A GRIP ON SPORTS
Nothing wrong with a little rain or snow in March, is there? Especially this week of March, when you want to be forced indoors. It's the first week of the NCAA basketball tournament – and other assorted tourneys as well. It's those "other assorted" ones we're focusing on today around the Inland Northwest, as Washington State and Idaho prepare for postseason play that wouldn't have been possible just a handful of years ago. But don't worry. There is Zag news as well, including a great read for this Tuesday morning. By the way, it's raining in Spokane. Beautiful. Read on.
• Let's play a game. Take the letters NCAA, NIT, CBI and CIT and try to make a family-friendly, basketball-related word with them. I'm sure someone with a better mind than I can do it. All I know is the jumble of letters defines the state of college hoops this time of year. The goal: make the NCAA tournament. If that doesn't happen, then the NIT. Not there either? Then the CBI. Can't afford that one? The CIT is your friend. And that is all you need to know about the postseason. ... Three of the four local Division I colleges made one of those tournaments this year, with Gonzaga traveling to Pittsburgh for a showdown with West Virginia on Thursday evening, WSU in San Francisco to face the Dons tonight and Idaho hosting UCSB tomorrow night in Moscow. A basketball cornucopia we cover in more detail below. And lest we forget, the Gonzaga women will host an NCAA first- and second-round site, with the Zags meeting Rutgers in the opening matchup Saturday. All that hoop is the subject of our poll today: Which local teams will win their first game? You can choose as many as you like.
• Gonzaga: The Zag women took center stage yesterday with the announcement news. They will host Rutgers, Miami and Idaho State this weekend in McCarthey. Jessica Brown has the story and a look at all the teams coming to Spokane. With the women this year, the key questions revolve around not who is in or out, but where the teams are headed. ... The men, with Robert Sacre holding down his usual spot in the middle, will travel to Pittsburgh. ... The NCAA tournament gets underway tonight and the WCC is represented with BYU, who faces Iona in a first-round matchup (referred to by the general public as a play-in game). ... The New York Times shadowed Long Beach State and former Zag coach Dan Monson during the NCAA tournament quest. ... Speaking of the NCAAs, business suffers because everyone is too busy trying to figure out who is going to win and enjoying the show. ... We saved the best for last. Dave Boling examines the off-the-court success of Mark Few, an area in which his winning percentage is just as high or higher than it is on the court.
• Washington State: The Pac-12 is well represented in the postseason, just not in the one postseason tournament that really matters. Christian Caple has all the links about the basketball tourneys in his morning post. He also has a story on tonight's CBI game at USF – he did not make the trip – along with a blog post from yesterday on Ken Bone's press conference (with video). ... Don't forget to join Christian's SportsLink bracket contest. ... The Pac-12 decided to play the women's tournament next season in Seattle at Key Arena. Far be it for me to rain on their parade, but Key Arena is not a place I would pick for a conference showcase. ... There is a handful of football news, including spring practice stories from USC, California and BYU, Washington State's opener this fall. And a playoff seems to be getting closer. By the way, if you want to see how the Martin Stadium remodel is going, you can check here. ... Before we move on, I want to make sure you read this story. It's Dick Harter's obituary from Bob Clark of the Register-Guard and you shouldn't miss it. (That's Harter at left stomping his foot in an old Register-Guard photo.) No one changed the way defense is played more than Harter. His Kamikaze Kids played man defense the way it is played today, with a physical presence, unlike how it had been played before his Oregon teams burst on the scene in the 1970s.
• Shock: Almost 10,000 people turned out on a Monday night to watch Spokane open the Arena Football League season, though they didn't get to see the victory they were hoping for. Too many turnovers – and one big injury on an illegal hit – doomed the Shock in their 69-63 overtime defeat. Jim Meehan has the story while John Blanchette adds a column that looks beyond the game.
• Chiefs: Spokane is on the road this week and Jess has a blog post looking at its trip.
• Mariners: With time winding down in Arizona – on this session of spring training anyway – the M's have to decide who to take with them to Japan. The game results are starting to become more important, but more than anything, it's how individuals have performed that really matters.
• Seahawks: Free agency kicks off today and though Peyton Manning seems out of reach, other players are in Seattle's sights.
• Sounders: The CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal against Santos Laguna in Mexico on Wednesday may be the most important road game – and one of the toughest – the Sounders have ever played.
• NBA: The group overseeing the Seattle arena project has some questions.
• That's our blog post for this morning. Don't miss Dave Boling's column on Mark Few and Dick Harter's obituary. They are both must-read items. Until later ...