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An early start to Pac-12 tourney

A GRIP ON SPORTS

Got up early this morning to get this post done. After all, as I type this, there is only six hours until the tip off of Washington State's Pac-12 tournament game against Oregon State. And it's only been about 10 hours since Eastern Washington's season ended in a late flurry by the Montana Grizzlies in Missoula. Read on.

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• When I asked you folks to vote yesterday whether or not you thought Eastern Washington could upset Montana on the road, I didn't expect many to pick yes. And only about a third of you did. Yet, with less than two minutes to play, it looked as if that optimistic group would have it right. But Montana owned the final 105 seconds and came away with the 74-66 victory. And the one factor I thought would decide it probably did, thanks to a confluence of two factors. The first is Eastern had a tendency this season to foul often. Way too often at times. "We just fouled a little too much," said coach Jim Hayford. And Montana seems to always shoot more free throws at home than the opposition. A lot more most of the time. Both were true Tuesday night. The Eagles fouled often (23 times) and the Griz went to the free throw line a lot (32 times as opposed to Eastern's 13). Montana had an 11-point edge from the line and that was too much for the Eagles to overcome.

• Enough looking back (though there is more in the Eastern Washington section below, including all the links). Let's look ahead. Because we don't have much time, not with Washington State's early start time. Can the Cougars move on in the Pac-12 tournament today? Yes. In fact, if recent history is any guide, they probably should (and, no, we don't have a poll on this one, because the game is so early). The Cougars under Ken Bone have owned Oregon State, winning five of six times – the only loss was in Corvallis his first year during the Cougars' late-season meltdown. No matter what defense the Beavers play, whether it is their zone schemes or, as in the Arena game earlier this year, man-to-man, Bone's teams have attacked them well, getting good looks and scoring nearly at will – in three of the last four games, WSU has scored more then 80 points against the Beavers. So, of course, Oregon State is favored by 4.5 points today. But not in my book. I would put WSU as a 3-point favorite and see what happens. ... If you want to watch the game this afternoon, it will be on Root at noon. My guess is there will be about a thousand people in the Staples Center to start, then more as the USC vs. UCLA crowd starts to trickle in.

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• Washington State: OK, if you want to read more, Christian Caple has you covered in his morning post. He also makes a joke about preferring a later start time – funny – but I'm sure he's getting one. My guess is he'll be in the Galen Center for WSU's women opener in the Pac-12 tournament, also against Oregon State. When you're on the road, there's little else to do but cover games. Next year, at least he'll be doing it from Las Vegas. ... Christian also has this blog post on a tourney WSU will play in next season as well as his advance of today's game. ... We did find another preview of the game, from the Statesman-Journal. ... What's behind the fall from grace for the Pac-12 in hoops? ... And we have some football items, including Christian's feature on special teams coach Eric Russell. ... Sports Illustrated has a quick look at spring ball at all the Pac-12 schools. ... ESPN.com's Ted Miller has a short summary on the returning skill players at all the conference schools. ... And, in our never-ending search to give you items that relate directly (or in this case, indirectly) on Mike Leach and the Cougar football program, we have links to the coverage of BYU spring football. After all, that’s where Leach's first WSU game will be. ... Our last link goes to former UW basketball player Venoy Overton, who entered an Alford plea in his promoting prostitution case. He will spend 21 days in jail.

• Gonzaga: It's funny. Stanford women's coach Tara VanDerveer would rather have her highly ranked Cardinal team travel across the country than have to play the opening rounds of the NCAA tournament in Spokane. After watching a montage of great plays from around the country on ESPN recently, and observing the lack of attendance at most colleges in America for women's games, I can understand why. The atmosphere in the Mac for a GU game is unlike most venues in the country. ... Former Santa Clara head coach – and just about everyone's friend – Dick Davey is retiring.

• Eastern Washington: Of course we have Jim Allen's game story from the S-R and blog post to pass along, but we have a lot more from the Big Sky semifinals. There is the Missoulian story and post-game blog post, the Utah newspapers coverage of Weber State's 69-63 comeback win over Portland State and the coverage of that game from Portland. ... Montana is losing an assistant to Idaho State.

• Chiefs: Spokane still has a big goal to achieve as the regular season winds down: home ice in the first playoff round. Jess Brown has the story.

• Mariners: The big news out of Peoria yesterday was in the form of a retirement. Carlos Guillen, the former Mariner shortstop turned power hitter in Detroit, decided he couldn't make a comeback with the M's after all and called it quits. We had fun yesterday trying to name his teammates on that magical 2001 team. I was surprised how many I could remember – and how many I forgot. ... Though Steve Kelley thinks the M's have young talent, those players aren't ready yet. ... One guy who will be ready on opening day is King Felix. He had his first outing of the spring yesterday and was in control – other than his first pitch

• Sounders: The MLS, as a league, is getting better.

• NBA: Not good news for those of you hoping Seattle would entice the Sacramento Kings to move. The city council voted to accept a financing plan for a new arena in California's capitol.

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• That's our report on this Wednesday. We are on the radio one more time this week. You can listen here at 3 p.m. Until later ...




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Vince Grippi
Vince Grippi is a freelance local sports blogger for spokesman.com. He also contributes to the SportsLink Blog.

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