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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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GU women face critical games

Even with three games against Pac-10 schools, including a trip to No. 2 Stanford, and a daunting trip to Las Vegas to face a pair of Top 10 teams, I thought this weekend could potentially be the most important weekend on Gonzaga’s schedule.

How could that be? Keep reading.

Montana (here Friday) and Portland State (there Sunday) have been the recent Big Sky Conference powers and are expected to be at the top again this year. Beating them was supposed to boost the ol’ RPI. Mix in games with last year’s Cinderella South Dakota State and UC Santa Barbara, it was a chance to hedge against losses to the Cardinal, Baylor and Texas A&M if the Bulldogs do the unthinkable and fail to win the West Coast Conference Tournament.


Unfortunately, Montana and Portland State have gotten off to slow starts, as has Big West kingpin UCSB, which comes to Spokane Dec. 30. And SDSU has stumbled since beating the Zags in a season-opening overtime thriller.

 

Now the Zags face a weekend where they can’t afford to lose because once UM, PSU, UCSB and SDSU get into conference play, just like Gonzaga, power ratings of any sort will slide no matter how many league games they win.

 

USC helped with a pair of wins over ranked teams Thanksgiving and almost got another one against Duke last weekend. But would that be enough without a win over a ranked team?

 

It goes to show what an inexact science scheduling is, no matter how the intentions.

 

What we have for you are the current Mid-Major rankings by  Graham Hays on ESPN.com and the Bulldogs do a little campaigning.

 

Also on Gonzaga we have the Bulldogs’ weekend advance as well as Montana's and Portland State’s, which has a lot of good information about Sherri Murrell's team but no word on the health of Mead grad Kelli Valentine (ankle). 


Washington State goes to Montana State on Friday and Portland visits Pullman on Sunday.


I want to mention that Pilots coach Jim Sollers, a first-class guy, is going for his 500th win. His first chance is Friday at Idaho.

 

Eastern Washington notes for its NAIA foe this weekend.


Check back later for the Idaho, MSU and UM releases.


Before I forget, can't miss viewing on Sunday. It's the Fourth Annual Maggie Dixon Classic on ESPNU and ESPN2. At 10 a.m. our time you'll get to see Baylor and 6-foot-8 freshman phenom Brittney Griner (note to Gonzaga coach Kelly Graves, viewing of next Saturday's opponent may cause queasiness) play Boston College followed by Tennessee, with U-Hi grad Angie Bjorklund, in its annual wrestling match with Rutgers.


While stumbling around the internet, I found last year’s attendance figures.

 

Gonzaga averaged 2,399, 51st in the country. Montana (3,596) and Washington (2,865) were higher but that isn’t bad. On a game-by-game basis, the Bulldogs are doing better this year at 2,368 because last season included a sellout of 6,000 for the Tennessee game. There's a good chance with Montana and Santa Barbara coming in and a huge senior night for Heather Bowman that the Zags can set an attendance record.

Weber State and U-Hi grad Tonya Schnibbe have a big win over BYU.

 For a tour of west coast teams, check out leftcoast hoops.



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Vince Grippi's daily take on all things regional sports has been moved to our main sports section online. You can find a collection of these columns here.