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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

A Grip on Sports: It’s a good day no matter what as college basketball is underway in a big way for the Pac-12

A GRIP ON SPORTS • Sports can be a refuge in the worst of times. Even when your sports teams are playing their worst. That’s because they always offer the next game, match or race. Amnesia is a good thing when it comes to being a sports fan. And so is a long memory.


• We’re happy to have the distraction this morning. No coffee. No food. No fun. Except what we can get perusing the college basketball results from last night.

Remember how proud everyone on the West Coast was of the Pac-12 football programs at the end of the September. Eight teams ranked. A great nonconference. The dream of a conference splitting apart but taking one last national title with it.

Those dreams don’t seem as bright in early November. But, as the basketball season kicked off Monday night, they were replaced with other, just as plausible fantasies.

The Pac-12 may just have the best women’s basketball conference in the nation this season. Forget the SEC. The Big Ten. The ACC. The Big East.

Colorado, picked to finish fourth, not only had a good showing in Las Vegas against defending champion – and loaded – LSU, the Buffs won going away. Handily, if you will. How about 92-78? That’s kind of a rout, huh?

If the fourth-best team – projected – can do that, what will Utah or UCLA or Stanford do? How about Oregon or WSU? Or Arizona? The conference is stacked, with good team after good team. Eleven of them won last night (Stanford doesn’t play until Wednesday), though no one had as impressive a win as Colorado.

Forget the 4-0-turned-4-5 season the Cougar football team is having and revel in Charlisse Leger-Walker and the women’s basketball prospects. It may not have the national cachet, or publicity, but it’s there for Cougar fans to enjoy. And, yes, the 24th-ranked women opened their season with a win, 78-61 over visiting Cal Poly.

• Remember the last time a Pac-12 school won the men’s national title? Me neither. Last century is so last century.

Oh, sure, UCLA won 11 of those weird-looking trophies between 1964 and 1995. And Arizona won in 1997. But since then, nada, nothing, zip.

It’s probably not going to happen this year either. Though every team that was in action Monday won. Eleven of the 12 played – Arizona State hosts Mississippi State tonight – and only two games – those involving the struggling Bay Area programs – were within single digits.

That’s good scheduling, for the most part. Washington State’s Kyle Smith choose well for his opener, hosting long-time local rival Idaho as the sacrificial lamb. The Vandals might do good things under first-year coach Alex Pribble down the road, but the all-new roster was not up to staying with the new-look Cougars.

There were just two Pac-12 wins that stood out. Oregon and USC opened their seasons in Las Vegas’ T-Mobile Arena and each handily a Power Six foe. The Ducks ran past Georgia 82-71 in the early game and USC, which may have Bronny James back at some point this season, had no trouble with Kansas State, winning 82-69.

• We had a chance to watch a little of the opener for the Gonzaga’s women in Missoula. The last quarter and a half, actually. When they put it all together, began hitting 3s and ran away for an 83-70 victory.

The Zags return almost everyone from last season’s team that ended on a down note. The four-point loss to Portland in the finals of the WCC tournament stung. So did the 23-point rout at the hands of Ole Miss in the NCAA’s first round.

A great season turned sour.

Which makes the early schedule important to GU. Montana is always tough at home and was again Monday night. Washington State will be tough in Pullman on Thursday night. Two tests right off the bat. A passing grade in the first one.

We’re looking forward to seeing what Thursday will bring.


WSU: Yes, there is football news. Jake Dickert held his Monday press conference. He talked about Name, Image and Likeness. Money matters. And he said, in that arena, the Cougars aren’t keeping up. Greg Woods has that story. … He also has his first look at California, Saturday’s opponent in Berkeley. … We mentioned the basketball game above. Here is Greg’s coverage. … We also mentioned the women’s game. And we linked the story, which we do again here in case you missed it. … A former WSU track athlete, Tony Tenisci, died last month. His obituary leads off the S-R’s latest local briefs column. … Elsewhere in the Pac-12 and the nation, Jon Wilner has his conference power rankings, with tie-breakers, and his Mountain West power rankings. … John Canzano answers questions in this mailbag. … The Heisman Trophy race is still up in the air. … Washington is pretty happy with its win over USC. But there is no rest, not with Utah coming to Seattle. … Oregon State’s Jonathan Smith is still defending his decision to go for two at Colorado. … Oregon has to get ready to host USC, which will have a new look on defense. … Utah has had a lot of day games this season. … The UCLA offense is broken. … Arizona’s PFF grades don’t interest its coach. … In basketball news, being that everyone won, will just list the schools and link the stories. We start with the men. For example, Washington had a little trouble with Bellarmine but pulled away. … Oregon’s win was impressive and crucial for the Ducks. … Oregon State wasn’t tested by Linfield. … Colorado worked its way past Towson. … We have more on Utah’s win in the EWU section. … Mark Madsen earned his first win as Cal’s coach. … Boogie Ellis led USC to the win over Kansas State. … Adem Bona did the same for UCLA. … Arizona rolled to as easy a win as possible, 122-59 over Morgan State. … Arizona State begins tonight. … On the women’s side, Washington picked up a tough win. … Oregon may have lost a player in its win. … Oregon State rallied from 17 down to win its opener. … The win over LSU by Colorado was the best one of the day. … Utah won as expected. … UCLA rolled as it should have. … JuJu Watkins had 32 in her first college game, a USC win over No. 7 Ohio State. … Arizona State’s new look had a nice debut. … Arizona won on the road at New Mexico State.

Gonzaga: The women’s victory in Missoula was a test. Greg Lee was there and has this game story. … The national media expect the men to be tested often this season, and to not pass those tests as often as in the past. Jim Meehan takes a look at the season’s lowered expectations. … Jim and Richard Fox get together again and put on a podcast. You can listen here. … Ryan Nembhard is on another award watch list. Theo Lawson has more. … It was a big day for the women’s soccer program. The Zags found out they are hosting a first-round NCAA match against a school they have never – wait, that’s wrong. They are hosting Big Sky champion Idaho, who they play all the time. Justin Reed has the story and Dan Pelle has a photo gallery from their selection event. … Elsewhere in the WCC, we can pass along previews of the Bay Area women’s teams, including those from the Pac-12.

EWU: The Eagles had trouble hitting shots and fell 101-56 to Utah in Salt Lake City. Dan Thompson took it in and has this game story. … Elsewhere in the Big Sky, the conference always has a lot of teams in the football playoffs. … Montana State will be there this year. The Bobcats host Eastern this week. … Matt Logie’s first game was a win at Montana State. … The Idaho State men picked up a win. … So did Northern Colorado. … Portland State rallied to get past Air Force. … Northern Arizona fell 95-52 at defending champion UConn. … The Weber State women lost.

Idaho: As we said, the Vandals struggled a bit against Washington State in Pullman. Here is a link to Greg’s story in case you missed it.

Preps: Madison McCord has a preview of the smaller schools’ State volleyball tournaments this weekend.

Seahawks: Seattle’s offense is not working well, but it’s not time to change the quarterback. Or is it? … Pete Carroll still has Geno Smith’s back.

Mariners: Teoscar Hernandez probably won’t be in Seattle next season. Nor will the M’s receive a draft pick if he signs elsewhere. They did not give him a qualifying offer. … The M’s did make a trade of backup catchers with Tampa Bay.

Kraken: There was no mystery in the latest defeat. The Kraken were outworked.


• We won’t be here tomorrow. Don’t know when we will be back. Surgery today on a couple hernias. Downtime to follow. We’ll let you know via Twitter – or X if you prefer. Until later …