A GRIP ON SPORTS
This was supposed to be the year the Pac-12 returned to national basketball prominence. Thus far, it hasn't worked out that way. Read on.
• Yes, I know how good the University of Arizona is. The sixth-ranked Wildcats defeated San Diego State last night and that's a good thing for a rejuvenated Pac-12. But conferences are defined by their losses as much as their wins and the Pac-12 has suffered a couple of resume-killers already this season. Case in point, Oregon State losing to a MEAC team, Coppin State. At home. Case in point, Stanford giving up more than 100 points and losing to BYU. At home. And, final case in point, Washington playing like it had never seen size or dribble penetration before, losing to UC Irvine last night. At home. OK, BYU is a good team that is probably underrated nationally. Still, Stanford was picked to finish in the top half of the Pac-12. For a conference to be considered top-notch, those are the type of games its better teams should tough-out a win. But the Cardinal played as if they thought defense wasn't important. It is. As the Huskies found out last night. Remember, this is a UC Irvine team that was winless in two games this season, losing at home to Fresno State (of the Mountain West) and on the road at Pacific (like BYU a WCC school). Again, it's the type of game a top-notch conference shouldn't lose. Which makes me believe the Pac-12's depth is just a bit too shallow as of yet. If it is, then it is too soon to proclaim the conference has returned to the heights of five or six years ago.
• By the way, UC Irvine's win is not a fluke. The Anteaters are going to finish the year with right about 20 wins, may end up in the NCAAs for the first time and have the backing of one of the West Coast's premier on-line columnists (this guy). And there is one stat UCI can boast that will make WSU fans eat their hearts out: Irvine has never lost to UW in men's hoop. Yep, the Eaters are 2-0. Not impressed. Well, as every coach since Phog Allen has said, you can only play the schedule you're given and the Anteaters have only played the Huskies twice. But they've won both.
• One last point. The WCC is 22-1 in non-conference action thus far, with wins over teams in the Mountain West, the Big West and the Pac-12.
• WSU: The Cougar basketball team won't be in action for the second time this season until 9:30 p.m. Saturday night (this is fixed from earlier when I had the audacity to believe the Pac-12 wouldn't start a game so late) – so it can be on the Pac-12 Network. But the football team is back at it Saturday morning against Arizona. Jacob Thorpe is getting ready for his trip to Tucson – one of my favorite road trips in that I always flew into Phoenix, hit In-n-Out and made the drive down, accompanied by a built-just-for-roadtrip playlist of Eagles, Jackson Browne and The Souther, Hillman, Furay Band songs – and has quite a bit to share. He put together this feature on the rock of the Cougar defense, senior safety Deone Bucannon (pictured), along with a blog post yesterday giving Mike Leach a chance to comment on what has become a national story. Jacob also has his morning post today and a story on a Garfield High point guard who signed his letter of intent yesterday but neglected to send it to WSU. ... One of WSU's assistant football coaches has deep ties to members of the UA staff. ... What do you need to know about this weekend's football games? ... More Pac-12 picks, including these from Bud Withers. ... Oregon and Oregon State each signed a player yesterday, with the Beavers welcoming a legacy. ... Stanford bounced back from the BYU loss with a win over Northwestern.
• Gonzaga: The GU women had a chance to make a statement nationally last night, leading 11th-ranked Oklahoma most of the second half in Norman. But, tied at 78 with a little more than 2 minutes left, the 25th-ranked Zags missed their final six shots from the floor along with four crucial free throws. They lost 82-78. This one may hurt down the road. The story from Oklahoma emphasized all the fouls called. ... The Register-Guard has a story on a woman who signed with GU. ... USD had some trouble before its game with Morgan State. In the gym, not as much, winning 68-61. ... The Lakers assigned Elias Harris to their D-League franchise yesterday.
• EWU: The Eagles have some depth issues at safety, due to injuries. Enter former reserve McKenzie Murphy, cleared by the NCAA for another year of eligibility. Jim Allen has the story, along with a live chat yesterday and more links this morning.
• Preps: A local basketball player has decided to stay local for college.
• Seahawks: One thing you can always count on: Richard Sherman will give you a good quote. He did it again yesterday when he met the media, as he always does. And, yes, he's healthy. ... Russell Wilson can be counted on for something else. He will praise someone, or everyone, during his press availability. Even members of the defense. ... Yes, Percy Harvin practiced. Let's hope he plays this week just so we can quit worrying about when he'll play. His return may help us define the 2013 draft class.
• Sounders: For all of you out there (or typing this) who hoped the Sounders would make a coaching change, sorry. It's not happening. Owner Joe Roth basically said he didn't feel Seattle could find anyone better so Sigi Schmid will return for another year. Guess that means we can say goodbye to Eddie Johnson, who clashed with the coach as the year wound down. Goalkeeper Marcus Hahnemann will be back though.
• That's it for this high school football Friday. Tomorrow is college football Saturday. And that's followed by NFL Sunday. That's how I read the calendar anyway. Until later ...