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A hello, and some Pac-12 links

COUGARS

FROM PULLMAN — Whew. OK. We're finally up and running. I'm the new guy who will attempt to fulfill all of your WSU sports news needs. And we have some links for you. But first, an introduction.


(UPDATE 11:41: I suppose if I link to stories, I should actually make sure the links work. Sorry about that screw-up. Everything should be working fine now.)

Vince wanted me to attend last Saturday’s WSU-Oregon State game in Spokane, primarily so I could meet some of the folks in the basketball program with whom I’ll be working from here on. And as we chatted on press row prior to the game, catching up on this and that, a continuous flow of well-wishers dropped by to congratulate him on his career and wish him luck in the future.

Afterward, Marcus Capers presented Vince with a basketball signed by the entire team. Reggie Moore, DaVonte Lacy and Brock Motum offered hugs. Ken Bone acknowledged his departure following the postgame press conference.

All of which brings me to the point of this now-lengthy intro – it’s not lost on me how much Vince, and this beat, means to the WSU community.

Vince has been your go-to source for Cougar news, providing an up-close look at WSU’s football and basketball programs in a way that has allowed him to develop his own brand of sorts. I’ve long admired his work, first from afar before I was lucky enough to work alongside him during the 2010 season when I covered the Cougs for the Moscow-Pullman Daily News.

That’s why this job means so much to me. And it's why I'm back over here after a year at Seattlepi.com covering the Seahawks.

This beat has everything a reporter could want. A passionate fanbase that demands not only information, but analysis and reporting that gives a closer look at the teams and athletes it so fervently supports. Big-time coaches. Big-time players.

And, as it pertains to Sportslink, a captive readership that came to respect and recognize Vince Grippi as one of the best beat guys around.

I know, I know. I went to that other school on the other side of the state. And many have already pointed out that as a younger man (read: dopey 19-year-old) – without much of a filter or as many brain cells – I wrote some not-so-nice things about WSU in an amateurish attempt at a tongue-in-cheek column during Apple Cup week. I won’t hide from it. I can only ask that you take me for what I am, today – an eager reporter who simply wants to tell you what’s happening with your favorite teams.

(Though to be fair, I think the fact that I ripped on Cougar Gold cheese should have been a pretty clear indication that it wasn’t supposed to be taken real seriously. That’s the best cheese this side of … well, anywhere. I eat blocks at a time. For real.)

Point is: I’m here to work. Period. Collegiate alliances aside, all I want to do is provide each and every visitor to this site with the best Cougar coverage of which I’m capable. We’re going to have some fun with it. I’m a fan of humor. I’m also a fan of discussion, so you’ll have plenty of chances to make your opinions and questions heard.

I like to use video as a reporting tool. I like live chats. I like gathering and sharing insight from reporters who cover other teams. So we’ll do all of the above, and we’ll continue Vince’s tradition of culling together as many pertinent links as we can find around the conference each and every morning.

Most importantly, I want you to know everything I know – and can print – about your WSU teams. You can follow @ChristianCaple on Twitter for WSU news in real-time, as well as an occasional update on the guy in front of me driving 10 miles-per-hour too slow.

Though I think I left most of those in Seattle.

Now, on to what you came here for.

Vince touched on Mike Leach's live chat with the Seattle Times in his morning post already — some technical issues prevented the posting of this entry until now — but we'll link it again here in case you didn't already see it. Among the most interesting notes to come out of the chat is that Leach doesn't plan to announce any official staff hires until after the AFCA conference, which ends Jan. 12. He said he has “several” names in mind for the defensive coordinator position. … Ken Bone held his weekly press conference on Tuesday, but since it was my first official day on the job, I was in Spokane handling paperwork and such. Vince posted video of Bone's remarks, so we won't bother with it here this time. Expect recaps and video in the future, though.

