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Tue., Jan. 5, 2010, 11:09 a.m.

WCC, WAC open league play

Starting to get overwhelmed by figure skating preparation and with three hockey games this week women's basketball posts and links are a bit thin.

Our unedited notebook follows, as well as the Top 25 vote, with quite a bit of shakeup at the bottom. Gonzaga and Idaho jump into league play on Saturday with the Bulldogs offering a pretty good deal - $25 gets four tickets, four hot dogs and four drinks plus the chance to see Portland, which shocked the Zags at home with local product Tara Cronin going off for a career double-double day.

More notes below with the notebook.

With the Big Sky and Pac-10 into the second week of league play, the WCC and WAC opening up, here are the league RPI's: Pac 10 6th (last among BCS conferences); WAC 13th, WCC 14th and Big Sky 22nd. Gonzaga leads the WCC at 74 with Pepperdine next at 96. La Tech leads the WAC at 89, Idaho is eighth at 274; Stanford leads the Pac 10 at first, WSU is 7th at 124; Northern Colorado leads the Big Sky at 161, Eastern is sixth at 215.

Left Coast Hoops has GU fourth in the West behind Stanford, USC (which the Zags beat) and UCLA. They had a much better Pac-10 preview than we were able to provide with Teams 1-5 and Teams 6-10. That was before ASU dropped a pair of home games to the LA schools and UW, picked 10th, just behind the Cougs, managed a road win at OSU.

For those of you who remembered to watch Tennessee romp past Oklahoma on ESPN 2 behind Angie Bjorklund's 25 points and Shekinna Stricklen's triple-double, here's a game story and sidebar.

Michelle Smith looks past Brittney Griner's two dunks in a game last week, something I noted briefly in the notebook.


Since the 2004-5 basketball season, when Gonzaga joined the 1996-97 Portland team to make it through the West Coast Conference season unscathed, the Bulldog women have lost just seven of 70 league games.

Gonzaga, poised to capture a sixth-straight title, has the talent to run the table again.

 “We would never set that as a goal,” GU coach Kelly Graves said. “We want to win every game, of course. We want to win the regular season championship, if it happens, it happens. We’re certainly capable, but we’re capable of getting beat any night.”

The first test is Saturday afternoon when Portland, off to its best start since that historic season, visits McCarthey Athletic Center. Both schools are 11-4 but while the Bulldogs have faced three ranked teams, UP hasn’t played near the schedule.

Neither has the rest of the league, although five of the eight teams have won more than they lost, including 9-5 Pepperdine, which has lost to two ranked teams but beat Purdue.

“I think the league looks as good as it has since 2001,” Graves said. “We can never have an off night, we’re the biggest game for everyone. That’s not arrogant but we’re going to get everyone’s best.”

The Pilots shocked Gonzaga 70-67 here last year when Gonzaga Prep graduate Tara Cronin, now a junior, had a career night of 22 points and 13 rebounds.

WAC getting tougher

A year ago only Fresno State entered Western Athletic Conference play with a winning record but things are looking better with five of the nine teams at 8-5 or better with the league RPI at 13, just ahead of the WCC.

The Bulldogs, who visit Idaho on Saturday for the Vandals’ first league contest, are 9-5 with three losses to Top 25 teams.

 Boise State leads the way at 11-3, Louisiana Tech is 9-3 and New Mexico State, which just knocked off Top 25 Kansas is 10-4.

Idaho has been hampered by injuries and is just 2-11 but last season the Vandals went 3-8 before improving to 10-6 in league play.

I think the league looks probably as good as it’s ever been,” Vandals second-year coach Jon Newlee said. “It’s going to be rough every night. Everyone is playing really well. Once again we’re going to be very thin at the post position. We’re going to have to have some people step up and play better and smarter than we did in nonconference (games) to be successful in the conference.”


Washington State (5-8, 0-2) is home against Arizona (6-6, 0-2) on Thursday and Arizona State (8-5, 0-2) on Saturday. It’s the first time in six seasons the Sun Devils arrive with a local player on the roster. … Freshman Katie Baker (Lake City) hit her first nine shots and scored a career-high 25 points to lead Montana to a 73-67 win over Weber State Saturday night. She followed that up with a monster double-double of 23 points and 17 rebounds in a 63-55 win over Idaho State. The Grizzlies (7-7, 2-0) are at Eastern Washington (7-6, 1-0) on Friday with Montana State (8-7, 1-1) visiting Saturday. … Weber State senior Tonya Schnibbe (University) had 16 points and eight assists at UM and 16 points and four assists in an 82-62 loss at Montana State on New Year’s Day, moving her into the Big Sky top 10 with 479. … Portland State senior Claire Faucher became the school’s all-time assist leader in a loss at Oregon State and then eclipsed the Big Sky record in a 95-86 league-opening win at Sacramento State, when junior teammates Kelli Valentine (Mead) had a double-double of 12 points and 11 rebounds and Lexi Bishop (Shadle Park) had 10 points. Faucher has 712 assists, 11 more than UM’s Brooklynn Lorenzen (2001-04) amassed. … Faucher (7.4) is seventh nationally and Schnibbe (6.4) 11th behind national leader Courtney Vandersloot of Gonzaga (9.3). … Vandersloot and Washington State freshman Kiki Moore are tied for fifth nationally in steals (3.8). … Eastern Oregon (10-5, 5-1) knocked off its second ranked team this season with a 63-51 road win over No. 24 Corcordia, with junior Samantha Flett (Wellpinit) scoring 15.

Baylor’s 6-foot-8 freshman Brittney Griner had two dunks against Texas State to join former Tennessee great Candace Parker for the most dunks in a women’s game. Griner hit 11 of 12 shots to score 26 points in 23 minutes of the 99-18 rout. Who schedules those games, and why? Griner is second in the nation with 6.3 blocks a game, behind St. Mary’s Louella Tomlinson’s 7.

Top 25

 Week 8

1. UConn
2. Stanford
3. Notre Dame
4. Tennessee
5. Ohio State
6. Baylor
7. North Carolina
8. Duke
9. Georgia
10. Texas A&M
11. Nebraska
12. Xavier
13. Oklahoma
14. Texas
15. Green Bay
16. Georgia Tech
17. LSU
18. Florida State
19. West Virginia
20. Kansas
21. Oklahoma State
22. Vanderbilt
23. TCU
24. Vermont
25. Georgetown



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