I was going to start today's post just like I did on Thursday, about it being game day, then pretending to remember the game is Sunday and all that crud. But then I decided that was too sophomoric and it would be better to just move on. So I will. And you can read on.
• Washington State: The drive from Pullman to Spokane last night was so simple it was shocking. U.S. 195 was bare and dry all the way past Spangle. Then I hit the four-lane part of the highway. It was as if someone had dumped a bucket of snow over Spokane and it spilled out, but stopped, at the railroad undercrossing just north of the Harvester. From there, the road was mainly ice-covered, the land was under a thick blanket of snow and the driving was tough. In Pullman, the roads were clean. In Spokane, well, let's just say they're not. … The Cougars head over to Seattle this morning and will practice there today. … By the way, the WSU baseball team has a doubleheader scheduled for noon today with UC Santa Barbara. Wonder if late last night when the temperature hit minus-11, the Gauchos were sitting in their hotel trying to figure out how to take a space heater onto the field with them. … A couple stories to pass along, starting with Jim Moore's take on tomorrow's game with UW. … And Jeff Nusser at CougCenter looks at the sliding numbers from Klay Thompson's season. I pass items like this along because statistics have always appealed to me. But, though in-depth statistical analysis has its place, rarely do numbers answer the question why. That takes interpretation. One reason advanced in the piece for Thompson's numbers' dropping is he's tired. That might be playing a part. But I believe the change has more to do with conference play vs. non-conference play. During the non-conference part of the season, coaches usually spend about 90 percent of their practice time before games working on their team and about 10 percent on the opponent. During conference play that percentage dips to probably 60/40 and, as the season wears on, possibly to the 50/50 range, depending on how happy the coach is with his team's play. When the Cougars ran a half-court set early in the season, the execution could be a little flawed and it would still work. Heck, even if the defense took away the primary focus, any number of counters built into the play would probably be open. And any changes in a player's game, like Thompson improvement of his left hand over the summer, is surprising to the defense. But as the season wears on and more tape is gathered, team and individual tendencies appear and are easier to defend. A few new wrinkles are thrown in, sure, but surprises are few and far between. Execution by all five guys or unstoppable individual skill becomes even more crucial. Tired bodies play a role in both of those things breaking down, but the foundation of the drop in production is built on the practice floor, mainly the opponents' practice floor.
• Around the Pac-10: Looking at the conference standings, it seems Cougar fans will be rooting for Oregon State, Arizona State and Stanford today. In other words, hoping for upsets to help Washington State move up in the standings without even playing. … The other team not playing today, of course, is the Huskies, who are probably hoping UCLA wins over conference-leading Arizona. Such a result would move UW, and its large group of shot blockers, within a game of the top spot. … The Pauley Pavilion showdown between second-place UCLA and the Wildcats should be fun to watch. If UA wins, it clinches a share of the league title. … Cal, which learned yesterday the NCAA would not punish it too harshly for its phone violations, heads into Corvallis for senior day. It's ironic most of those players were recruited by Jay Johns, who is a California assistant and was the biggest culprit in the violations. … USC, coming off the upset of Arizona, hosts Arizona State, which, win over Washington State or not, is still struggling. … Stanford has two games left, both on the road. If the Cardinal wants to have any chance of avoiding the bottom four, they have to win today in Eugene. The Ducks, of course, are trying to avoid the same thing. … Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck is taking no chances with his golden arm.
• That's it for this morning. We'll be back if events warrant. Until later …