A sampling from the past week of entries in The Spokesman-Review blog SportsLink at spokesman.com/ sportslink.
The WCC standings speak loud and clear: Gonzaga, at 11-1, is in control, leading by 3½ games over its closest pursuer. But on the court, it’s also clear the Bulldogs have their hands full with just about every conference team.
Portland, picked ninth in the preseason poll, sits in sixth place after (Wednesday) night’s down-to-the-wire 71-66 loss to GU. But the Pilots own wins over Gonzaga (last month) and BYU. I’m still wondering how Portland is in sixth place.
Gonzaga needed Sam Dower Jr.’s buzzer-beater to defeat Santa Clara, tied with LMU for last place. Gonzaga trailed the Lions in the second half before rallying for a win in L.A. The Bulldogs edged visiting San Diego, now in seventh place, 65-63. In general, GU has handled the upper half in the standings, but still faces road rematches with BYU and Saint Mary’s.
So, Gonzaga keeps winning but objects in the rear-view mirror are closer than they appear.
Spokane hasn’t defeated Seattle or Portland in seven tries against both, so here’s a plan that may work for the Chiefs with postseason in mind. If Seattle could pass Victoria into third place in the Western Conference (the Thunderbirds are currently one point back), and all other places remain the same, Spokane as the fifth seed would open playoffs against No. 4 Victoria. The Chiefs finished 3-1 against Victoria in their regular-season series. That series winner would presumably play top-seeded Kelowna in the second round, and Spokane is 2-0 against the Rockets heading in to Wednesday’s home game. The Chiefs could potentially avoid Seattle or Portland until the conference finals. There are still five-plus weeks left in the regular season.
It was hard to imagine before tonight (Thursday). Idaho had lost eight of its last 10 games. New Mexico State had giant center Sim Bhullar back healthy and had just creamed league-leading Utah Valley. But the Vandals frustrated NMSU just enough and were clearly the more hungry team in pulling off a 73-67 upset of the Aggies at Cowan Spectrum.