OK, on to the week in hoops. Perhaps you’ve heard by now, but Utah, WSU’s opponent on Thursday, isn’t very good. Take a look at the Utes’ stats page on ESPN. And when you examine those scoring and rebounding numbers, note that there are only 345 D-1 teams listed (though that number deviates from the official total of 338 as listed by the NCAA). … Just how bad are things at Utah? Their coach is thinking about holding an open tryout once students return from Christmas break. … There’s at least some good news in Salt Lake, as the Utes may be about to regain the services of injured guard Chris Hines. He practiced Tuesday for the first time since breaking his left thumb earlier this season. … Utah's 73-33 loss to Colorado on Saturday was pretty bad, but not much worse than some other big defeats throughout the years. Though most of those were to better squads. … Bud Withers joins the chorus of those examining Utah's tailspin. … Colorado will have a better sense of where it's at after a game against Washington on Thursday. The Buffs had success using a four-guard lineup against Utah — though success against Utah seems farily easy to come by these days — and that four-guard look is becoming more and more common across the nation.

Around the Pac-12 … Will Oregon's basketball team benefit from the exploits of its football team? … A primer on Oregon State's weekend from the Oregonian. … Arizona's bigs need to step up against UCLA. The 'Cats haven't had a ton of success in LA recently, but they're fond of playing in Anaheim. … UW coach Lorenzo Romar assesses Colorado. Of note for Cougar fans: Romar says the Buffs are fundamentally sound defensively. “They don't give you many easy baskets.” Something to keep in mind come Saturday. Abdul Gaddy had a painful road back from ACL surgery. Not sure that there's any other kind. The Huskies are in first place after the Pac-12's opening weekend, but that doesn't mean a whole lot. … Former UCLA coach Steve Lavin is free of the prostate cancer he fought last season, but not yet in the clear. As for the current team, Ben Howland thinks the only way the Bruins can make the NCAAs now is to win the conference tournament. At 7-7, I'd have to agree. … Not much out there on conference-leading Stanford and Cal, other than this piece in the San Francisco Examiner. … On the football side of things, Stanford coach David Shaw isn't blaming anyone — not himself, not his kicker — for the team's Fiesta Bowl choke-job. Me, I've always had a soft spot for kickers. You hear about the kid sobbing in the locker room and it's obvious nobody wanted to make that kick more than he did. … Some more Fiesta Bowl notes from Jon Wilner, who also writes in more length about the not-so-surprising decision of two Stanford players to enter the NFL draft. … Ted Miller has some interesting notes from Oregon's Rose Bowl win. Everything else you'd ever want to know about the Ducks can be found in Ken Goe's rundown. … A certain surly ASU linebacker is entering the NFL draft. … Bowl game? USC didn't need one for its stock to rise, says an Orange County Register columnist.

That's all for now. Again, a sincere apology for not getting this thing posted sooner. Lots of online privileges (thanks, CrimsonW) and accounts to be sorted out before the new guy can get into the system. But I'm in now. I'll be in Pullman today before joining the team in Salt Lake tomorrow morning. They should be landing there soon, as they departed for the airport at 7 this morning.

All for now.

Christian Caple can be reached at christianc@spokesman.com. Twitter: @ChristianCaple


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Jim Allen Sports reporter Jim Allen's primary coverage areas are Eastern Washington University football and men's basketball, and college and high school soccer. He also contributes to the SportsLink Blog.

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Jim Meehan Jim Meehan's coverage areas include Gonzaga University men's basketball, Spokane Shock football, golf and volleyball. He also contributes to the SportsLink Blog.

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Chris Derrick Chris Derrick is a sports reporter. His primary coverage areas are the Spokane Chiefs, Spokane Indians, women's basketball and high school softball and volleyball. He also contributes to the SportsLink Blog.

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Josh Wright Josh Wright is a freelance correspondent who covers the University of Idaho football team and men's basketball team.

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Vince Grippi is the online producer for SportsLink, a product of The Spokesman-Review.

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