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WSU coach Kyle Smith named Naismith Coach of the Year semifinalist, plus other notes

Mar. 15—LAS VEGAS — Kyle Smith is one of the nation's best coaches.

The Atlanta Tipoff Club affirmed as much on Friday, announcing that Washington State's head man is one of 10 semifinalists for the Naismith National Coach of the Year award.

Smith has guided WSU to its best season in more than a decade, a second-place finish in the Pac-12 and 14 regular-season conference wins, tying a program record. The only coach in program history to earn two top-10 wins in the same season — WSU knocked off Arizona twice — Smith is the first Cougar head coach to earn this recognition since Tony Bennett did so in 2007, taking home the award.

Other semifinalists include UConn's Dan Hurley, South Carolina's Lamont Paris, North Carolina's Hubert Davis and Utah State's Danny Sprinkle.

Second-seeded WSU takes on third-seeded Colorado at 7:30 p.m. in Friday night's Pac-12 Tournament semifinals.

Cougs surge back up NCAA Tournament bracketology projections

WSU is a lock for the national dance, but the team's chances at landing at the Spokane site took a hit with a regular-season finale loss to rival Washington.

The Cougs are back in that conversation, at least according to ESPN's Joe Lunardi, who projects them to secure a 5 seed in Spokane, playing 12th-seeded Princeton.

Over at CBS Sports, Jerry Palm sees WSU clinching a 7 seed in Pittsburgh, playing 10th-seeded Northwestern. Meanwhile, other sites like JBR Bracketology (also updated Friday morning) agree, handing WSU a 7 seed.

What's in store for WSU/Colorado?

Washington State went 1-1 against Colorado in the regular season, taking a 74-67 road loss — in the Cougs' second conference game of the season — and responding with a 78-69 win in Pullman about a month later.

The Buffaloes, who knocked off Utah in Thursday's quarterfinals, got 17 points and 12 rebounds from center Eddie Lampkin and 18 points and 10 rebounds from KJ Simpson in that win. It was the seventh straight win for Colorado, which enjoyed the return of star guard Cody Williams, who followed a four-game absence with an ankle injury with 6 points and 3 rebounds in 24 minutes.

To beat Colorado and punch its ticket to its first ever Pac-12 Tournament title game, WSU will likely need to follow the blueprint it laid out in its win over CU: Limit turnovers and share the scoring. In that Jan. 27 win, the Cougs gave away just six turnovers, and four scored in double figures: Myles Rice (17) and Jaylen Wells (17), plus Isaac Jones (13) and Andrej Jakimovski (11).

It's the same formula WSU used to wallop Stanford in Thursday's quarterfinals. In that game, six Cougs logged double-figure points, including Jones (16), Rice and Wells (14), Jakimovski (13), Kymany Houinsou (11) and Rueben Chinyelu (10).