A GRIP ON SPORTS
Around the Inland Northwest, there is a lot of truth to the old saw about March coming in like a lion. And this year did not disappoint. Here it is, the first day of March and there's more snow … wait, what? Leap year? Really. Another damn day of winter? Great. … Anyway, here it is, the final day of Februrary – if Kim is to be believed – and there's more snow on the ground. Though some people connected to our local college basketball programs get to escape to Southern California or Las Vegas this week, land of sunshine, bright lights and Double-Doubles, some of us will be shoveling snow and hoping spring hurries up and gets here. Of course, it will only take longer if the powers-that-be continue adding days to February. Read on.
• As the college basketball season winds down, Washington State has an interesting finish set up. Thursday night they get to play Ben Howland's UCLA team, a group that might be reeling a bit after the publication of this Sports Illustrated article on its program. Then Saturday one of the conference's two poorest teams, USC, is on the schedule. Not a bad way to finish the regular season and build momentum for a Pac-12 tournament run. Usually one team gets hot from out of nowhere and makes a sprint through the early rounds of the conference's tourney, so why not WSU? The Cougars, as Jeff Nusser points out in this CougCenter post, have been playing pretty darn efficient offense recently and they have improved their defense throughout the season. After nearly 30 games, they've realized Klay Thompson and DeAngelo Casto aren't walking through the door and have developed their identity. Am I saying they can win the tourney? No, that's not the point. But if they continue to build this week on their pretty solid play of late and use that as springboard into the tournament, I wouldn't want to play them in the early rounds. In the end, all it will probably earn them is a better CBI seed and more home games, but that is something to build on for next season. And, as we all know, around Pullman, next season has always been the most crucial one on the schedule.
• Washington State: Ken Bone, as usual, met with the media Tuesday and delved into the UW loss a bit more while also looking ahead to the trip to Los Angeles. Christian Caple passed along what he had to say in his local press conference and the Pac-12 one in this blog post. Christian also has another assistant football coach profile, this one on Paul Volero. As for the Pac-12 news, Christian has that as well on his morning post. … The conference's awards will be announced just before the tournament – the coach's vote – but here's one long-time writer's opinion. … Sports Illustrated has a look at Washington's NCAA hopes. And here is Jerry Palm's most recent bracket and bubble watch. … KXLY TV in Spokane will be airing an interview with Steve Gleason tonight at 6.
• Here's Ken Bone's local press conference from yesterday …
• Gonzaga: With the West Coast Conference tournament starting tonight – Portland plays against Santa Clara, who didn't win a regular season conference game – the league handed out its awards yesterday. Jim Meehan covered the entire list of men's awards, concentrating on the Zag recipients in this story. GU doesn't play until the weekend. … Jim also had a final look at the Longwood game. … More on the awards from the Bay Area. … How many NCAA berths will the WCC earn? The LA Times' Chris Dufresne sees the possibility of four, though that would take some upsets. … BYU hopes for another shot at league champion St. Mary's, but would have to get through Gonzaga first. … Missed this yesterday, but former GU assistant Bill Grier has his supporters in San Diego. … The women's awards were also announced yesterday and Jess Brown has the story. … More from Provo on the WCC awards.
• Preps: In the past, this Wednesday would be the start date for at least a few state tournaments. Now all of them begin tomorrow. But we begin today's pre-tourney coverage with an interesting column from John Blanchette. Make sure you read it. … We also have features on the Almira/Coulee-Hartline boys, University girls and Freeman girls, all of whom will be playing this week.
• Eastern Washington: The Eagles took care of business last night, running Idaho State off Reese Court, 77-64. Which means they will have to do the same thing at the same place Saturday afternoon to continue on in the Big Sky tournament. Jim Allen has the story. … Here's the report from the Pocatello paper. … The Montana Grizzlies won the regular season title and will host the last two tourney rounds after defeating visiting Weber State, 66-51. … Third-seeded Portland State had trouble but survived Northern Colorado, 75-74. … Jess also has this feature on EWU women's star Brianne Ryan.
• Whitworth: The Pirates' Felix Friedt is a finalist for a big-time Division III award.
• Shock: Not Spokane, but Utah is ready for a breakout season.
• Mariners: Your typical spring training day, with a feature or two on players, a visit from an old veteran and an injury to Franklin Gutierrez. … And, oh ya, the guy who was in charge of transporting Ryan Braun's drug test? He's really mad (I was going to write another word that starts with “P,” but thought it would be inappropriate considering the context).
• Sounders: Seattle has one last preseason match tonight and then there are the obligatory roster decisions.
• That's our report for this fine Wednesday – fine if you like snow. We're on the radio again today so you can listen here at 3 p.m. Until later …