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Cougar Basketball is better, but still not that good

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It’s a long climb back.

NCAA Basketball: Washington State at Southern California Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Good morning. If you’re a certain age, you might remember the show Growing Pains. It was your typical late 80s family sitcom with typical storylines, starring former heartthrob-turned-wackadoo Kirk Cameron, Alan Thicke and other run-of-the-mill actors, including a dude who went by the nickname “Boner.” It was a simpler time. Anyway, as I sat here thinking about WSU’s three-game losing streak, that term “growing pains” came to mind.

Kyle Smith has done a tremendous job of building the roster from the ashes, largely through signing bonafide high school talent. Compared with most of the previous era, what we’re seeing now is a considerable step up. However, it’s important to realize that while the talent level and competitiveness have improved a lot in just over a year, there’s still a long, long way to go. That has been evident over the last few games, in which the young Cougars faced a significantly better trio of opponents, as compared to what they had seen at any time this season. Predictably, they went 0-3, losing by 15, 30 and eight points. How bad was it? As Theo Lawson pointed out, WSU led for all of 20 seconds out of the 120 game minutes. Yikes.

That’s not to say there weren’t bright spots among the rubble of this losing streak. Guard Isaac Bonton has improved significantly since WSU began facing conference opponents, scoring 27 points and turning the ball over only twice on Saturday. Noah Williams seems to be gradually healing, and will definitely re-assume his impact player status, provided he stays out of foul trouble. And Dishon Jackson had probably his best game as a Cougar on Saturday, hitting six of nine field goals and grabbing seven rebounds against some solid competition.

Those of us who suffered through the early years of the Mike Leach era - an even bigger project than Kyle Smith faced - know that progress is almost never linear. There are peaks (2013) and valleys (2012, 2014) during the first few years when trying to build a solid program. Cougar basketball is probably no different. It’s a pretty young roster that is going to get better, and will definitely jump up and bite a few teams this season. However, they probably aren’t as good as we had hoped. But hey, at least they aren’t in last. Anybody know who is?

What really stinks, as my fellow authors pointed out, is that darn Arizona game. Win that game and the conference season looks a whole lot different. Plus, given Arizona State’s near-implosion, there’s a real chance the Cougs could have taken that as well. What’s that old saying? “If Ifs and buts could hit free throws and avoid COVID-related postponements...”

The Cougs face the mountain schools next, including the rare back-to-back set of games against the Colorado Buffaloes. Meanwhile, the WSU Cougar women have a chance to salvage something from the weekend when they take on UCLA. It won’t be easy, though, as the Bruin women are ranked in the top ten. Tip time is 11 a.m. and you can watch the game on Pac-12 Washington. Go Cougs.

Basketball

Washington State closes California road swing with 85-77 loss to USC | The Spokesman-Review
A four-game California road swing for Washington State culminated with one victory and three reminders of where the Cougars need to improve before they can start stacking up wins against the Pac-12 Conference’s best teams.

No. 25 Cougs Travel to No. 8 UCLA Sunday for a Top-25 Matchup - Washington State University Athletics
The No. 25-ranked Washington State women's basketball team continues its weekend in the City of Angels this Sunday, Jan. 17, as the Cougars take on UCLA.

Football

Pac-12 football: Ranking the coaching jobs, from easiest to most challenging | The Spokesman-Review
We considered recruiting, budgets, admissions, tradition and more in compiling the list

WSU Athletics

Q&A: Washington State AD Pat Chun recaps 2020, talks student-athlete vaccination & responds to recent national events in wide-ranging interview | The Spokesman-Review
In many ways, it's the best of times and the worst of times to be Washington State's athletic director.

This Week in Parenting

To Mrs. Kendall’s great joy as a work-from-home mom, the Department of Defense schools once again followed Germany’s lead recently, and shut down in-person school attendance through the end of January. This means that, at the very least, they’ll have been away from school for seven weeks by the time they return. To add insult to injury, this holiday weekend went Friday through tomorrow. Oy Vey.

Luckily, a good amount of snow fell in the village this week, and the boys got to venture out to a big sledding hill for an afternoon of fun. And still, the snow came. While shoveling snow anywhere but one’s driveway is a largely haphazard affair in the U.S., you better keep every bit of pavement that touches your property cleared and salted in Germany, lest you be subject to a fine if someone slips and gets hurt on your portion of the sidewalk. Worse yet, you may get ugly looks and passive-aggressive comments from the locals.

The boys are well aware of this, so they immediately charged outside and...ran right past the shovel to their friends’ house down the street, leaving Mrs. Kendall to clear the snow herself. They were given pointed feedback from yours truly. But while they couldn’t possibly dedicate themselves to clearing a little snow, they were more than happy to spend the next four hours constructing an igloo. Because of course they were.

I must admit that I was impressed, as they carved out enough space inside to fit like four kids. I told them that they should sleep in there overnight and build a fire to stay warm. Unfortunately they did not buy what I was selling.

You Suck If...

Ever been in an elevator? Of course you have. Ever ridden in airport train shuttle between terminals? Almost certainly. When arriving at your appointed floor or stop, what is your reaction when the doors open and there is someone or multiple people literally standing at the threshold and all but blocking your path? Pretty annoying, isn’t it? There’s a reason why a large amount of space normally exists outside an elevator or a shuttle or other similar places. That space exists so the people waiting can STAND BACK AND/OR TO THE SIDE, allowing those who need to exit the room to do so. So if you are someone who stands right in front of the door as you wait for the elevator, or the shuttle, or whatever else falls within this category, you suck. Please stop sucking, and also get out of the way.

Book Club

Scipio Africanus can not catch a break. First it got pushed aside for professional reasons, and then it was forgotten when its alleged reader relocated. While waiting for our reunion, I’ve begun reading The Only Plane in the Sky. It’s an oral history of 9/11, told by 100s of people who lived through it at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, Western Pennsylvania, on Air Force One, and many other places. It’s been almost 20 years now, but many of the passages are positively chilling and make it seem like the event happened yesterday. The portions that involve panicked calls from the hijacked planes are heart-wrenching. Here are a couple of the many that got me:

Linda Gronlund, United 93 passenger, in a voice mail message to her sister: Elsa, it’s Lin. Um, I only have a minute. I’m on United 93. It’s been hijacked by terrorists who say they have a bomb. Apparently, they, uh, flew a couple planes into the World Trade Center already and it looks like they’re going to take this one down as well. [Sobbing] Mostly, I just wanted to say I love you and I’m going to miss you. I don’t know if I’m going to get a chance to tell you that again.

Deena Burnett, wife of United 93 passenger Tom Burnett: I kept waiting. I held on to the telephone for almost three hours, waiting for him to call back to tell me he had landed the plane and everything else was fine and he would be home later. I started thinking about what I could cook for dinner. I was thinking about sending the kids to school and who would come pick them up, because I didn’t want to miss the phone call. So I just sat there.

I can not imagine.

Non-Sports

As Bitcoin Prices Swing, Millionaires Lose Sleep Over Lost Keys - The New York Times
Bitcoin owners are getting rich because the cryptocurrency has soared. But what happens when you can’t access that wealth because you forgot the password to your digital wallet?

A 25-Year-Old Bet Comes Due: Has Tech Destroyed Society? | WIRED
In 1995, a WIRED cofounder challenged a Luddite-loving doomsayer to a prescient wager on tech and civilization’s fate. Now their judge weighs in.