3 PM PST -- Friel Court at Beasley Coliseum
Kenpom.com prediction: Cougs win 59-57 (66 possesions, 56 percent confidence)
Here we are - the start of the Pac-10 season and the first leg of the two-part rivalry series between Washington and Washington State. This should be exciting. There should be a huge line of students, and people trying to camp out the night before the game. It should be one of the bigger days on the Cougar basketball calendar.
And yet it doesn't feel like it. Why? Because this game should never, ever, be played on January 3rd in Pullman.
The Pac-10 scheduling wizards, in their infinite wisdom, climbed Mount Vesuvius to speak with an oracle, who then instructed them to schedule this game on this day. if we lose, I will obviously be blaming the conference, rather than giving the Purple-clad Huskies the respect they deserve. I think that's the best way to go about it.
First, you have the weather. As I type this it's sunny and a whole degree above zero here in town. Still, that's a welcome change from the 327 feet of snow (exaggeration) that have made piles of snow on Spokane sidewalks that are just above my height at about six feet tall (not an exaggeration).The two biggest sources of Cougar fans are on the west side, which requires crossing Snoqualmie pass, and from Spokane, which requires driving down snowdrift prone Highway 195. What should have been a sold-out game will now be cut down considerably, with plenty of no shows in the season ticket section.
Then, you have a campus on break. That would be fine if the pass was clear, but as it is traction tires are required. Meaning that you're probably driving on packed snow, instead of bare road, if you take that route. So very few students will make it back today. Add that to WSU's ridiculous close-down-the-dorms-every-chance-we-get policy, and you have very few students on campus. Basically me, and the few people who stayed behind for the break out in apartmentville, are the two sources of students in town today.
But never fear! For only $25 you can buy a seat in the student section, meaning that instead of a raucous student section you will have an awkward mishmash of students that still showed up early and older fans who want the former to sit down. I've attended games over break when they've done this 'general admission' policy. Simply put, it's a mix of students who care, families who want to attend a Cougar game without having to hear swearing coming out of the ZZU CRU, and locals who think they know soooo much about Cougar basketball even though they obviously couldn't shell out the cash for season tickets ("Get Harmeling out of there! He's terrible! Boy that Thompson kid looks great! Why didn't anyone see that coming?").
Finally, you have the game. This is a somewhat worse Cougar squad going against a somewhat better Husky team, as compared to last year. This wouldn't be a problem, except that the Huskies have been so close to us the last several times, and haven't yet pulled it off. Could today be the day they finally break through? The Dawgs are a terrible team on the road (see: game, Portland) and yet somehow have been able to put together spirited efforts at Friel Court since the awesome 75-47 thrashing of Spencer Hawes. Maybe having less of a student presence could actually help, by not firing them up as much for the game.
The Cougs can win this game. We're two point favorites, which only really accounts for home court advantage, with all other things being equal. We have the talent, though, and we just need to execute. I want the eight-peat. I want to know that Brockman has never won here. Please make it happen.
Key player for the Huskies: Isiah Thomas. I know, Jon Brockman is a great player, but he's very predictable. All he has to do is step on the court and he'll get his 15 and 10. Thomas, on the other hand, is the Huskies' new big scorer and could be the difference if he's not kept in check. He's coming off a career-high 27 against Morgan State.
Key player for the Cougars: Taylor Rochestie. Baynes and Brockman cancel each other out for the most part, and Thompson should get 12 points, a couple of assists and some boards. Rochestie is the key and needs to be the "third scorer" tonight, or defer to someone who will be. As Taylor goes, so do the Cougs, and if he protects the ball and gets Baynes more touches, we could be in for a good afternoon.
Go Cougs. Please win.