Seen & Heard on Planet Coug 1/7

Seen & Heard on Planet Coug 1/7

FROM JIM WALDEN to Mike Price, Bill Doba to Paul Wulff, one of the big selling points for WSU on the recruiting trail has been the family atmosphere of the school and the safety of the community. A new study reinforces the strength of that claim: Washington State is the safest major-conference campus in the Western U.S. and No. 2 in the entire U.S.

Data was compiled on 450 public colleges and universities in 42 states. Campus safety was rated on a scale that took into account both the frequency and severity of crime, according to StateUniversity.com.

"There are many advantages to living in rural Washington State where we enjoy a healthy atmosphere and a low crime rate," said WSU Police Chief Bill Gardner. "We give due credit to our students who take their education seriously and help maintain a positive learning environment in Pullman."

Of the 450 institutions studied, WSU ranked 89th overall. Most of the schools with higher rankings were branch campuses of public universities or community colleges. The only major-conference school ranked higher than WSU was Kansas State, at No. 84.

IN A YEAR WHEN PAC-10 basketball is viewed as weaker than usual, The Great Referee Robbery that cost WSU the home win against Oregon a week ago could loom very large come Selection Sunday. Joe Lunardi, the ESPN bracketologist, told KJR Radio on Wednesday that the Pac-10 this season -- like the SEC last season -- may be in line for only two or perhaps three berths to the Big Dance. Going 10-8 in conference play -- a mark typically thought good enough to secure an NCAA tourney spot -- probably isn't going to do it this year because the Pac-10 as a whole fared so poorly against quality competition during the non-conference portion of the season, he said.

And speaking of The Great Referee Robbery, Bud Withers of the Seattle Times reports this week that it has created consternation not just in these parts, but nationally as well. CLICK HERE for the complete story.

THE 11-3 COUGARS HEAD to the desert this week for FSN-televised games against 7-7 Arizona (5:30 PT Friday) and 10-5 Arizona State (11:30 PT Sunday). The trend lines in those two series' couldn't be more different. The Cougs and Devils are about even in the history of the series but WSU has won six straight and eight of the last nine. The Wildcats, meanwhile, have taken three of the last four against the Cougs and a whopping 44 of the last 48. WSU's most recent win, though, came the last time the two teams met – late last season. The Cougs won by 16, fueled by Taylor Rochestie's 22 points and Aron Baynes' double-double.

PET PEEVE OF THE WEEK: As the only college town in the Pac-10, the conference should give WSU a little consideration when it comes to scheduling football games around Thanksgiving and basketball games around New Year's. I love home games as much as the next guy, but when 17,000 students are out of town visiting mom and dad, it makes absolutely no sense to be playing games in Pullman. There were only 5,000-plus people each at the Oregon and OSU games last weekend. The Pac-10 needs to put the Cougs on the road for the opening weekend because we're the only community that doesn't have a sizeable non-student population to draw from.

REMEMBER BACK IN THE day when people joked that they should check the water in Snohomish County to find out how they managed to produce four guys – Mike Price, Dennis Erickson, Jim Lambright and Keith Gilbertson – who all managed to scale the heights of the coaching profession at the same time? Well, the same thing might be asked of the water supply in Eastern Washington. In UNLV's much-publicized search for a new athletic director, the three finalists were all guys who grew up in God's Country and have close ties to WSU.

John Johnson, WSU's associate AD, was raised in the Spokane Valley. Bill Moos, the former Oregon AD and one-time WSU associate AD, grew up west of Spokane in Edwall; and Jim Livengood, the Arizona AD and former WSU AD, spent his wonder years in Quincy, a small berg located between Wenatchee and Moses Lake. Livengood, by the way, will be UNLV's new AD.

THIS HAS BEEN A BASKETBALL season to forget for CouGreat Kyle Weaver, the second-year guard for the NBA's Oklahoma City Thunder. He tore a thumb tendon over the summer that slowed his ramp up to training camp and then found sparse playing minutes in the early part of the season. In fact, the minutes were so limited that the Thunder planned to send him to Tulsa of the development league. He was recalled before playing one game there, however, due to a spate of Thunder injuries; Weaver returned and proceeded to turn in a couple of solid performances in relief of Russell Westbrook at point guard. And then he dislocated his left shoulder in practice and is now facing a rehab that could last the entire regular season.

"It's frustrating because it happened just when it looked like he was in for more playing time," Weaver's dad, LaMont, told the Beloit Daily News.

"It was just a freak accident," he said. "It's a shame because Kyle was starting to play well. You generally get your shot when somebody gets hurt. That's what happened last year when he got to play. You never expect that it's going to happen to you."

Weaver, by the way, is running away with FSN Northwest's fan poll asking who the greatest Cougar basketballer of the last decade was. He's holding steady at about 60 percent of the vote. Derrick Low is the only challenger in double figures, at 20 percent. Taylor Rochestie, Marcus Moore, Thomas Kelati and Aron Baynes are all between 1.6 percent and 9 percent.

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