University of Washington

Huskies vs. Zags: Just play it

Now that neither the Seattle Seahawks nor Washington Huskies football entities are postseason-bound, and the NBA fades from memory, we once again must count blessings that our long winters are brightened by the delights of regional college basketball.

The Huskies opened up with three wins and a No. 14 ranking that suggests they could defend their Pacific-10 Conference title; Gonzaga goes on the road this evening for a test at No. 2 Michigan State in a season that could end up with an 11th straight NCAA tournament appearance; and Washington State will be interesting in how it develops under new head coach Ken Bone.

Seattle U. follows up a 21-win season with what could be an infusion of energy by new coach Cameron Dollar.

So why is the juiciest story still about a game that will not take place?

Because Washington and Gonzaga absolutely need to play in basketball and they don’t.

And the one attempt to revive the series was an ineffective power play by UW that obviously offended Gonzaga and any of its fans who don’t believe they should have to saddle up and challenge Snoqualmie Pass every winter to witness the duel.

And the longer this goes unresolved, the more chances people like me have to complain about how illogical it is.

As was reported back in October, UW officials suggested to GU that the series be revived. It had gone dormant after the ’07 season when the UW folks felt the need to alter the Husky approach to scheduling.

Gonzaga had won eight of the previous nine contests, so we are left to presume that it is preferable for the Huskies to schedule non-conference foes such as this year’s slate of Montana, San Jose State, Cal State Northridge, Texas A&M and San Francisco because there’s less chance of losing eight out of nine times.

Hey, that’s fair. There’s logic there. There are seasons when the 18-game Pac-10 docket is killer enough.

But to think that a national-caliber team like Gonzaga would play three consecutive road games without a return engagement is ludicrous.

And the fans of college basketball in this state are the losers.

As reported, the proposal called for the teams to meet three straight years in Seattle, at KeyArena, with gate receipts being split 50-50.

The Huskies first tried money-whipping an over-leveraged rival when they tried selling WSU on the idea of holding the Apple Cup at Qwest Field every year.

That deal fell through because to surrender the rights to host your rivalry game seemed like blatant soul-selling … even in this recession. Although … for the right price? Ah, nah, better not.

UW came away looking more than a bit arrogant. But the Huskies have been called that so long it’s more like a well-worn compliment than an insult.

What was apparent from GU’s cold shoulder on the deal is that Gonzaga doesn’t need to sacrifice a homecourt date for the right to play UW at KeyArena.

The Zags are the team that has been to 10 straight NCAA tournaments. They’re the team that already plays Duke at Madison Square Garden this season, and is bringing Wake Forest and Oklahoma to Spokane.

They’re the ones facing No. 2 Michigan State on ESPN this evening at 5.

But here’s the thing … nobody needs to be arrogant about it, and nobody needs to be offended. They just need to play the way they always did: Home and home.

Both these programs are solid and stable, and should be Top 25 programs every year into the reasonable future, so to meet each year would be a positive from an RPI and NCAA positioning standpoint.

The economy makes everybody eager to look for alternatives and creative approaches.

But this is one where you only lose if you don’t play the game.

Dave Boling: 253-597-8440