A GRIP ON SPORTS
It seems like about the same time every morning I hear sirens near the old homestead. It doesn't matter whether it's a weekday or weekend, about this time some sirens pop up in the background and heads off into the distance. My guess: It's a police officer who is also a sports fan realizing he has to get back to the station as quick as possible to read his morning Grip on Sports. That's my theory and I'm sticking to it. Read on.
• Spent yesterday afternoon watching the Cougars play Arizona State. If there is one positive out of this not-so-exciting year of WSU basketball, it's the play of Brock Motum. The junior from Australia has come into his own inside and out this season, with his 34 points yesterday – on 13 of 19 from the field – showing he can score as well as anyone in the Pac-12. But as he told Christian Caple afterward, "If I have zero points and we win, I'll be way happier." That's the rub. Motum has grown into an All-Pac-12 caliber player. DaVonté Lacy is one of the better freshmen in the conference. Abe Lodwick is playing better than he has at anytime in his five years. And ... and yet WSU is an enigma wrapped in a riddle. Win two games at home against top-of-the-standings teams, get blown out in Tucson and then lose by four to one of the conference's three worst teams. It's hard to figure, isn't it? ... Thought about this last night. A lineup of Reggie Moore at point, Klay Thompson at shooting guard, Marcus Capers at small forward, Motum at power forward and DeAngelo Casto in the middle would challenge for the Pac-12 title, wouldn't it? With Lacy, Lodwick and whoever else is healthy at guard coming off the bench? Too bad that group didn't have a chance to play together. Would have been fun to watch.
• Also sat in front of the television and watched Virginia hold off North Carolina State on the road, then St. Mary's punch BYU in the mouth in Provo. Kim said sometime after the 159th whistle was blown in St. Mary's win, "It's sad isn't it? We only saw one game today that was really well officiated. The Virginia game." And she was right. As usual. It reminded me of something one of Tony Bennett's assistants told me in Seattle last month. I asked him the biggest difference between the Pac-10 and the ACC and he didn't hesitate. Not the players, not the coaches. The officiating. It is so much better in the ACC, he said, adding it surprised him at first how much better. Makes me wonder why. The Pac-12 is at the top of the West Coast conference food chain, so it should attract the best officials this part of the nation has to offer (FYI, the three guys doing the BYU/St. Mary's game also officiate quite often in the Pac-12). Are there just not enough people in this part of the country that the pool isn’t as deep? Or is it something else? When I poised this question to Kim, her answer was pretty good. She thinks it comes down to what the people at the top demand. The expectations they pass along to their on-floor personnel. The training they offer, the tools they supply, the help they are willing to give. Could be. What do you think?
• Back to that St. Mary's 80-66 beat down of the Cougars. If you've ever watched a Randy Bennett team, you know they play physical. Some would even call it dirty – and one local coach did just that when speaking about star guard Matthew Dellavedova recently. The Gaels are good at playing that way and when an opponent tries to respond in kind, as the Cougars did last night, they aren't going to be as polished. Which leads to whistles, in this case many of them going against the home team. And that incited the crowd, who felt they were getting jobbed, to use a nice word. When Dellavedova fell to the floor after incidental contact and drew an early second-half foul, the students showed their displeasure and earned a technical by throwing something on the floor. Later Dave Rose earned one as well after another acting job by a St. Mary's player earned a favorable whistle. Watching the folks at the scorer's table and just behind it during the second half, I had the impression the BYU administration may have made a call right after the game to see if the Big 12 still had an opening.
• Washington State: Christian Caple has the basketball news covered, everything from yesterday's 71-67 loss to Arizona State – his game story is here, and then there is his post-game blog post – to the upcoming week as it pertains to recruiting – with this story on the Cougars' efforts under Mike Leach. He also covered most of the Pac-12 news in his morning post today. ... We did find a couple items to pass along, like this blow suffered by Arizona, with guard Kevin Parrom going down with a broken foot, which will cost him the remainder of the season. It's been a tough one for Parrom, who was shot in the offseason during a visit home. ... LA Times columnist Bill Plaschke has this piece on USC's basketball woes and what it means. The Trojans visit Pullman on Thursday. ... With national signing day coming up Wednesday (we have some news about that at the bottom of the post, so don't miss it), just about everyone has something on how it is going with their local school. We checked in with Oregon, who is having trouble finding upper-end offensive linemen, and Washington, which is in the running for one of the most sought-after d-linemen. The Times Steve Kelley also reads some of the "nice" things people write on message boards. ... We've been passing along Christian's features on the new WSU assistant coaches (he's basically writing one a week for a while), but we can also pass along Bud Withers' overview of the group, along with his summary of their experiences. ... Finally, we ran this story today on former Cougar Bernard Lagat, who is still running and has no plans to stop.
• Gonzaga: The Zags did not play, so I'm sure they were glued to the TV last night just like we were. GU heads into Provo this week. ... Want to catch up on how that game turned out? The Deseret News has a game story, a notebook leading with Dellavedova's game and grades. The Tribune has a gamer and a sidebar. And here is the AP story. ... Elsewhere in the WCC, USF defeated San Diego 84-70 in San Francisco. The Chronicle has a game story, as does the Union-Tribune. ... The Zag women avenged their lone conference loss, winning 75-70 at St. Mary's.
• Eastern Washington: The Eagles needed a big performance. And they got one from the most important aspect of basketball: defense, as Jim Allen's game story relates. The 69-52 victory snapped a four-game losing streak for EWU and put a crimp in MSU's hopes of catching the top teams in the Big Sky. ... Jim also takes a look at Eastern's football recruiting. ... The Eastern women did something they haven't done since becoming a Division I program: They swept the Montana schools on the road. Saturday's 66-52 win at Montana State capped a big day for the area women's basketball teams.
• Idaho: The Vandals seemed to be on a roll. Then they hosted Hawaii last night. It was not good. John Blanchette has this game story from UI's 76-70 loss in Moscow.
• Whitworth: The 11th-ranked Pirates had little trouble with Lewis & Clark in Portland, rolling 79-59. Whitworth is 16-3 overall, 9-1 in conference.
• Chiefs: After losing on Friday, Spokane bounced back with a 5-4 win over the Kootenay Ice at the Arena. Jess Brown has all the details in this game story.
• Mariners: Jerry Brewer examines the public perception of the Mariners' game plan. It is a hard sell for the team.
• Sounders: As Seattle gets ready to head for Arizona for training, two of the Sounders' top players returned from a stint with the U.S. national team. Brad Evans and Jeff Parke talked about their experiences in this News Tribune story and this one from the Times.
• That's what we have today. Oh, I teased you with some thoughts about recruiting day. On Wednesday, we'll be doing the Patchin, Lukens and Osso radio show from Northern Quest Casino, site of the Cougars get-together with Leach and the coaching staff. We're staying after the radio show for the event and will pass along our thoughts on Thursday in this space. We'll also be tweeting during the show and afterward. And that's our news. Until later ...