A GRIP ON SPORTS
Wow. What a Saturday. Gonzaga's men and women in the West Coast Conference tournament. Eastern Washington in the Big Sky tournament. Idaho, the hottest team around, finishing up its regular season. Washington State concluding Pac-12 regular season play against USC, one of the worst teams in recent conference history. And all the state basketball finals, from the Bs in Spokane to the big schools in Tacoma. What a Saturday. I can't remember a Saturday like this one for, what, at least a year? Read on.
• Before we get into all today's basketball – and we will – there was a little bit of news yesterday out of Pullman. Football coach Mike Leach kicked linebacker Sekope Kaufusi off the team after Kaufusi's arrest earlier in the week for possession of marijuana, less than an ounce, and drug paraphernalia, both misdemeanors. Leach has a zero tolerance policy on this and enforced it. The action engendered quite a bit of debate on the radio show yesterday, with most of the callers backing Leach to the hilt. Though I have no problem with a coach laying down rules and expecting his charges to follow them, I've always felt marijuana use and possession should be handled with a counseling and treatment component. Abuse of any drug – including alcohol – is not a behavior issue as much as it is a medical issue. It deserves a treatment aspect. From my perch some 80 miles away, that part of the plan – a centerpiece of WSU's drug and alcohol policy for years – seems to have been discounted. And I have one other question. There is a zero tolerance policy for marijuana possession. It's been laid out and made clear to the football players. Fine. That's the rule and they are aware of it. But what happens when an 18, 19 or 20-year-old football player is cited for alcohol possession? Does that merit dismissal as well? And if it doesn't, why not? Both actions involve abuse of an illegal substance – they carry the same legal penalty – and both have at least as much potential as a detriment for athletic performance. If the difference is one is frowned upon by a certain segment of our society and the other is considered "normal" behavior, then that's just plain wrong.
• One thing I would be thankful for today, if I weren't working, of course, is the fact spring hasn't hit yet. There is snow on the ground in Spokane, it's cold and the right thing to do is to find some place to watch or listen to hoop. It could be your home, because there is a bunch of good basketball on the air, from Los Angeles to Las Vegas. Or it could be in person, because EWU has a playoff game that's not on television and the prep games from across two states are hit and miss. If one is within driving distance for you, get up and go see it.
• Preps: I expect the Spokane Arena to be all abuzz today with four state B finals, starting with the game I will be covering, the 2B boys pitting Colfax against Northwest Christian. The Bulldogs drove back down U.S. 195 last night, slept in their beds and will take the hour drive back into Spokane this afternoon. The quick turnaround might take its toll. We have our story from last night's semifinal – there was a bit more on the Northwest Christian game that didn't make the paper – for you to peruse. There is also the 2B girls story from Dave Trimmer, the 1B boys from Mike Vlahovich and the 1B girls from Jim Allen. That's more than 125 years of journalism experience covering high school basketball. Not sure you can find that many other places. ... Greg Lee, who isn't nearly that old, has the coverage from Tacoma, with his Central Valley boys story, along with his coverage on the 4A girls and the University boys' and girls' games. ... There is also a great photo gallery from yesterday's action here. ... We also have coverage of the 2As and 1As, where Freeman's girls are going for a third consecutive title, from Yakima. ... But we're not done with the local teams. Post Falls' boys will battle for a 5A title in Idaho tonight after winning their semifinal last night. ... For more on the Washington preps involving Spokane-area teams, you can check these stories from the West Side papers.
• Gonzaga: There seems to be three powers in men's and women's WCC basketball right now: The Bulldogs, St. Mary's and BYU. The trio all have teams in both semifinals today, with GU's men matching up with BYU and the Zag women meeting the Gaels. Jim Meehan has the stories. ... USF is in the other men's semi after upsetting Loyola-Marymount.
• Washington State: Other than his Kaufusi coverage yesterday from Christian Caple (he had a story and blog post), Christian also has a short advance on today's game and his usual morning blog post. ... Former WSU recruit Mark McLaughlin is the subject of Bob Condotta's profile.
• Idaho: The Vandals are back at it against San Jose State today and Josh Wright has this blog post.
• Eastern Washington: After having defeated Idaho State twice in the past couple weeks, the Eagles must guard against overlooking the Bengals in today's Big Sky playoff game. Jim has the story.
• Whitworth: The Pirates opened the NCAA Division III playoffs riding Felix Friedt's career game to a 90-79 win over McMurry. Thanks to an upset by Trinity over 10th-ranked Mary Hardin-Baylor, Whitworth will not be playing the host team in tonight's second round.
• Chiefs: Spokane moved back into fourth place in the WHL's Western division with a 4-1 road win over Prince George.
• Mariners: The M's opened Cactus League play yesterday with an 8-5 win over Oakland – big deal – and are trying to figure out who will fill in until Franklin Gutierrez can return to center field – actually, a big deal.
• That's our report for this morning. We're back at the B tourney today, of course, will be back here tomorrow. Until then ...