GRIP IT AND RIP IT • UPDATED: 3:30 P.M.
In the spirit of today's honorary title – and check back a bit later today because we are going to run our first poll and it will be on the name of this feature – we're going to do a bit of ripping. And we're not talking about coupons from today's S-R. Read on.
• UPDATE: As promised, we want to know which of the many names we were offered we should call this daily feature. More than a dozen were suggested, but we had to winnow down the order some. So here you go.
• Utah came into Thursday night's home game with Washington State ranked 336th in Ken Pomeroy's basketball ratings. Think about that. There are 345 teams in Division I basketball. That sort of territory is usually reserved for the Grambling States of the basketball world. But no, the Utes, who have lost by 31 to Cal State Fullerton, by six to Montana State and by 19 to BYU – all at home – as part of their 3-10 record coming into Thursday's game, were rated among the nation's worst teams. And rightfully so. With an opponent like that, it behooves a team to – in this case, WSU – come out focused, play with a fierce intensity early and destroy any thoughts of an upset in the first few minutes. This isn't a secret. But it's also exactly what the Cougars didn't do. In Christian Caple's post-game blog, coach Ken Bone lamented his team's lack of killer instinct, and he wasn't talking about the last few minutes of the 62-60 overtime defeat. He was alluding to the early moments, when WSU allowed the Utes to hang around, to believe they could win. Former Seattle Mariner Dave Henderson likes to say something to the effect, people tell you not to kick someone when they are down, but why shouldn't you? They are closer to your feet. And in the sports context he is right. It should be easier to jump all over a poor team than a good one. Yet that hasn't been the Cougars' MO very often recently. As last night's Pac-12 results show, this is a conference just about anyone could win, not just during the regular season but during the all-important conference tournament. However, winning in LA is a lot easier when you have a bye and a softer first game. That takes finishing as high up in the standings as possible. That goal is still there for the Cougars, as long as there are no more games like last night's.
• Washington State: As Christian said on his late-night blog post, he's busy traveling again today – in the old Pac-10, a WSU beat writer never had to get on a plane between weekend games; that's changed in the new setup (a setup this columnist hates) – so we'll help out and pass along the links. Besides Christian's game story and quick post-game thoughts, there is this gamer (and video) from the Salt Lake Tribune (along with this sidebar) and this one (and a sidebar) from the Deseret News and another from the AP. … The WSU women improved to 3-0 in conference play with an easy, 60-43 win over Utah last night. … Around the conference: Oregon State handed Cal its first conference defeat and earned it first win, 92-85; Oregon rode 30 points from Devoe Joseph to a 78-67 win over Stanford; UCLA won its first conference game, 65-58 in a Wooden Classic game that wasn't very classy; USC couldn't hold on to the home court, losing 62-53 to a short-handed Arizona State team; and Washington continues to mystify, losing badly, 87-69, to an underrated Colorado team. … A couple of conference football notes, where it looks as if Brock Osweiler is leaving the revamped Arizona State team and Stanford is gaining a running back with a famous name – and game.
• Gonzaga: The Zags just continue to improve and nothing shows that more than the way they played on the defensive end in last night's 73-45 (score fixed from earlier) rout of Pepperdine at the McCarthey Athletic Center. The Waves like to take their time on the offensive end, making the game shorter by running a ball-control offense. But if you can't control the ball, and the Zags didn't let them, that strategy goes out the door. … Jim Meehan has his game story from this morning's S-R for you to read. There is also this piece from the Tacoma News Tribune. As nobody in Southern California really covers the WCC schools, it's tough to find more sources, though here's the AP story.
• Eastern Washington: Weber State came in as the Big Sky favorite and nothing the Widlcats – and leading scorer Damian Lillard – did during their 76-69 victory over Eastern probably changes that. Here is Jim Allen's game story along with coverage from the Deseret News and this story from the Ogden paper and freelancer Ryan Collingwood. … There are also some audio and video available from KXLY and 700 ESPN. … It's a big week for quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell as he's up for the FCS' version of the Heisman.
• Idaho: Nevada is also the favorite in the WAC and the 73-55 defeat the Wolf Pack pinned on the host Vandals last night also didn't do anything to change that perception. Idaho struggled much of the game and when Nevada put it together, the Wolf Pack ran away. Correspondent Josh Wright has this story in the S-R and a blog post that included this note: “After talking to the media following the loss, UI coach Don Verlin had what appeared to be the entire team in a meeting room and could be heard chewing out one player in particular. Typically the Vandals disperse after a quick chat in the locker room. But Verlin was disturbed by the Vandals' lack of energy against UNR, which perhaps prompted the meeting.” … The Gazette-Journal in Reno has this story.
• Preps: One thing we wanted to share is the uproar over a basketball video from a Connell/Highland game from last month, which you can access here along with a story about it. It was something we chatted about a long time on the Patchin, Lukens and Osso show yesterday when I served as a guest host. … Shadle Park and Rogers went at it in a wrestling dual last night, with the Highlanders coming out on top. Correspondent Mike Vlahovich had the coverage.
• That's all for this morning. If you're wondering why I didn't tweet about the Zags and EWU games last night it is simple. By the time I got home, GU was in the midst of a blowout and the broadcast from Eastern was just too grainy to watch for long. The computer video feed from Utah was clearer. … We'll be back today with a poll question (look for the update banner) asking your thoughts on the name of this feature. Until then …