A GRIP ON SPORTS
A prolific fiction writer can take one line a college basketball story and weave it into a long, easy-to-read bestseller (think Stephen King). We're not prolific. We're not a fiction writer. We're not capable of writing a long, easy-to-read bestseller. But we can take a single line of a story and weave it into a short lead-in to the morning links. Read on.
• The line – it's actually a paragraph; see we're not even good enough to expand on a single line – we're talking about was included in this Andy Katz piece on ESPN.com this morning:
1. While the Big East's seven non-FBS basketball schools are deciding what course of action to take next, there is one school that would love to be a part of any new conference or conglomerate: Gonzaga. Sources say the Zags would love to part with the West Coast Conference and be a member of a national, branded basketball conference. The theory is that if Boise State and San Diego State can be in the Big East for football, then why couldn’t Gonzaga in a basketball version? Of course, the easy response is that football is played once a week and there is usually a maximum of four or five league road games. Still, the Zags are looking out for themselves and would like to be positioned with fellow national Catholic-based schools instead of regional ones in the WCC. Gonzaga might not have a choice, but is starting to be a bit more proactive if an opportunity arises.
All seven of the Big East schools Katz is referring to – DePaul, Georgetown, Marquette, Providence, St. John's, Seton Hall and Villanova – are Catholic schools. Which got me to thinking. Why stop with those seven and Gonzaga? Why not think big? As in a 24-team, three-division, basketball-dominated conference consisting of the best Catholic basketball universities in America.
• OK, I know it's a pipe-dream, but hear me out. (As an aside, with the new marijuana laws in Washington, will the term “pipe-dream” make a comeback?) We'll start with the seven Big East schools, but spin off Marquette and DePaul (you'll see why soon). Add three more Catholic basketball schools from the East, say St. Joe's, Siena and St. Bonaventure (the last one because I love the name). That will give you the Catholic Conference's Big East Division. Then take the two Midwest powers, Marquette and DePaul and mix in Creighton, Xavier, Saint Louis, Dayton, Loyola (Chicago) and, I don't know, Detroit Mercy (so Dick Vitale gets excited) and you have the Midwest Division. Finally, add in the West Coast Division, which includes seven WCC schools (drop Pepperdine and BYU) along with Seattle U. Viola, you have the 24 best Catholic schools in the nation in one conference. But here's the beauty of it. You continue to play home-and-home in your division, then play a certain number of out-of-division foes (say two each from the other divisions, one home, one away). That gives you 18 conference games and leaves each school with 12 nonconference matchups, so they can put together television shows. But it doesn't end there. We also have the postseason tournament. The top four teams in each division qualify automatically. Then a selection committee picks four more schools from any division (based on a fixed criteria that the conference can label a tiebreaker to keep the NCAA happy). The 16 teams meet in Madison Square Garden for a four-day extravaganza that holds the nation's – well, at least ESPN's – interest. The next year the tourney could be held in Chicago, the next in Los Angeles. In three years, the three major media markets are covered.
• As I said before, it's a pipe-dream. There is no way Marquette or DePaul are going to sacrifice games with Georgetown or St. John's for the good of a conference. And there's no way the Big East schools would want the other schools to share in a media bonanza. But 13 years ago, when we entered into a new century, no one ever envisioned the sea changes in the major conferences we've seen. Nebraska in the Big Ten. Louisville in the ACC. West Virginia in the Big 12. Who could foresee that and much, much more? So such out-of-the-box thinking may just be the wave of the future. No matter what, it's fun to to take one paragraph, one line really, in a story and spin it into something big, isn't it?
• Washington State: Another light day in Pullman, though Christian Caple and the rest of the media were able to talk with hoops coach Ken Bone yesterday. Christian covers what Bone had to say in this blog post. … Christian also will hold a live chat today, something he promos in his morning blog post. … The Cougars were still last in the Pac-12 in attendance this season, but at least it rose 5 percent.
• Gonzaga: Other than the Katz mention, the Zags were pretty silent in this finals week. However, St. Mary's, Santa Clara and USD all posted big wins Tuesday night, with the Broncos running past local rival San Jose. … Mark Few did talk with Doug Gottlieb yesterday. You can watch here. … The New Year's Eve game at Oklahoma State will be a sellout thanks to one of the 2 percent.
• EWU: I sure hope the Sam Houston State players like miserable weather, because if Saturday afternoon is anything like this morning around here, it will be cold, wet and, well, icky. Though the sun will more than likely shine on Saturday in Cheney. It's a given considering how special this second playoff run in three years is for the Eagles. John Blanchette has more in this column. … Jim Allen has a lot today, with a look at Sam Houston in this piece and this story, which shows history isn't a major for the football team. He also has a morning post. … The Eagles are the final Big Sky team standing. … You can win Eastern basketball tickets.
• Idaho: The Vandals announced a couple of football hires Josh Wright has already reported. … Chris Derrick's women's basketball notebook leads with a look at the Vandals' “slasher post,” Alyssa Charlston (pictured) … Utah State wouldn't be as good as it is this season if not for its Polynesian players, one of whom, Al Lapuaho, was actually in Pullman for a while.
• Chiefs: Tri-City came this close to being shutout by Everett in a 2-1 loss.
• Preps: Tuesdays are basketball nights around here and we have roundups from boys and girls play. … We also have a roundup of GSL boys action while Greg Lee takes care of the GSL girls after covering Gonzaga Prep's win over Lewis and Clark.
• Seahawks: When Pete Carroll opens his mouth, he can be hard to understand. We have a translation. … But Carroll knows football talent and he knows his former Trojans. … The crowd in Toronto has to be wooed by the halftime show?
• Mariners: So the Dodgers pay Zack Greinke way too much money. Big deal, right? Yes it is. It just means Felix will cost more to keep. … Thanks to our pervasive technology, the value of prospects has risen. … Guess what? The M's have a problem with the design of the new Seattle arena.
• Hey, we're on the radio again today. You can listen from 3 to 6 p.m. right here. Do it. Until then …