A GRIP ON SPORTS
The West Coast Conference basketball season begins today and guess what. The Gonzaga Bulldogs are the favorite. Ya, really. Surprising, huh? Read on.
• There have been few WCC seasons, either gender, this century in which Gonzaga hasn't been the favorite. Sure, there has been an occasional year in which someone else, say San Diego on the women's side or St. Mary's on the men's, has been considered a co-favorite, but each year the regular season title has run through Spokane. That's been the case since Mark Few took over the reins and since the now-departed Kelly Graves assumed the mantle for the women's program. But that's the past. What about this season? The men, ranked in the top 10, have lost just once, an overtime game at Arizona that could have gone either way. Though BYU is good, real good, the Bulldogs have to be the odds-on favorite to repeat as WCC champions. The women are facing a bit tougher road, however. A 7-4 preseason isn't usual around here. The challenges are many. BYU, 8-3 this season, was more successful in the NCAA's last season than GU, San Diego is 9-1 and there are other WCC teams that can give the top teams a challenge. Luckily for the women, their WCC schedule begins at home, with games against BYU (today) and USD (Monday), allowing them the opportunity to jump ahead quickly. Or dig a hole that might be tough to get out of. The women being in the Kennel means the men are on the road, with quite possibly the best game of the WCC season being the first one, this afternoon in Provo. BYU is always tough and never more so when it is at home. But the Cougars are beat up, with Tyler Haws limping around on a tender ankle and their best big man dealing with a torn hamstring. It probably doesn't matter. With 20,000 screaming fans behind them, the Cougars will more than likely play their best game of the year this afternoon. Will it be enough?
• We are still soliciting advice on the best local stories of 2014. We've put together a preliminary list and are looking for any events we missed. Here's what we have so far: The Seahawks wins the Super Bowl ... Gonzaga Prep wind the 4A girls basketball title. ... The Mariners come within a game of the postseason. ... The Sounders win the MLS Supporters' Cup and the U.S. Open Cup. ... The Cougars' Connor Halliday throws for an NCAA-record 734 yards against California. ... Pullman wins another state 2A boys basketball title. ... Eastern Washington wins its third consecutive Big Sky Conference football title. ... Colton's boys and girls both win 1B basketball titles. ... Gonzaga women's basketball coach Kelly Graves, who led the Bulldogs to 10 consecutive WCC titles, leaves to coach the University of Oregon. ... North Central runs to another 3A boys cross country title. ... GU win the WCC men's basketball title again and made the NCAA Tournament for the 16th consecutive year. ... If you have anything to add, let me know.
• WSU: The Pac-12's bowl season kicks off in earnest today, but that isn't the big news around the conference. The dysfunction in Salt Lake City is on everyone's lips. Jacob Thorpe touched on it today in his morning post but we also have a story on what looks to be a power play at Utah. Who goes, the head football coach or the athletic director? ... It's Saturday so we can pass along the mailbag from ESPN.com's Pac-12 blog.
• Gonzaga: As the WCC begins everywhere today, there are a lot of stories. We begin with Jim Meehan, who is in Provo, and his advance of today's game. ... There are game advances in the Utah newspapers as well as a WCC preview. ... In the Bay Area they are asking if this is Gonzaga's best team ever. And, of course, there are WCC previews, men's and women's as well as a look at St. Mary's prospects. ... USD opens conference play today as well.
• Whitworth: Lewis & Clark College has a new football coach. He knows how tough the task is ahead of him.
• Chiefs: The holiday break is over. The Chiefs return to the Arena ice tonight riding a four-game winning streak. Chris Derrick has an advance of tonight's game with the Tri-City Americans. ... Yes, other WHL teams are back in action as well.
• Preps: We have a basketball roundup of Friday night's action to pass along.
• Seahawks: There is a lot on the line Sunday when the Hawks host St. Louis. Thankfully, the defense is healthy and playing well. The offense will welcome the return of Russell Okung but will be without another wide receiver. ... The leader of the offense, Russell Wilson (pictured against the Rams earlier this season), is raking in big bucks as a Microsoft endorser. The Hawks' owner, Paul Allen, helped found the company and still is one of the largest stockholders. Coincidence? ... Wilson explains the differences between last year's team and this one. ... Pete Carroll and Dan Quinn also did some talking yesterday. ... Patrick Lewis really didn't want to play center. Now he enjoys it. Being successful will do that for you. ... As per usual, there was a roster move made in the run up to the game.
• Now that Christmas is in the rearview mirror, it's time to really kick up the bowl season – and the college basketball season. Hope there is enough space on the DVR. Until later ...