I assure you there's no other motive here.
We'd never try to, you know, bury the obvious story about us being picked last in the Pac-10 football media rankings. Or try to change the subject from the impending doom and gloom of the 2009 football season. Or simply try to make you feel better by shedding a tiny bit of light about the one Cougar sport with an actual chance this winter. Ignoring issues like that just isn't our style.
But hey -- look over here! It's basketball! Scheduling!
In all seriousness though, I wanted to break down the schedge - I shortened the word so it would be cooler - and today's timing is just how it is. However opportune that may be.
I think we should break it down by month. My initial thought is a little bit of disappointment regarding the lack of games in Pullman, especially in a year where we're only entitled to five football games. But nevertheless, we did fill the void with some cupcakes. Which, honestly, are my favorite non-conference games anyway since the real fans are still there in droves and the bandwagon stays home to watch "So you think you can dance" or whatever other TV show is causing them to forgo their obligation to Cougar sports (side note: don't worry about me being one of these fans, I'll just TiVo "Burn Notice" when it conflicts with a Thursday game).
My other first glance reaction is: Yay Great Alaska Shootout! I've been pushing for the Cougars to sign on to a marquee early-season tournament. And while this isn't the Maui Invitational (seriously, they took Oregon last year - they should be thrilled to have WSU on board), it is a tournament, and usually one that draws some big names. Last year we stayed in the Lower 48 so that we could avoid a potential second meeting with Gonzaga. This year, it's off to Alaska, complete with endless days (or nights), basketball, northern lights, helicopter-based moose shootings, seasonal affective disorder, and all the fun things the Last Frontier provides.
9th - Lewis and Clark State (exhibition) - I love the seemingly annual LCSC matchup, as it actually counts for them as a NAIA team. Except we win every time anyway. If they ever have a chance to win, though, it's this year. But they won't.
113th - Mississippi Valley State - You would think after the slaughterfests we've had the last two years, the Delta Devils would just give up. But they keep coming back for more.
16th - Eastern Washington - Another local "rivalry" that makes for an enjoyable game. I'm still scratching my head over how EWU failed to dominate everyone when Rodney Stuckey played for them. Actually, better conundrum: why did Rodney Stuckey play for EWU?
19th - IPFW - Quick rule of thumb: If your school has four or more initials, you're either really good (UCLA) or really awful. I'm bummed this isn't on the 20th where it could piggyback off the Oregon State football game. The basketball/football combo makes for a great weekend of Cougar sports.
25th and on - Great Alaska Shootout - Woot.
2nd - at Gonzaga - We should have a slightly more competitive game this year, with Gonzaga losing mostly everyone that murdered us last year. GU will still have the upper hand, but take a quick guess at who the last opposing coach was to win at K2... Okay, I'll tell you. Ken Bone.
5th - at Kansas State - Another made-for-radio Pac-10/Big XII Hardwood Series matchup. I'm hoping ESPN 8 (The ocho) picks up the game.
9th - Idaho - Promises to be the most competitive U of I - WSU game in quite some time. Well, last year's was competitive, but no one was around to see it. By the way, can someone please get that "Idaho's crashing the WAC!" commercial from a couple years back on YouTube? It's an unintentional comedy gold mine on par with the "He's back" Dennis Erickson poster.
12th - Air Force (in Spokane) - Problem here: unless you're in one of the other ones, how do you heckle a service academy? I'd feel like a compete jackass booing our military. So yeah, I guess Spokane is a good fit for this one, where we can enjoy sitting down, using cupholders and not being crude to the other team.
19th - Portland State (in Kennewick) - Really a win-win. If we win, we win, and if not, we praise the excellent program building job by former PSU coach Ken Bone. I'm thinking we should have a repeat of football and unveil the new jerseys at this game. Since, you know, the surprise will have already been ruined weeks earlier.
22nd - LSU (in Key Arena) - A quality opponent for the Seattle game makes me happy in so many ways.
31st - Oregon - PLEASE NO MORE PAC-10 GAMES WHILE THE STUDENTS ARE ON VACATION. I hate you, ghost of Tom Hansen (despite the fact you probably have nothing to do with this).
2nd - OSU - Well, at least it's two winnable games to start the Pac-10 slate. If the Cougs don't screw up the OOC schedule too much, we might be able to at least entertain dreams of the postseason.
8th/10th - at the Arizonas - Fist Pac-10 road trip down ol' Arizona way. With the struggles of Arizona lately, and our recent ownage of the Sun Devils, a 4-0 start in conference actually isn't a ridiculous thought.
14th/16th - Cal/Stanford - By the end of this weekend, we'll know if the Cougs are legit or not. Four of six at home to start conference play is always good.
21st/23rd - at USCLA - One's a legitimate basketball powerhouse. The other was on the verge of becoming one except for that whole thing where they cheated trying to become one.
30th - at UW - Remember the best! recruiting class! ever! of Spencer Hawes, Jon Brockman, Justin Dentmon et. al? The one that was supposed to be the Huskies' ticket to the Final Four? I don't know about you, but I'm pretty amped that all they got out of it was one Sweet Sixteen appearance and a Pac-10 championship in a down year for the conference.
4th/6th - Arizonas - If the freshmen haven't started to hit their stride by this point, I'd be very concerned.
11th/13th - at Cal/Stanford - Wouldn't be surprised if we're stuck with radio-only for this road trip.
18th/20th - UCLA/USC - Can we stop having UCLA games on Thursdays? I'm thinking profs might start to get tired of having no one in class.
27th - UW - Die Huskies die. No more student section this year for me, which means no more telling Quincy Pondexter to his face that I think he'll do great in the NBDL.
4th/6th - at the Oregons - I can't really think of a more anticlimactic end to the regular season than this. I really hope we're in some kind of postseason contention at this point. Also, and this is only semi-related, I'm going to be irate at the media when they inexplicably put the Ducks ahead of us in the preseason poll.
You know the rest - Pac-10 tournament, NCAA tournament, Final Four, national championship. I'm not saying that's for us, that's just how the remainder of the college basketball schedule goes.
The good news is that we'll know fairly early where this team stands. If we struggle against the little guys, fade out early in Alaska, and get blown out by the Zags again, this team isn't going anywhere. But if we take care of the little guys, play the max number of games in Anchorage, and upset the Zags... well, let's not count our chickens before they hatch.