Just traversed State Rt. 195 from Pullman to Spokane, and I’m beginning to wonder about my presence and the weather here. Since the New Year, I’ve been on two trips to Spokane and Pullman — one in January, plus this one — and I’ve hit the region’s worst weather of what has been a relatively mild winter. This was a little mini-storm and shouldn’t have much staying power, but it was pretty fierce, blowing a modest snowfall and closing roads into Pullman Saturday.
To the particulars:
This Washington team might be developing something special. I’ve been somewhat skeptical through much of January and earlier this month, simply because the Huskies have beaten a lot of the Pac-12’s patsies and struggled to win against some better teams. But it’s undeniable that they continue to find ways to win, and the victory over the Cougars Saturday was very big. I think it puts an NCAA-tournament bid virtually at their doorstep, perhaps only vulnerable if they somehow lose to USC on the road on the final weekend. And assuming they get to the NCAAs, I could see them being a handful.
As for the Cougars, Ken Bone’s decision to go with Patrick Simon to take a potential game-winning shot inside 20 seconds is a real head-scratcher. Bone calls Simon “a great shooter,” and indeed, that’s why Tony Bennett offered him a scholarship when he was a freshman at Ephrata High, and why Bone followed up on the offer. But the bottom line is, even if he’s a great practice shooter, Simon doesn’t have good game numbers, and he’s now played a grand total of 27 minutes in 16 Pac-12 games. Dating myself here, but I remember Ralph Miller occasionally doing the same thing once or twice back in the day at Oregon State — putting in a little-used player to save the day in the last seconds because he was a shooter. And as I remember, it worked for Miller about as well as it did for Bone Saturday.
For Gonzaga, it’s the end of an era. Saint Mary’s victory at San Francisco gave the Gaels the undisputed West Coast Conference championship, breaking a string of 11 titles that the Zags won or shared since 2001. It turned out that Gonzaga’s one-point loss to USF a week ago was the difference, in a game in which the Zags misfired repeatedly down the stretch, failing to score in the last 3 1/2 minutes. Now it’s on to the the WCC tournament, where the Zags get a semifinal berth, but would figure potentially to have to beat third-seeded BYU and top-seeded Saint Mary’s for the title.