From Pullman — Well, Tony Bennett and WSU each got their first No. 1 seed. Unfortunately for Washington State fans, Bennett is coaching the Virginia Cavaliers and Wichita State University is the only WSU on this year's bracket. Throw in the fact that former Cougars guard Xavier Thames will be playing in Spokane and you might as well call it March Misery on the Palouse this season.
But there's no reason not to have fun during the most memorable month in sports and one WSU fan will have her or his own One Shining Moment by winning the Spokesman-Review NCAA Tournament Challenge. I'll be hosting a bracket pool on Yahoo! and we'll be offering a juicy prize to be announced in the next few days. Yahoo! also has other prizes participants are eligible to win.
To enter simply follow this link and enter the password “SportsLink”. You will have to register for a free Yahoo! account if you don't have one. Of course I'll be playing and no, I'm not eligible to win the grand prize.
A GRIP ON SPORTS
What was it your gramma used to tell you made up the paving material on the road to perdition? Ya, we had those today. Read on.
From Las Vegas — If you'll recall, the last team to beat UCLA was pesky Washington State. It's likely, therefore, that the Cougars played some small role in UCLA's victory over Arizona last night in the Pac-12 tournament championship game. Whether WSU's upset humbled the Bruins or merely caused coach Steve Alford to put the fear of extra suicides in his team, at the very least the Cougars can say they beat the conference champion.
Before Western Hockey League games started on Saturday evening, the Spokane Chiefs didn't know if they would play Seattle, Everett or Victoria to open postseason play. But the hot streak of Everett, which hasn't lost in regulation during its last 12 games, moved the Silvertips past Spokane and handed the Chiefs a No. 6 playoff seeding. Destination: Victoria next Saturday and Sunday. Read story
Spokane got off to a slow start, spotting Iowa nine points in the first 4 minutes, but dominated the rest of the way and crushed Iowa 64-35 on Saturday at the Arena.
Idaho's late-season mojo was no match for New Mexico State's size and athleticism.
The Vandals' best conference tournament showing in more than two decades ended one win shy of an NCAA tournament bid on Saturday when they fell quietly to New Mexico State, 77-55, in the WAC championship game in Las Vegas. Idaho shot just 38 percent and was outrebounded 38-21 by the much bigger and more physical Aggies.
After winning four straight and six of seven, Idaho's season ended at 16-18. This was its first conference title game since 1993. UI was seeking the school's first NCAA tournament bid in 24 years.
NMSU, which has won three straight WAC tournament crowns, controlled the paint with center 7-foot-5, 355-pound center Sim Bhullar and athletic big man Tshilidzi Nephawe. Bhullar, the tournament MVP, had 14 points and nine rebounds while Nephawe went for 12 and 7.
The Vandals knew they couldn't match up with NMSU's monstrous front line. But when the shots stopped falling after going up 8-3, Idaho was in trouble. The Aggies unleashed a 15-3 run and led by double digits most of the rest of the way.
Senior Stephen Madison led the Vandals with 17 points in his final game at Idaho, and point guard Mike Scott had 14 points. Shooting guard Connor Hill, who helped UI get on a late-season roll, was 0-for-5 from the 3-point line and finished with six points.
S-R photojournalist Dan Pelle covered the Spokane Shock vs. Iowa Barnstormers game in the AFL opener. Check out this big picture gallery of game photos.
Spokane opens the 2014 AFL season at home against Iowa tonight.
AFL openers haven't been kind to the Shock. They're 1-3 in lid-lifters, including a loss to Milwaukee in the 2010 season-opener. That team, once 2-2, finished 16-3 and won the ArenaBowl.
A GRIP ON SPORTS
For most schools, just the idea of getting into the NCAA tournament is the Holy Grail of the season. That's why, for those schools, the conference tournament week is just as much fun – and more pressure-filled – than the rest of March Madness. Read on.
From Las Vegas — I'm still here in Vegas (alack!) serving as a sort of reporter-talisman for the Idaho men's and women's basketball teams, which have both made it to today's WAC tournament finals so indulge me for linking my game stories from the men's and women's semifinal wins. Josh Wright has more in this blog post. If you haven't seen UI's Stephen Madison play before, turn in to ESPNU at 7 p.m. and check out the superb senior.
