Have Gonzaga And Washington State Developed Washington's Best Ba - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Have Gonzaga And Washington State Developed Washington's Best Basketball Rivalry?

by Will Maupin (willmaupin@gmail.com)

Tonight’s game will be the 148th meeting between the Gonzaga and Washington State University, in a series that dates back to 1907. Among Washington’s Division-I basketball teams only the Cougars and the University of Washington have squared off more often, WSU and the Huskies have met 277 times, but they play each other at least twice a year in Pac-12 play and that waters things down a bit.

In terms of number of times played, no other in-state series come close. There are other potential rivalries. Seattle University and Washington play for city bragging rights, but they’ve only met 28 times. You could take an STA bus between the campuses of Eastern Washington and Gonzaga, but that battle has only happened 60 times. A competition for small, Jesuit university, supremacy between Gonzaga and Seattle U has only taken place 28 times.

Thus the Eagles, Huskies and Redhawks can't answer the "best rivalry" question either. 

In the late 1990’s and early 2000’s, the question of best in-state rivalry had an obvious answer: Zags vs. Huskies. During those years they were the state’s best basketball programs. They played each other yearly, in both Seattle and Spokane. Unfortunately, the 43 game series came to an end in 2007. A combination of Gonzaga’s dominance--the Bulldogs won eight of the final ten games--and recruiting battles over local talent led to the demise of that yearly competition

That leaves us with the rivalry that will be on display at The Kennel tonight. Since 1996, Washington State have played Gonzaga every year with the exception of 2001. What’s more, the Cougars have been willing to play in The Kennel every other year. It’s still hard for Gonzaga to get power conference teams to play in The Kennel, but the Cougars have been doing it since well before Gonzaga was a perennially top-25 team. Since back when a loss at Gonzaga would have looked pretty bad, even though the Zags were a good team.

While the Huskies typically field a better basketball team than the Cougars, the Cougars haven’t let Gonzaga dominate them in the way the Huskies did. Since 1996, Gonzaga has won 11 of 18 matchups. The Bulldogs vs. Cougars rivalry has gotten even more intense since the end of the GU series with UW. Last year, in Pullman, the game came down to the wire. The year before the Cougars came up just short of in a bid to upset the Zags in Spokane.

Tonight, at 6:00 p.m. on KHQ, a Gonzaga team ranked 13th in the nation hosts a Washington State team picked to finish last in the Pac-12. Despite this disparity, we can still expect an intense game. These teams are rivals who have a long history, and a recent history of playing close, entertaining games.

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