A GRIP ON SPORTS • It’s not often we have breaking news on A Grip on Sports, but it is 2020, so we do. Gonzaga has just announced the game with Baylor has been canceled, though the teams will try reschedule it for later this season. We do not want to waste our column from this morning, so we have it below.
• Yes, Gonzaga has been ranked No. 1 before. A few times since the first occurrence back in 2013. (Yes, it was that long ago.)
But the Zags have never had to face the nation’s second-ranked team while holding that lofty top rung. Even though, since the Associated Press began ranking college basketball teams back in 1949, there have been 42 games that meet the criteria.
Before today’s 43rd such contest (10 a.m. PST on CBS), let’s examine a few items that should be No. 1 or No. 2 in our minds …
– The No. 1 concern for Gonzaga today is probably the health of Jalen Suggs. The freshman point guard, who showed in the season-opening win over No. 6 Kansas he is comfortable running the Zag offense, went down with a first-half ankle injury against No. 11 West Virginia. He returned but wasn’t the same. GU needs him at close to full strength today to counter the Bears’ defensive pressure. Concern No. 2 has to be Drew Timme. The sophomore was superb against Kansas and Auburn. He wasn’t against West Virginia, who used its strength inside to knock him off spots and contest every finish. Which Timme will show up today? …
– The Bears may have the No. 1 defense in America, though Ken Pomeroy only has them ranked eighth right now. Of course, Kansas is currently rated fourth in Pomeroy’s system and the Zags handled the Jayhawks easily. Baylor is No. 2 in offensive efficiency, according to KenPom.com, trailing only Gonzaga in that regard. …
– Which makes Gonzaga’s defense the No. 1 question. It’s been a bit disjointed in the first three game, as can be expected with all the new faces trying to meld themselves into the Bulldogs’ system. For GU to be successful, the five players must stay better connected, helping each other at all times. That hasn’t been the case, though the Zags are still 17th in Pomeroy’s ratings. The No. 2 question for Gonzaga is its 3-point shooting. It hasn’t been at the level – 29 percent – it usually is, even with a small sample size. Most importantly, Timme and Anton Watson, the starting 5 and 4, are 1-of-8 combined. The more Watson can connect from long range, the more he extends the defense. And the more he’ll play. The Zags have used Corey Kispert at the 4 spot often, sacrificing a little size to stretch defenders and unclog the rim. …
We could go on and on, but we know you’re really swamped. After all, with the game scheduled for brunch-time on a day clogged with college football, carving out moments for preparation isn’t easy. Making a good Bloody Mary or Mimosa takes a little time. But before you sit down to watch, you should make sure you read this CBS story on college basketball’s 42 previous matchups between No. 1 and No. 2. It’s fun.
• You know what’s not fun? Games being postponed due to COVID-19 issues. The Washington State football team has dealt with it over the past couple Saturdays – the Cougars get back on the field tomorrow night in Los Angeles – and now the basketball teams are feeling the heat.
The women announced yesterday they wouldn’t be traveling to play California due to the Cougars’ issues with the virus. The teams were supposed to meet Sunday. And the men have postponed their Pac-12 opening game today at Colorado as well, citing similar issues.
So let’s recap: The football team has missed two games, including an Apple Cup, due to the coronavirus. And now both basketball teams have had to postpone games. The burgeoning pandemic has hit the Cougars hard the past few weeks.
WSU: Of course Theo Lawson has the basketball news, being that maybe later in the season he’ll be free to take a trip to Colorado. But his emphasis today is the trip to Los Angeles, where it is warm. And a bit lonely for the Washington State football players who have family in the area. They won’t be connecting this time. Theo has more here. … After losing a few commits, WSU flipped a player headed to Fresno State. Theo has the information. … USC has a great group of receivers. … Around the Pac-12 and college football, Jin Wilner delved into the background of the five men who oversee Power 5 conference officiating. As one might guess, the resume of the Pac-12’s David Coleman is a bit different than his peers’. … As of yesterday, it looked as if all six conference games will be played this weekend. … That includes Stanford at Washington, as the Cardinal begin a COVID-19-caused two-week trip to the Northwest. … Oregon will play at California today where, despite being in the same region as sports-banning Santa Clara County, the game will go on. The Ducks need to bounce back from last week’s loss. The Bears need a win. … So does Utah, but Oregon State is riding a high and has Jermar Jefferson to carry the ball behind a productive offensive line. … Colorado is 3-0 but the Buffs still a bit worried about playing at Arizona. The Wildcats need a win as well. … UCLA and Arizona State have both had to deal with coronavirus issues, though the Sun Devils missed three games while the Bruins have just missed a few players. Hard to tell what is worse. … In basketball news, a Washington player has decided to leave UW and start a professional career. Is it panic time for the Huskies? … Oregon bounced back to defeat Seton Hall. … The best game yesterday matched up No. 9 UCLA at No. 7 Arizona in women’s play. The Wildcats won.
Gonzaga: Jim has a preview of this morning’s matchup, as always, and also takes a look at the key players. For Baylor, it’s all about All-American Jared Butler. … Yes, former GU players follow their old school. And crow about its accomplishments on social media. Jim looks into how excited they are. … Larry Weir chips in, talking with Baylor radio voice Pat Nunley for the latest Press Box podcast. … Elsewhere in the WCC, Loyola Marymount handled Long Beach State easily. … USF has played six games already, including a win at Cal Poly last night. … BYU is set to meet in-state rival Utah State.
Seahawks: The Hawks will be missing a few players tomorrow afternoon, but Carlos Dunlap may play. … I always had trouble spelling Stephen Hauschka’s name. No, not Hauschka, I memorized that. I just couldn’t remember if the former Seattle kicker was a “Steven” or a “Stephen.” Not a problem anymore. He has retired.
• We have about an hour to eat, get cleaned up and ready to work again. We’ll be back with our TV Take from the Gonzaga game. Tomorrow will be even tighter. We’ll have to adjust from being a Seahawks’ fan to a disinterested viewer of the Washington State game in a matter of minutes. Hopefully, the Hawks will bring down the Giants, making the atmosphere in our house one of joy, not disappointment. We’re talking about Kim, actually, the biggest Seahawk booster in the neighborhood. Until later …