A GRIP ON SPORTS
What do we talk about today? Gonzaga opening what could be one of the more successful basketball seasons in its history (hence the poll question)? Eastern getting ready for a push to the playoffs and how nice that sounds when talking about football? Or the plethora of late-night games in the Pac-12 this Saturday, of which WSU's matchup with UCLA is one? How about all of that? Read on.
• You and I both know Gonzaga has entered seasons with high hopes before. And though high hopes may help an ant move a rubber tree plant (sorry for the bad movie reference from my childhood), in college sports it usually only causes heartache (see, football, WSU, 2012, for confirmation). But this GU team juts might be different. The guards are damn good. The inside game is solid. The bench is deep. The athleticism improved. The coaching staff strong. If the Bulldogs were ever going to make a deep run in the NCAA tourney – and by deep I mean another Elite Eight or better appearance – this is the season. But there is one thing I would caution. Though the core of this team is back, there are a couple of bigs (returning-from-redshirt Kelly Olynyk and Polish import Prezmek Karnowski) that have to be integrated into the rotation. And the loss of Robert Sacre's energy, leadership and size won't be easy things to replace. So patience might be needed early. Still, this year could be special.
• As Eastern moves closer and closer to a high seed in the FCS playoffs, the anticipation grows in Cheney. That's what happens when you've recently won an NCAA title. Is this team good enough to do it again? I'm sure Beau Baldwin win answer yes and that's good enough for me. But there are probably a half-dozen teams around the nation good enough to win a national title. Everything has to align right for one. For it to be Eastern, the first step is winning its final two games, thus ensuring a high seed in the tournament. The higher the seed, the easier the first-round opponent. It's always better to play a team just happy to be in the postseason than one that thinks it can win a title.
• Finally, today seems to be the day a lot of folks decided to bitch about the late start times in the new-look Pac-12 Conference. Oh, the late start times and the late notice. Steve Kelley in Seattle moaned and Paolo Bovin in Phoenix groaned. As much as I agree with them – I'll probably get to bed sometime around 3 a.m. Sunday morning – I harken back to my childhood once again. I used to be a whiner (still am in some ways, I guess). Whine about picking up after the dog, whine about mowing the yard, whine about soggy bread in my school lunches. You know how far that got me with my dad, a Depression kid? Ya, you know. Life isn't fair was a popular mantra of his. For everyone who gets their way, he used to say, someone else is disappointed. You're going to be disappointed a lot. Get used to it. Right now, the television systems are getting their way. They paid to get their way. That means the fans are going to be disappointed. A lot. Get used to it.
• Washington State: Ah, November football practices. Snow pants, long underwear, a sweatshirt, jacket and hat. How fun. Christian Caple got to experience it yesterday (would typing "get used to it" help right now?) and the snow and cold permeated his blog post last night. It also has a spot in his story this morning, though it's about WSU's young wide receiving corps. And then there is this morning's blog post. ... The Seattle Times previewed the Cougars' basketball season this morning, with Christian linking the men's stories. I'll link the story and sidebar on the women just in case you want to check it out.
• Gonzaga: Jim Meehan checks in today with an advance of the Zags' season opener with Southern Utah. ... Gonzaga's Elias Harris and WSU's Brock Motum both made the Wooden Award preseason watch list. ... BYU and St. Mary's, the two teams expected to challenge GU for West Coast Conference supremacy, open tonight as well.
• EWU: Though the Eagles open the basketball season Saturday at WSU (I'll be covering the game for the S-R, allowing Christian to concentrate on football and Jim Allen to be in Cheney for the UC Davis game), football is still on everyone's mind. Jim held a live chat yesterday that dealt with the Eagles' successful season. ... John Blanchette caught up with former Eastern linebacker J.C. Sherritt (pictured) in Edmonton, where today's Inland Northwest weather would seem awfully warm. ... All is not lost in this lost Portland State football season.
• Idaho: The Vandals have a daunting test this weekend, one their neighbors from eight miles west failed early in the year: Beating BYU in Provo. As poorly as the Cougars have played this year, don't expect a large, loud crowd on Saturday. ... The Vandal hoop team opens the season tonight by hosting Wright State. Josh Wright will be there and filed this blog post.
• Chiefs: Two of the better WHL teams invade the Arena tonight and Saturday. Correspondent Steve Christilaw has an advance of the games with Kamloops and Portland.
• Shock: It’s time to get the roster together and Shock coach Andy Olson is doing just that. Jim Meehan has this story on his efforts.
• Preps: The state soccer playoffs continue this weekend. Jim Allen examines the local teams with matches.
• Seahawks: With the over-hyped Jets coming to town, it could be a three-ring circus at CenturyLink this weekend. So we highlight the number three, as in three brothers and three key Hawk defenders still out of practice. And one more three. Russell Wilson and the Seattle offense hasn't been settling for that number in the red zone as much lately.
• Sounders: It only took one – as in one magnificent, late-second-half goal from Mario Martinez (pictured) – for the Sounders to move on in the MLS playoffs for the first time. The 1-0 win at Real Salt Lake moved Seattle into the Western Conference finals against the LA Galaxy, the defending MLS champion.
• Is it hard for you to believe it is Friday already? For some reason, this week seemed to go by darn fast. No matter. The weekend looms. Until then ...