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The Front Row with JASON ELLIOTT November 20, 2010

| November 20, 2010 8:00 PM

There are plenty of things to be thankful for this time of year.

College football bowl games, snow and basketball returning to a high school gymnasium near you.

In listening to some of the coaches and players, you'd also think that good things are about to happen.

GOING INTO the opening weeks of the season, teams such as Post Falls, Lake City and Coeur d'Alene Charter earned big wins early on.

Post Falls traveled to Moscow and won its first game of the season going away. Lake City also rolled in an early season game, returning its entire roster from last year's team.

But the biggest win of the weekend could fall to Coeur d'Alene Charter, which is in just its second year of varsity girls basketball.

Coeur d'Alene Charter defeated Kellogg in the opening game for both teams in last weekend's Silver Valley tournament. Kellogg, which battled to finish as the state 3A runner-up last season, graduated five starters from last year's team, which had to make a late-season run to even qualify for the state tournament.

Defending state 5A girls champion Coeur d'Alene withstood a test from Post Falls to win in its season opener Thursday at the Arena.

What you can tell from the first month of the regular season - not enough to award any bids to the state tournament - but you can likely predict if your favorite team will be competitive or not.

A COUPLE weeks ago, I was asked whether I felt the Washington State Cougars could finish higher than sixth in the men's Pac-10 basketball standings.

In the early season, the Cougars have looked improved, making prediction of them finishing out of the top five to seem like a longshot. Things haven't been quite the same on the Palouse since Tony Bennett left for Virginia, hopefully ending some rebuilding for at least one of the northwest teams.

As most teams get into the Thanksgiving holiday, tournaments such as the Preseason NIT and Maui Invitational take center stage on ESPN as the college basketball overload begins in the coming days.

When the NIC teams return home after the holiday break, they'll get a couple more nonconference games in before starting the Scenic West Athletic Conference schedule.

What will remain to be seen is how these teams react to their respective schedules when the season wears on. Most play tough games to prepare themselves for bigger things down the road.

Nonconference games in Seattle, Portland and tournaments in late December - there's a good reason to be thankful for basketball in the northwest.

Jason Elliott is a sports writer for the Coeur d'Alene Press. He can be reached by telephone at 664-8176, Ext. 2020 or via e-mail at jelliott@cdapress.com.

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