A GRIP ON SPORTS • It’s cold around these here parts. Really cold. But we do have some basketball coming up that will keep us warm. And some news from the Midwest, news with a local connection, that is even colder. Read on.
• It’s almost as if the first week of conference basketball play was just an appetizer. A small taste to get the juices flowing.
Such seems to be Gonzaga’s case. And Washington State as well.
The Cougars began Pac-12 play with a road win at Washington. That would seem to be a full-plate entrée in itself. After all, winning conference games have been rare these days so winning one at your rivals place has to count more than double, right?
But last week’s game is followed closely by another winnable one. That comes tonight in the Arena against Oregon State.
The Beavers were expected to be, at the very least, decent this season after having a better-than-decent last season. But injuries have a way of derailing even the best teams and OSU has had more than its share.
The result? A 4-11 record that includes most of the Pac-12 Conference’s bad losses. How bad? How about Lamar, Fresno State and Savannah, all at home?
It’s not a resume of which to be proud.
So tonight at 8 the Cougars have a chance to go 2-0 in conference. It’s the only meeting with the Beavers this year, so it behooves Washington State to take advantage.
The Zags have already hit that 2-0 mark. They will try to make it three consecutive in conference – and 15 consecutive to begin the season – when they travel to USF on Thursday.
War Memorial has been a weird venue for Gonzaga recently, but that was under the iron-fisted hand of former San Francisco coach Rex Walters. The Dons have a new leader, Kyle Smith, and the former Saint Mary’s assistant, who was successful as Columbia’s head coach, presents a team with different look than those USF squads.
Actually, a tougher look, if the Dons’ 11-4 record means anything.
One of those losses came at Eastern Washington. The Eagles will be looking to go 2-0 in Big Sky play Thursday when they host Montana State at 6.
Like the Cougars, EWU opened conference play with a win on their rival’s floor, in this case at Idaho.
That Eastern win is also the only conference loss for any of our area’s Division I schools.
So what’s for dessert?
• What if this is a trend? Defeat Washington State in a bowl game and lose your job. Such is the case with Minnesota’s Tracy Claeys, who was fired yesterday.
It had nothing to do with the game in San Diego, sure, as the Gophers took it to WSU, 17-12.
The justification behind the firing came in the run-up to the Holiday Bowl, when the Gopher players decided to boycott over a series of team suspensions and Claeys, who was hired in his position by Minnesota’s former – discredited – athletic director, tweeted out his admiration of the team’s stand.
That was the excuse. The probable real reason? The current athletic director, Mark Coyle (pictured), wants his own guy in the athletic department’s most important position. And that guy just might be Boise State’s Bryan Harsin, an old friend from Coyle’s Boise days.
Interesting. Especially when you consider the Broncos play in Pullman in September.
By the way, the last time WSU lost a bowl game, the head coach of the winning team also changed jobs. Jim McElwain did OK by himself, however, leaving Colorado State for a high-paying gig at Florida.
Maybe Claeys will join him. After all, the now former Minnesota coach seems to be looking for a warmer landing spot.
“I won’t be up here freezing my (butt) off, so y’all enjoy the winter,” he told a Minnesota TV station.
Funny, but pretty darn cold.
Gonzaga: To get you in the basketball mood, Jim Meehan has his Bulldog notebook, with the recent and upcoming road games the first subject broached. … Jim also has this story on Robert Sacre’s next basketball gig. … The Gonzaga women are 0-2 in conference, which doesn’t sit well with coach Lisa Fortier. Jim Allen has more on that in his women’s basketball notebook. … Back to the men, Saint Mary’s has a tough couple weeks coming up.
WSU: Jacob Thorpe has an advance of tonight’s game in Spokane. … The Register-Guard’s Pac-12 basketball notebook focuses upon Ernie Kent’s latest crusade. … The Beavers’ hope their improved defense helps them tonight. … Washington needs a win. But No. 15 Oregon is the foe tonight. … UCLA isn’t hitting on all cylinders just yet. … Arizona is playing better and hopes to get better in the future. … On the football front, Washington will lose four players to the NFL draft who could be helping them next season. … How close was USC to playing for a national title? … The Pac-12’s bowl season featured a lot of ups and downs, but more of the latter.
Chiefs: The WHL trade deadline is looming, though you might not know it outside of Spokane.
Preps: There were a lot of high school basketball games last night, including an important Greater Spokane League boy’s showdown at Gonzaga Prep. Greg Lee was there and has this story on the Bullpups’ win over Central Valley. Colin Mulvany also has a photo report. … We can also pass along a GSL girls roundup, the same from the GNL, and boys and girls roundups from around the area.
Seahawks: The biggest news yesterday were a couple of specialist signings. The Hawks replaced injured long snapper Nolan Frese with a Harvard man and then agreed with veteran Devin Hester to be a playoff replacement for Tyler Lockett. … How long will the playoffs last? That’s up to the Hawks, who know this week’s foe, Detroit, pretty well. And the Lions are getting to know them well too. … Pete Carroll said something interesting about losing Golden Tate.
• Going to the Cougar game tonight? Maybe we all should, filling up the Arena to overflowing and convincing WSU to play more games in Spokane. I guess I’m dreaming. Won’t happen. Too bad. Until later …
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