TOP OF THE TOWN ‑ Hey, I don’t like to say this, but when I look around at college basketball there is a night and day difference between the Washington Huskies and the rest of the country. To be honest, most of that sentiment could be applied to the Pac-12 as a whole. There are three Pac-12 teams that can compete at a national level – UCLA, Arizona and maybe USC. The rest are a bunch of mid-level teams, although they don’t know that. They think they are major power schools. They are not. Washington plays at Washington State today (Feb. 11) and it pits two schools who will play their hearts out because it’s a rivalry, but nobody east of the Mississippi will pay attention to the game. Why should they? Most people in the East don’t know where Washington State is. A good guess might let them figure out Washington is in Seattle. I watched Illinois score 19 unanswered points in the second half today to roar past Rutgers, and both teams would give UCLA, Arizona, USC all they could handle. Just about every team in the Big East Conference would contend for a Pac-12 title, and I think Marquette and Xavier are serious threats to go a long way in March Madness. Xavier is coached by former Arizona coach Sean Miller, who started his coaching career with the Musketeers (2004-09) before taking the Arizona job.  He’s got the Musketeers rolling with a 19-6 record and second place in the Big East to Marquette (20-6). I like Marquette to be a top March Madness threat. The Golden Eagles have a balanced attack you don’t see very often. All five starters routinely score in double figures. Other March Madness threats are St. Mary’s (21-5) and leading the West Coast Conference over Gonzaga (20-5). The Zags are not the threat they usually are, although they would win the Pac-12 if they were in it. Oral Roberts (23-4) is back as a threat, as is Alabama (23-3) and Florida Atlanta (24-2), Charleston (23-3) and Houston (23-2).  I like Marquette and Houston as favorites. Houston is coached by former WSU coach Kelvin Sampson…. Baseball is opening soon with pitchers and catchers reporting to Spring Training. I don’t think the Mariners have hurt themselves with off-season moves, although losing Mitch Haniger to the Giants Hurts. It’s difficult for me to imagine, though, that a low-payroll team such as the Mariners can toppled teams like the Mets, Yankees, Dodgers, Padres and Atlanta and win the World Series. Stranger things have happened, though, so we’ll see. That’s enough for today. Stay safe.

Be well pal.

Be careful out there.

Have a great day.

You are loved.