When Washington State headed off to Southern California this weekend, the second half of the trip probably seemed easier, what with UCLA coming off a beatdown from USC at home. But that was so last week. Now the Bruins look like a tough out, after playing well in their zone and taking down supposedly red-hot Washington on Thursday night. If there is one thing we’ve learned thus far this Pac-10 season, though, is that the last game’s results aren’t a great predictor of today’s games. We look at them all on the link, so read on.
• Washington State: After the Cougars prepared for today’s game at Pauley Pavilion with a typical 110 minute practice, they started to do what college basketball teams do: mess around. There were trick shots, long shots, jokes, trash-talk, you know, kid stuff. But somehow the talking turned to dunking and it became the opinion of almost all there were two players who couldn’t: Michael Harthun and John Allen. It didn’t take Harthun long to disprove that theory, throwing one (OK, that’s a stretch) down on his first try. Allen, who is listed at 6-foot but seems shorter, took a little longer. But the guard got it done, made some sort of noise that can only be described as right off the playground and thumped his chest. That left only one member of the roster who hadn’t proved he could dunk and an unnamed freshman started chanting his name: “Hiro, Hiro, Hiro.” Jeff Hironaka, the over-50 assistant coach who may have last dunked on a peach basket in Weiser, Idaho, ignored the noise and wisely kept talking with a visitor. … Now on to the links. … OK, link. We have our short feature on guys named Nik. … I guess we could throw in a couple of UCLA stories, including this look at the Bruins’ new-found attachment to a zone defense and this vote of confidence for coach Ben Howland. Let me get this right. Howland took the Bruins to three consecutive Final Fours in the past five years and needs a vote of confidence? OK.
• Around the Pac-10: When will the Huskies ever win on the road? Even they don’t know. But it could be today at USC. … The Trojans have a coach who wants to stay, and his history says he won’t cheat. … The best game today is probably in the desert, with conference-leading ASU hosting Arizona. The two coaches have a history. … So do the staffs. … Ernie Kent turned 55 on Friday. Will his players give him a present today at Stanford? … The Beavers have another early wake-up call today, with the game on CBS only a couple hours from now. It’s OK, though. They practiced even earlier on Friday after the debacle at Stanford the night before. … The Bears went at their regular time. OSU swept Cal last year. … If the Beavers do that again this season, the Bears won’t win the Pac-10. Former UCLA coach Steve Lavin, a commentator, says the conference will probably only get one berth in the NCAA Tournament.
• That’s almost all for this morning. We’ll return from Pauley before the game. Until then …