The timing for the football bye week is perfect. Midway through a 12-game season, WSU has a chance to rest, relax and recuperate from a first half of the season that stressed the training staff as much as anyone. Plus it made my life easier, and that's the bottom line, isn't it? Instead of worrying about a football game this week, I could devote some time to the first few steps of the basketball team. That's a good thing, right? Well, we have our report, and conference links, on the next page. Read on.
• Washington State: Though the hyped part of Friday was Midnight Mayhem, which Braulio Perez covers in depth for Cougfan, the three-hour practice that began the day was where the work was done. That's the focus of our story in today's S-R. Don't forget this is a young team, the basketball equivalent of the football group in a lot of ways, though it's always easier for a freshman or a sophomore to make an immediate impact on the basketball court. But like the football coaches did last season, Ken Bone and his staff will be asking this group of mostly Tony Bennett recruits to play the game in a different manner. Bone's philosophy emphasizes the ability to play pressure defense and shoot the ball, attributes this group will have to develop. At the end of last year, Bennett talked often about becoming more aggressive on the defensive end this season, asking rhetorically where, other than Klay Thompson, the offense was going to come from? His plan, though only in the beginning stages, was to try to get more offense from the defense, maybe even abandoning the pack to get into passing lanes and try to force turnovers. Now it's Bone who inherits this team, and he brings along a history of doing just that, using the defense to jump-start the offense. And the players are being asked to learn a new set of skills on both ends. In the long run it's going to pay dividends. But this season? It might be tough sledding.
• Around the Pac-10: Not a lot here this morning. With only three conference games, the cupboard is bare. ... Washington: There is a list of surprises here as long as Jake Locker's arm. ... UW's bowl hopes demand a road win. ... Oregon State: Bye week, no football story. ... Oregon: An interesting story on the Ducks' kicker. Yes, the kicker. ... Cal: The Rose Bowl is the Bears' goal. Just not right now. Maybe in two months. ... Stanford: For the Cardinal to win a crucial game in Tucson, Toby Gerhart will have to come through big-time. ... USC: Who needs this game the most? That's obvious. Charlie Weis. ...UCLA: One of the biggest slurs Pac-10 supporters used to aim toward the Big West, the conference in which my alma mater, UC Irvine, competes, included the term "bus league," preceded by a word or two I can't type here. As if the schools weren't big-time enough to fly. But now we know. The Anteaters and their brethren were just ahead of the curve. Who's riding the bus to games now Pac-10? ... Arizona State: Danny Sullivan will try to win against the Huskies and win over ASU fans. ... Arizona: The Wildcats have one focus: stop No. 7
• That's it for this morning. We'll be back tomorrow with more. Until then …