On their way to the NCAA tournament, the WSU Cougars must make it through the gantlet that is the Pac-10 Conference season. And that 18-game test starts Thursday night in Los Angeles.
Against the No. 1 team in the nation, the UCLA Bruins.
That is the subject of a lot of word processing this morning, starting with John Blanchette's column in The Spokesman-Review.
John talked with Coug coach Tony Bennett, who seemed just as worried about Saturday night's opponent, USC, or even next Thursday's foe, Arizona, as he was about the Bruins (7:30 Thursday; FSN; 920-AM), which is part of the Pac-10 conundrum this season. There are relatively few mark-'em-in-the-win-column-right-now games.
Of course, there have been none of those in the past couple years for the Cougs, but with an 11-1 non-conference mark – against a decent schedule – you would think WSU would have a decided edge a few times in the conference. And they will. Just not during the first three games.
From the West Side, the P-I's Dan Raley writes about the Pac-10's strength, and how this year it isn't just a mirage, while the Times' Bob Condotta posts his Pac-10 preview. He has the Cougars picked to finish sixth, which should be good enough for an NCAA berth.
For more Cougar – and Pac-10 – information, don't forget to check Glenn Kasses' blog. And read on for more conference news.
I also have a question for you: Where do you think the Cougars will finish in the conference race? I'm leaning toward fourth or fifth, but am not really sure. Give me your thoughts, so I can incorporate (read: steal) them into mine. Just click the comment link and let me know.