Oh, and if you're wondering why there is a picture of a mountain wearing a basketball jersey at the top of this post, that's 7-foot-5, 355-pound Sim Bhullar, the wall the Vandals will have to go through to make it to the NCAA tournament.
The chase for home-ice advantage in the Western Hockey League playoffs heated up Friday as the Spokane Chiefs edged the Tri-City Americans 4-3 in a shootout while Seattle lost and Everett won. Read story
Suddenly, everything is coming together for the Idaho men's basketball team. One more win, and it will find itself in the NCAA tournament for the first time in 24 years.
The fifth-seeded Vandals showed poise in crunch time to knock off No. 1 seed Utah Valley 74-69 in the WAC semifinals in Las Vegas. Their fourth straight win — and sixth in seven games — put them in their first conference championship game since 1993.
UI last went to the NCAA tournament in 1990.
Both the Idaho men and women will play in the WAC title game on Saturday. The Vandal men will face the winner of the New Mexico State-Cal State Bakersfield game at 7 p.m. on ESPNU.
Senior Stephen Madison was superb again for the Vandals (16-17). He scored 25 points and grabbed five rebounds, after his 26-point, 17-rebound performance on Thursday against UMKC. Mike Scott carried the Vandals in the first half and finished with 14 points, while redshirt freshman Ty Egbert came up with a team-high seven rebounds and hit 2 of 4 free throws late.
The Western Hockey League is honoring Spokane Chiefs dentist Dr. Mary Smith with a distinguished service award for nearly 30 years of working with the club. Dr. Smith will be honored before the Chiefs' home game with Tri-City, which begins in a little more than 2 hours. Read story
A GRIP ON SPORTS
If you had any doubts professional sports can spawn a true rivalry, then put them away. Now. We have proof. Read on.
Idaho's ineptitude in the WAC tournament? It's history. Senior Stephen Madison put in a masterful performance and his teammates stepped up in the final minutes as the Vandals vanquished the University of Missouri-Kansas City, 73-70, in the quarterfinals of the WAC tourney in Las Vegas.
This was Don Verlin's first win in the WAC tournament after going 0-5 to start his tenure at Idaho. And it was only Idaho's second win in this event since joining the WAC before the 2005-2006 season. It came at the right moment, too — the Vandals will depart for the Big Sky Conference this summer.
“It feels awfully good, and Stephen and I enjoyed a special moment because we hadn’t gotten one yet,” Verlin said.
Fifth-seeded Idaho (15-17) moves on to the semifinal tomorrow night, when it will face No. 1 seed Utah Valley at 6 p.m. The Vandals lost both regular-season matchups against UVU, but the games were decided by a total of six points.
Keep reading for more.
The Western Hockey League released the latest status on the Kootenay Ice's Tim Bozon, who is in intensive care with meningitis. Read story
A GRIP ON SPORTS
I had to be out of the house last night but I made sure the DVR was rolling for Washington State's basketball game with Stanford at the Pac-12 tournament. After all, I didn't want to miss a game with such significance. Read on.
Since joining the WAC, the Idaho men's basketball team has won one conference tournament game, and that was an opening round affair in 2007. The Vandals are 1-7 in the event all-time and 0-5 under Don Verlin. But Idaho's postseason struggles go back even further: Since 1997, the program is 2-14 in conference tournaments as members of the WAC and Big West. That's right — 1-7 in the WAC, 1-7 in the Big West.
The Vandals will try to break through this afternoon against UMKC when the quarterfinals of the WAC tourney get under way in Las Vegas. The topic of our preview for this morning's paper was Idaho's suddenly aggressive transition game. We've posted a longer version of the story below, as well as a few quotes from coaches and players.
From Las Vegas — Day one of the Pac-12 is in the books and four teams are already out. One of those teams was Washington State, which saw its season end in a thrilling late-night match against Stanford. Here is our story from the game, as well as quotes and video of coach Ken Bone and DaVonte Lacy. While in town I also covered top-seeded Idaho's blowout of Chicago State in WAC women's action.