A GRIP ON SPORTS
When Washington State enters McCarthey Athletic Center this evening to battle Gonzaga, is it a rivalry game? We have an answer. And we show our work. Read on.
• Rivalries are funny things. There are all different types, from the easy-to-define (USC vs. UCLA in anything for Los Angeles supremacy) to the not-so-obvious (Gloria vs. Claire for Jay's affection). Some have long roots (WSU vs. Idaho in hoops, with more than 270 meetings) while others seemed to have started yesterday (Texas A&M vs. Alabama in football). There are made-for-TV rivalries and ones that are basically anonymous. So where does WSU and Gonzaga fit in? It is a rivalry, that's for sure. The schools recruit against each other (for example, if the Cougars could have attracted Gary Bell Jr., who they recruited heavily, they would have been ecstatic), they battle for the same eyeballs in Spokane and they both want to be considered the best basketball program in the state. The last is a designation the Zags have held for many years (and as long as the Huskies don't want to play, it's a perch only WSU can knock them from), though in 2006 and 2007, the Cougars briefly held the honor. The rivalry has deep roots, dating back to 1907, when the 80-mile trip was a heck of lot more arduous than it is today. And, though the Cougars have won nearly 50 more games in the series, it's a pretty balanced competition these days. Don’t think so? Well, let's look at the numbers. Since 1980, the teams have split 28 games. In that time period, GU has won seven consecutive at one point (1998 through 2005) while WSU twice has won four straight and once three. Sure, the Zags won by 28 points in 2003, 23 in 2001 and 22 in 2008, but the Cougars posted 22-point victories in 2010 and 1982. And 11 of those 28 contest were decided by five points or less (or in overtime) – including last season, when Kevin Pangos' runner gave Gonzaga a 71-69 victory in Pullman. So this game is a rivalry no matter how you parse it. And should not be missed.
• WSU: While tonight's basketball game is important to the Cougars, Saturday's football game is a possible game-changer, as it could snap a 10-year drought. As in 10 years without a bowl game. So it's little wonder Jacob Thorpe has a lot to pass along, including a feature on Utah's former walk-on quarterback who now is the starter, his Pac-12 picks and blog posts ranging from a practice report from last night to a live chat held yesterday to unit grades from the Arizona victory. Jacob also has a morning post today with links. … Speaking of picks, even though ESPN.com's Pac-12 blog still had Utah in a bowl game this week, both writers pick WSU to defeat the Utes. Something has to give, because Utah has to win out to make a bowl. … Why are the Cougars struggling at home? Bud Withers tries to explain. … The Pac-12 races are going down to the wire. … Cal may keep its defensive coordinator but lose a quarterback.
• Gonzaga: Another aspect of a rivalry: The players know each other. Jim Meehan checks that box with this feature on Bell and WSU's DaVonté Lacy. … The Gonzaga women had little trouble with local rival EWU last night, winning 78-58 (pictured). Thomas Clouse has the story. … BYU had a chance to get a big win for the WCC but instead lost at home to Iowa State in a game that wasn't decided until the final buzzer. … USD is looking to go 5-0 for the first time in a while.
• EWU: Portland State has pushed Eastern in nearly every recent football game. Jim Allen delves into that in his Big Sky notebook. … Jim also has links in this morning's blog post. … He'll also hold a live chat today.
• Chiefs: It took the Chiefs a while to get started but they scored the final three goals and posted a 5-4 home win over Vancouver in overtime last night. Chris Derrick has more in this story and blog post. … Everett now has the best record in the WHL.
• Preps: The football playoffs are winding down, and Greg Lee has put together a look at the Washington games this weekend, an advance of Coeur d'Alene's 5A title matchup – or should I say rematch? – with Highland and a story on Shadle Park's improved defense. Meanwhile, Greg and Sam Adams continue to pick football games. … Mead and Central Valley (pictured) will meet for the third time, this time in the 4A soccer semifinals. Jim Allen has an advance.
• Seahawks: I know you are tired of hearing it, but the Hawks have a bye this week. So all I can offer you is a story on Russell Wilson's MVP chances, a quick one on Walter Jones and the Hall of Fame and a science-based story about owner Paul Allen.
• Sounders: Seattle finished locking up the third of its three key leaders yesterday, signing Brad Evans to a long-term contract. Now the offseason can really begin. … The Sounders have a couple players in the running for postseason awards. … Portland dug itself a hole in Salt Lake City.
• Mariners: Just to wipe that smile off your face, we pass along a story on the Mariners. That will teach you to get too happy.
• We return to the radio this afternoon for the first of two consecutive days. So, if you are not doing anything between 3 and 6 p.m. today, listen here as I join Keith Osso and Rick Lukens to talk sports. And movies. And, possibly, crafts. As in craft beers. Until later …