A GRIP ON SPORTS
You are a college basketball fan living somewhere in Middle America, say Davenport, Iowa. You have a good satellite package and you really enjoy watching the best that college basketball has to offer. So whenever the Gonzaga Bulldogs play on TV, you tune in. You know what your impression of the West Coast Conference would be? Yep, those gyms in that league really rock. That Kennel place is loud and the other schools really draw well too. But is it true? Not really. Read on.
• When Gonzaga opens WCC play tonight at Firestone Fieldhouse on the Pepperdine campus, I'm pretty sure the place will be packed. It will be loud, it will be jumping and it will be a great backdrop for a college basketball game. That's what happens whenever the Bulldogs visit, and, to a lesser degree these days, when St. Mary's comes to town as well. Those games have an ACC or Big East atmosphere, albeit on a smaller scale. But those games are a minority of WCC contests. When the matchups don't include GU, the conference's crowds are, well, subdued. Case in point, last night's opener, televised on one of the ESPN networks (two actually, as it started on one channel and moved over to another later), between USF and host Santa Clara. Now consider these two schools are old-time rivals, once the premier teams in the Bay Area and some of the best on the West Coast. That's not the case anymore, sure, but there should still be some bad blood between the programs, right? And the game drew a sedate crowd listed at 2,146 in the official box score. A lot of them, at least on my TV, came dressed as empty seats (an old joke, I know, but apropos). Heck, the crowd was so immaterial to the outcome, neither of the two game stories I link below deemed it important enough to include the attendance total in the story (a oversight that would have earned me a talking to when I was a beginning journalist). Yes, I know the students are still gone for break – and Santa Clara coach Kerry Keating is trying to bribe them to come back early for Saturday's matchup with Gonzaga – but still the crowd was anything but impressive. So the next time you want to play down GU's dominance of the conference, or say the Zags' league test isn't as tough as other major powers, think about the attendance figures for their road conference games. Packed houses await them wherever they go. The opponents, empowered by the noise and energy, play way above their heads. It's one of those underrated aspects of college basketball that even that fella in Davenport, Iowa can appreciate.
• Hey, what happened to the vaunted SEC last night? Big, bad, Florida, the third-best team in the nation according to the BCS standings, had its lunch handed to it by Louisville of the milquetoast Big East. Which just goes to illustrate the truism bowl games are almost always won by the more motivated and focused team. So which team tonight will be more motivated and focused between Kansas State and Oregon?
• Gonzaga: Because the 10th-ranked Zags actually open conference play tonight, we'll begin the links with them. Jim Meehan is in sunny Southern California (the over/under on number of holes he played this week was set at 54) and filed this preview of tonight's game, along with the short summary that runs each week on our Thursday college basketball page. He also had this blog post last night. … The GU women begin their defense of the WCC title (they have won eight consecutive) tonight in the Kennel against San Diego. Chris Derrick has this advance. Kim is on her own tonight as there is no way I'm missing the Fiesta Bowl. … We said we had links to Santa Clara's conference-opening win and we do, from the Chronicle and Mercury News. … Bud Withers picks GU to win the conference. … BYU opens with Loyola Marymount and looks to be healthy. … USD hosts Portland tonight, hoping to finish the game on a positive note.
• Washington State: Christian Caple postponed his live chat until today as he attended Ken Bone's press conference yesterday, filing this blog post after it was over. Christian also has a Pac-12 preview, the WSU weekend summary and his morning blog post with links around the conference, including the basketball opener last night in Tempe. A good game for the guy in Davenport, Iowa, to watch, but he certainly wasn't impressed by the crowd there either.
• Whitworth: This stuff isn't supposed to happen on the Division III level.
• Preps: It's Thursday and the Prep Page is back, with Greg Lee writing about the success Central Valley's boys have been having as well as the G-Prep girls losing a key player. … He also posted the GSL scoring stats yesterday on the blog. … There were a few wrestling matches and basketball games last night, so we have a roundup. … Correspondent Mike Vlahovich has a nice feature on a wrestling coach (pictured).
• Seahawks: Of course most of the typing this week is being done with one eye on the stats and interview transcripts from Russell Wilson and RGIII, but there is so much more to this game Sunday. There is how each team is trying to defend Russell Wilson and RGIII. There is how injuries might affect the way Russell Wilson and RGIII play. There is how past decisions by the coaches led to Russell Wilson and RGIII meeting in D.C. And there is last year's draft. … One of the great defensive players of all time, Baltimore's Ray Lewis, announced he's retiring at season's end. The news was big enough to knock Russell Wilson and RGIII off the Baltimore sports front page. … By the way, nearly 75 percent of you think the Seahawks will win this week against the Redskins, according to the poll we ran here. However, more than half of you think the season will be over after next weekend, as 54 percent feel they'll either lose to Washington or lose next week.
• Mariners: There are rumors around concerning Russell Wilson and RGIII … wait, no, sorry. The rumors concern the Dodgers' Andre Either and a possible trade with the M's.
• Sounders: One of the Sounders will be busy with his national team later this month.
• That's it for today. A great night of sports on TV awaits and my rear end will be planted in front of the set for a few hours, fingers busily working the remote. I don't think my actions will be out of the ordinary in any way. Until later …