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It wasn't that empty

A GRIP ON SPORTS

The last time I watched a college basketball game on TV from the University of San Francisco's venerable War Memorial Gymnasium, I was afraid the fire marshal would clear the place out. It was that crowded. That, of course, was less than a month ago, when Gonzaga invaded San Francisco for a key WCC game and left with a 66-65 defeat. Last night, as I sat watching the first round game in the College Basketball Invitational, which Washington State would win 89-75, I was shocked by how empty the gym was. So empty, in fact, I got up this morning and immediately went onto the USF website to see the official attendance contained on the box score. I found it but for some reason the link wants to print the box score; just hit cancel and then scroll to the bottom for the attendance. Even after that glitch I wasn't ready for the shocking number I found here. Talk about empty. Read on.

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• OK, so the folks at USF must have neglected to import the number of fans in attendance on the box score, because, unless the people you could see on TV holding up the cardboard cutout of Betty White or a Tyrannosaurus Rex were computer generated, there were a few people in the stands. But not that many. Not enough, for sure, to offset the cost of holding the CBI game at home, somewhere in the neighborhood of $70,000 to $90,000 when you consider the fee to the tournament and all the costs of putting on a home basketball game. Even if the Dons charged an average of $20 a ticket, there is no way there were enough people in the stands to pencil out a profit. Which brings us to the second-round game, which it looks as if the Cougars may host early next week. If they do, facing either Wyoming or North Dakota State, I wonder what the crowd will be like in Pullman? The student section should be somewhat full, though they will be paying some price for a ticket. And the other side should have a decent crowd. In their three home NIT games last season, the Cougars averaged around 5,000 a game, even though the first one was played during spring break. If they can duplicate that number this year, there is a chance they can break even on the cost.

• Speaking of home games in the postseason, Idaho has one tonight in the CIT, as the Vandals host UC Santa Barbara. The cost of hosting in this tournament is about half that of the CBI, but it still will be tough for UI to break even tonight.

• And one other home game note. With the Gonzaga men already in Pittsburgh for Thursday's game with West Virginia, I was wondering how you felt about the cross-country trip and how it would affect the Zags. So we put together a poll.

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• Washington State: Christian Caple wasn't in San Francisco for the game, but he did watch it. At the friendly Moscow Applebee's. See, Time Warner, Pullman's cable provider, doesn't carry HDNet, Mark Cuban's channel that is broadcasting the tournament (Comcast in Spokane does, so we got to watch it without having to endure a couple hours worth of elevator music and chewy appetizers). Anyhow, Christian was still able to put up his typical post-game blog entry along with his morning post today (which includes the news lineman Wade Jacobson will be back for another year). ... We also have a story from a freelancer in San Francisco, which is five-times the coverage the San Francisco Chronicle devoted to the home team, that is, what, three miles from the newspaper's office? ... Christian also has his weekly feature on a Cougar assistant football coach, in this case Jim Mastro. ... That's not all the Cougar coverage we can pass along today, because we found this story from BYU's spring football practice. Those Cougars are not deep in the secondary right now, which bodes well for Mike Leach's passing offense and its debut this season. ... Stanford is in spring practice these days as well as California and others. ... Ben Howland is going to be back and one recruit is happy. ... Finally, if you like to shake your head at the NCAA, read Steve Kelley's column today.

• Gonzaga: Though the Zags are young – two freshmen start in the backcourt – the Mountaineers are even younger. Jim Meehan passes along that news in his story for today's paper, even though he got stuck in Minneapolis after being late getting out of Spokane yesterday. ... It's not easy redshirting when you've contributed before. Or to watch when you helped a lot last season. ...  If you weren't too stuck on the WSU game, you may have seen BYU's remarkable comeback against Iona in the first-round game last night. The Cougars were down by about 250 points in the first half, only to roar back to win 78-72. President Obama left after the first game in Dayton – he had to get to the local Applebee's to watch Washington State's game, I'm sure – but if he had stayed, he would have seen a comeback they'll be talking about in Provo for a long time. ... Love or hate St. Mary's, this column about Randy Bennett is worth reading. So is the advance of the Gaels game against Purdue. St. Mary's will have Stephen Holt available.

• Idaho: Josh Wright has the skinny on tonight's CIT game in this story. ... Utah State ... Utah State is also in the tourney and plays Cal State Bakersfield tonight. The Roadrunners are probably excited to be able to get out of Bakersfield for a day or two, even if it is to go to Logan.

• Eastern Washington: Though the Eagles' basketball season is over, but Jim Allen tells us a local kid is still playing for Montana. ... Big Sky foe Weber State advanced in the CIT. ... And an Eagle football player was granted a sixth year by the NCAA. Jim has the particulars in this blog post.

• Chiefs: The road has not been kind lately to Spokane, which lost to Seattle 3-1 last night.

• Mariners: Want to know what mediocrity costs? Just look at the Mariners' books from last season. They lost $7.3 million. The response? Spend less. Nope, not win more and draw more fans. Spend less. ... But, hey, the new commercials are out. ("Nothing to see behind the curtain. All is well. Move along.") Watch them here and tell me what you think. I'll do the same. I may have even put my favorite below. ... On the field, the M's rallied to win over Milwaukee, a couple of young players are doing well and Michael Saunders has turned another head.

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• Seahawks: Seattle had a couple of its free agents it had to sign, Marshawn Lynch (done) and Red Bryant (done yesterday). Now it's time to move on to players from outside the area. A quarterback, maybe?

• Sounders: It's here. The CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal against Santos Laguna in Mexico is tonight. The Sounders are expecting a more aggressive opponent tonight as Santos Laguna can't let Seattle score if it wants to advance. Why? Glad you asked. Away goals are more important than home goals, as this chart shows.

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• That's what we have for this morning. Only one more day until the NCAA tournament kicks off for real (as in a full day's worth of games). 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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