Politics from the Palouse to Puget Sound

Monday, January 08, 2007

"Cougars move into national rankings"

Finally, some good national news coming out of WSU. From today's Moscow-Pullman Daily News:
The Washington State men’s basketball team moved into the Associated Press Top 25 today, the school’s first appearance in the rankings since February 1983.

No. 22 WSU (14-2, 3-1 Pac-10), which is tied for that position with Notre Dame, has received votes since December but strengthened its case this weekend when it beat then-No. 7 Arizona at home. Today’s ESPN/USA Today coaches poll ranked the Cougars 23rd in the school’s first-ever appearance in that poll.

WSU is in a four-way tie for the Pac-10 lead with UCLA, Arizona and USC, a team the Cougars beat on the road a week and a half ago. WSU nearly took down UCLA before the then-No. 1 Bruins caught fire in the final minutes.

Earning a ranking means different things to different Cougars.

“Man, it would mean so much. So much,” senior forward Ivory Clark said on Saturday night. “It’s more than just a ranking for us, it’s about respect.”

The emotions of third-year players Daven Harmeling and Kyle Weaver also surrounded respect, but in a much different way. Each seemed unable to forget that the Cougars were picked to finish last in the Pac-10 before the season.

“I don’t know,” Weaver said Saturday when asked if his team should be ranked.

“We don’t even care because nobody respected us from the beginning,” Harmeling said. “Exactly,” interjected Weaver.

“If you want to jump on the bandwagon you can, but we don’t care,” Harmeling said. “There’s still gonna be some doubters out there.”

WSU coach Tony Bennett took the same questions Saturday and responded with the same feelings.

“I just want to keep playing good ball. It’s all about that journey of trying to touch something special,” he said. “The rankings, and every coach will say it, but right now it’s somewhat insignificant except saying you got off to a good start.

“If it’s at the end of the year and we’re ranked, then I’ll be happy about that.”

Clark, though, seemed unafraid to show appreciation of the pat on the back from national voters.

“We know how hard we’ve worked to get to this point and it’d be huge,” he said in the moments after the UA win.

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