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An odd way to begin GU's conference season

A GRIP ON SPORTS

It's weird. You would think the West Coast Conference would do everything possible to keep Gonzaga's basketball program happy and content. After all, it is the Bulldogs that bring the most attention to a conference that, otherwise, would be the America East, at least in the national media's eyes. But, as the release yesterday of the WCC's basketball schedule shows, the conference seems to like to show it doesn't play favorites. Read on.

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• I used the word weird on purpose. If you examine the schedule for the Gonzaga men (passed along in this blog post by our Jim Meehan), you see they open the WCC season with four home games. While the students are on winter break. Four key conference games, including, for the second consecutive season, St. Mary's lone visit, without the full power of the Kennel Club behind the team. If I were the coaches at Santa Clara, San Francisco, Pacific and St. Mary's, I would be sending chocolates and flowers to the league schedule makers. Then there are the final two weeks of the season, when, presumably, the league title should be on the line. Gonzaga plays its final home game in Spokane on Feb. 15. It then heads to BYU, San Diego, Pacific and St. Mary's to finish the season. That's nice. After having spent a lot of years following the Pac-10, which, like this year's WCC with the addition of Pacific, had a relatively easy 18-game schedule, it just strikes me as odd. Weird even. After all, no team should play more than three games (a typical two-game weekend plus another game with your travel partner) at home or on the road consecutively. It just shouldn't happen. And, if something dictates it has to, no team should have to play four consecutive home games with the students gone. Heck, take the home-court advantage out of it. It's not fair to the students. A big part of the college experience is attending sporting events. Four of nine conference on-campus games occur while you are home, when the dorms are closed? That should never happen. But it will for the Zags (and Portland, GU's partner). Why? Your guess is as good as mine.

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• WSU: Given the first game is less than two weeks away, it's no wonder the Cougars want to get everything tied down. But the special teams are still a work in progress according to Christian Caple's final position preview. Christian has some notes following yesterday's practice plus will have a live chat this afternoon. Before that, however, he has his morning blog post with links. ... Howie Stalwick has a question and answer session with Mike Leach. ... Is the Pac-12 ready to challenge the SEC for supremecy? ... Comparing one person's AP vote with the overall preseason poll. ... Finally, I don't think I should skip this. It will be all the rage the next few days. A pretty good shot for anyone not to mention a cheerleader. It's the backflip that sells it.

• Gonzaga: Other WCC schools, like BYU and San Diego, didn't seem to have the weird blips in their schedules that Gonzaga has. Though USD does have seven of its first nine on the road.

• EWU: Eastern lost a dominating trio of receivers from last season, but the group that returns has its strengths as well. Jim Allen examines the position in today's story. He also has a morning post with links.

• Idaho: The Vandals are still practicing and Josh Wright has it covered in this blog post.

• Indians: Spokane has been in a bit of freefall recently, having lost four consecutive games to Hillsboro. That losing streak has led to a logjam atop the NWL's North Division second-half standings. Chris Derrick has the story of last night's 4-1 loss along with a blog post.

• Preps: Steve Gleason's connection with Gonzaga Prep spans the years and will never be broken. The school announced yesterday they are retiring his uniform. John Blanchette was at the ceremony honoring Gleason and explains why the honor is so deserved and important in this column.

• Mariners: One thing about having a story printed in a newspaper. It exists forever, if the reader of that paper wants it to. Not so with this medium. I read an interesting blog post by the Times Geoff Baker yesterday concerning Ryan Divish's report Jack Zduriencik's contract was extended a year – his agreement, and that of manager Eric Wedge, expires at the end of the season. Baker pointed out when Zduriencik (pictured) contract was extended was the important thing, if it were before the season – as Shannon Drayer's blog post says it was – then it's not that big of a deal. If it was recently, than it shows the M's have faith in the guy. Well, I can't find Baker's blog post today. It may have been deleted or I may just be blind. Either way, I can't pass it along. ... How's this for turning the tables? The M's were the recipient of a bullpen meltdown last night in their 7-4 win over Oakland. ... Wedge knows he has to do some things differently when he returns to the dugout on Friday.

• Seahawks: The Hawks don't want John Moffitt around anymore. That's obvious. First they trade him to Cleveland but the Browns void that trade, citing injury concerns. So the Hawks turn around and trade Moffitt to Denver, getting another defensive lineman in return. Now all Moffitt has to do is pass a physical and the offensive guard can get the heck out of town. ... Seattle was back at practice yesterday – just about everyone was healthy as well – which means players were available for talking – and videotaping. We have lots of those interviews to pass along. ... The Hawks visit Green Bay this Friday night, though Golden Tate doesn't expect a bunch of fallout from the end of last year's regular season game. (And you better remember what I'm referring to our quit reading this column, you don't deserve to call yourself a Seahawk fan.) ... Yes, Pete Carroll is aware his team earns too many penalties.

• Sounders: Rivalries are cool. They are even better when both teams are good. Such is the case with the Sounders' rivalry with Portland. The Timber are the MLS' top-ranked team right now and their appearance in CenturyLink on Sunday will draw one of the bigger crowds in league history.

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• We'll be on the radio today, maybe. See, when the Mariners games starts at 12:30 this afternoon, like today, we don't start the radio show until the M's postgame show is finished. If the game is quick, that could be fairly early. If the game takes forever, as was the case the last couple times this happened and I was scheduled, we may not be on at all. If we are on, you can listen here. And, as always, we'll be back here tomorrow. Until then ...




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Vince Grippi
Vince Grippi is a freelance local sports blogger for spokesman.com. He also contributes to the SportsLink Blog.

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