A GRIP ON SPORTS
After spending the first Sunday since September without the NFL, we spend the first Monday since then without NFL news. Which means today is sort of slow. Read on.
• It doesn't mean today is empty, however. The Zags will find out this morning if they move up into the top five of the polls. Why is it important? It isn't, except it's always fun for the fans. Remember back to the early years of the century when Gonzaga basketball was regularly appear in the polls' upper echelon and WSU was putting together top-10 seasons in football and the M's were one of the best teams in baseball and the Hawks were always battling for the NFC West title? Fun times, huh? But all the Inland Northwest sports fan has left right now is Gonzaga, though it looks as if the Seahawks have finally put together a formula that will elevate them back to the heights. It isn't NFL season anymore, however, as our lead-in made painfully clear, so we're back to GU and its standing in the don't-mean-anything-but-sure-are-fun polls. Let's look at Zags' competition for the top five, which should have included Arizona if not for the Wildcats' meltdown in the final couple minutes last night (two airballs on 3-pointers in the final minute?) against California. First up, Indiana. The Hoosiers' coach took time out last week to watch his brothers-in-law coach in the Super Bowl (what a slacker) than watched as Illinois (pictured) – one of two teams to defeat GU – rallied to defeat his team with a wide-open inbounds play at the buzzer. Michigan. The Wolverines are becoming overtime aficionados, though the one against Wisconsin must not be in their top 10 after the Badgers handed them a defeat. Duke. A week without a loss. Rare among these folk. But last night's struggle with Boston College wasn't pretty. Miami. OK, the Hurricanes are undefeated in ACC play. That's a big deal. But they also lost to Arizona on a neutral court earlier this season. By 19. That's a big deal too. Finally, Florida. The blowout loss at Arkansas mars what was a good resume. Not to mention they lost at Kansas State, a team GU handled easily. So who is No. 1? And No. 2, No. 3, etc.? I can't presume to read the minds of pollsters, though I'm sure the Big Ten and ACC teams will get the benefit of the doubt. Let's say we think GU will be four or five and leave it at that. It's the badge (and baggage) the Zags will be carrying when they venture into Moraga on Thursday night for their toughest test of the season, tougher than any of the Big 12 schools they faced, tougher than Illinois, tougher than Butler, tougher than any of them. So enjoy the ranking while you can. An Indiana can lose a game and drop a place or two in the polls. If Gonzaga falls at St. Mary's, more than likely it will also slip down the rankings like Phil Mickelson at Pebble Beach.
• Washington State: Not a lot from Pullman, though Christian Caple put together a morning post today with links from around the Pac-12. The lowlight of the day was in Tucson, where losing to Cal at home has to be to most unsightly blemish on the Wildcats' resume. ... The Cougar women had their four-game winning streak snapped. ... Former WSU head coach (and too many other places to list) Dennis Erickson (pictured) is back in the conference. He'll be Utah's co-offensive coordinator.
• Chiefs: With a chance to cement fourth place in the WHL's Western Conference, the Chiefs instead lost to Victoria at home, 5-3, and dropped to fifth. Chris Derrick has a game story and a blog post to keep you up-to-date while Jesse Tinsley has a photo gallery. ... Portland's weekend sweep of Kelowna didn't clinch anything but it did send a message. ... Kelowna did bounce back Sunday.
• Mariners: Why hasn't Felix signed his new contract yet? There are rumblings out there he has some elbow issues that are delaying the contract's implementation. Wouldn't that be so Seattle? The superstar that wants to stay in town has a fatal flaw? It's almost Shakespearian. ... Ryan Divish continues to run down the M's by position for the News Tribune and the stories are available to the general public, so we can link them. Cool.
• That's not all for today. Nope. We'll be on 700 ESPN this afternoon with Keith Osso and Rick Lukens, filling in for Dennis Patchin. You can listen here between 3 and 6 p.m. As always, we'll be back here tomorrow. Until then ...