I loved this "ho-hum" comment in our previous post about some Gonzaga fans not really seeing the Washington State-Gonzaga match up as being a huge rivalry game. It's weird to say that being that the schools are separated by an hour and a half drive through nothingness. At one point I thought I was a Cougar hater but Lorenzo Romar and the Washington Huskies really made me indifferent towards the school from Pullman. If you've been paying attention to our blogging friends from CougCenter, their is quite a bit of hatred being spewed by the Cougar faithful. Most of it seems to be personal stuff dealing with bad Gonzaga fans or players and the constant debate of who "owns the state". I never fully got this idea because no team ever truly owns a state unless you win a title...so I guess the Seattle Storm own the state or the Spokane Shock if we are giving it to Arena League teams. The Zags have their fans, the Cougs have their fans, and the Huskies (for some reason) have their fans.
Gonzaga enters Pullman, Washington tonight as the fourth ranked team in the nation. That's all I really care about right now. Our next seven games include five teams that were in the NCAA Tournament a season ago. For this reason, their is no way that the game against Washington State should be thought of as anything more than a game against a PAC-10 opponent that happens to play in the same state as us. Sure, if the Zags wins, our fans can call their buddies that went to WSU and celebrate at their expense. Other than that, this game is just a stepping stone to better days for this team. If we win, we are that much closer to achieving our goals in the season which include a #1 seed out West and a top-ranking throughout the season. If we lose, your WSU buddies will call you and celebrate at your expense. Losing to Washington State is something that can't happen for one reason and that is the fact that we are a better team this year with more talent and experience.
Washington State is a far different team from the one that took the court a season ago, whether they want to admit it or not. The loss of Kyle Weaver and Derrick Low are, in my estimation, huge losses. I loved their back court last year and truly believe that Kyle Weaver was one of the most solid and outstanding players all year. Don't get me wrong, I love Klay Thompson and think he is going to be outstanding. I love to hate the Zag-killer Taylor Rochestie and think Aron Baynes is a very good big man. But overall, where the Cougs have changed since last year, the Zags have remained the same.
Actually, we have gotten better. Gonzaga features two players that Washington State did not even see last year in Josh Heytvelt and Steven Gray. Heytvelt has been the most consistent player on the FOURTH BEST TEAM IN THE COUNTRY. Steven Gray pushed for a starting spot and, if hot, can bury a team with his outstanding shooting range. There is really no excuse for a loss tonight because the Zags enter at full-strength. Austin Daye and Robert Sacre have one more year under their belt. Matt Bouldin is ready to redeem himself for his 0-9 showing a year ago and Jeremy Pargo is a top point guard in the nation that has sacrificed his own stat line for the good of the team. I haven't even mentioned Demetri Goodson, Micah Downs, and Ira Brown who have been excellent contributors all season long.
This team is deep, this team is talented, and this team is well coached.