A GRIP ON SPORTS
It may only be the middle of January, but tonight's Washington State home game against Utah has a must-win feeling to me. How about you? Read on.
• Washington State is 0-3 in the Pac-12 for the first time since the 2002-03 season, the final one of Paul Graham's tenure. That was also the last time WSU began conference play 0-4 (and 0-5, 0-6, 0-7, all the way to 0-14 – it goes without saying that's why it was the final Graham year). But there is more than just WSU's winless Pac-12 record that makes this one seem important to me. It's at home. Utah is 0-4 in conference, which would seem to make it a prime candidate for a Cougar win. And Saturday's opponent, Colorado, may be one of the Pac-12's better teams. Add in the fact the Cougars hit the road against No. 21 Oregon next Wednesday, and a loss tonight brings a 0-6 conference start into the realm of possibility. So, for the Cougars' piece of mind, a win tonight seems almost a must-have. But can they do it? Utah is one of the better defensive teams in the nation, holding opponents to 36.5 percent shooting from the floor. And Washington State is not one of the nation's better offensive teams, shooting just 43 percent from the field and averaging a Pac-12 low 63.5 points per game. Yes, the Cougars have been doing a good job keeping opponents from scoring (their 58.1 average is actually less than what Utah gives up), but that's more of a reflection of their offensive pace (and a non-conference schedule pockmarked with poor opponents) than it is anything else. Tonight's game should be a grind-it-out affair, something the Cougars have become used to, so the comfort factor of pace and being at home should be in their favor. It better be. It's the time of year when coach's names start popping up on hot-seat lists and Ken Bone's (pictured) figured prominently in Bud Withers' Pac-12 list this morning. A home loss to Utah certainly wouldn't do anything to cool it down.
• Washington State: Bone met the media yesterday and Christian Caple was there, as he always is. He posted this summary of Bone's interview on the blog yesterday and has this advance – featuring DaVonte Lacy's (pictured) efforts to fix his shooting woes – in the paper this morning. He also has his usual morning post as well. ... Not much Christian missed in his links, but I'll pass along one man's awfully early projected Pac-12 football all-conference team for next season. No Cougars.
• Gonzaga: It's a big week for the Bulldog women, what with conference favorite BYU in town tomorrow. The Zags already have one conference loss so another to the Cougars would make another WCC title tough to run down. ... The men are at Portland on Thursday before the big showdown with Butler in Indianapolis on Saturday. Jim Meehan has his Gonzaga notebook in today's paper. ... The big game in the WCC tonight is in Provo, where St. Mary's meets BYU. It seems many folks believe only one of these two teams will make the NCAA tourney. I'm guessing both will. ... San Diego has started conference 3-0 but that might be more of a schedule thing. The Toreros face Loyola Marymount at home tonight.
• Whitworth: The Pirates have a pretty good pair of Emilys on their women's team. One, Emily Travis, is the subject of Chris Derrick's notebook this week.
• Preps: U-Hi and Central Valley packed the Arena last night for their annual spirit game and Greg Lee was there to cover the boys, won by CV as it pulled away down the stretch. ... LC rallied but Gonzaga Prep held on to win in overtime highlighting GSL girls action. ... Match Burnham lit a fire (OK, couldn't resist – sorry) for Liberty last night as the Lancers upset Lind-Ritzville/Sprague in boys action. We also have a girls roundup.
• Seahawks: The Hawks' two coordinators are still in high demand around the NFL. ... What's next for Matt Flynn? And for the Seattle defense? ... By the way, I haven't been able to link the Tacoma News Tribune's most recent stories on the Hawks and Mariners and such, as the paper has gone to a pay-to-read policy. Whenever a story appears available, I'll pass it along.
• Mariners: Remember when the M's used to engender the same passion the Seahawks are getting right now? You younger folks may not. It's been a while.
• That's it for our weekly Wednesday update. With the Cougars on the Pac-12 Network tonight, we'll be planted in front of the TV. Until later ...