A GRIP ON SPORTS
It seems upsets, real upsets, like a 15 seed defeating a two seed, are somewhat akin to Lay's potato chips. You can't stop with one. At least not Friday. It had been 11 years since a lightly regarded 15 seed rose up and sent a two seed to the sidelines in the opening round. So yesterday it happened twice, with Norfolk State first taking down Missouri, then Lehigh doing the same to Duke. Though unforeseen by most, the upsets play into a pre-tournament thought we expressed here related to Gonzaga's seedings. We wrote then it was better for GU to be a 10 seed than an eight or nine, because the one seeds were tough but the two seeds were flawed. Of course, the Zags earned a seven, routed West Virginia and now meet second-seeded Ohio State today. Nope, the two seed in GU's region didn't lose in the first round. The Bulldogs never seem to get that lucky. Read on.
• Before we look ahead to today's games, focusing mainly on the two Gonzaga will play – men vs. Ohio State in Pittsburgh, women vs. Rutgers in the McCarthey Center – we should look back to yesterday a bit more. Yes, I know Norfolk State and Lehigh's wins blew up a lot of brackets – one of the Norfolk State players said afterward his team's win had even destroyed his – but those upsets are what the first weekend are about. I've always felt the opening rounds were for the little guys, the ones that have no chance to win the tournament but just want their day in the sun. And they get it. To celebrate here, we ran down the stories on Norfolk State and Lehigh from local newspapers, giving you a taste of what the upset must mean for the fans of those schools. ... One last thought about yesterday. It had already turned today back East, St. Patrick's Day for goodness sakes, as Notre Dame tried to pull out a win against Xavier in a matchup of two schools who had lost this season to Gonzaga. But there would be no luck for the Irish, as Jerian Grant was whistled for a lane violation – he jumped into the lane from the top of the key as the ball was still en route to the rim – with 2.8 seconds left and Eric Atkins trying to tie the game with a one-and-one (the free throw was good by the way). Afterward the Notre Dame players had the obligatory comments about letting the players decide the game (you can read some in the Chicago Tribune story) but those arguments – and the one made by Charles Barkley in the postgame show – always crack me up. Don't people understand that if the officials don't make that type of call, then by omission they are taking the game out of the players' hands, the ones playing by the rules? Should the official not have called a foul on Xavier when Atkins drove to the basket, because they should "let the players decide the game?" It was a blatant violation of an easily enforceable rule and it had to be called. Yes, it had to be called. After all, I had picked Xavier on my bracket.
• Gonzaga men: Enough of yesterday, let's move forward to today. It's not too long until tipoff (11:40 here in Spokane) so we better get to the available GU stories. One great thing about this time of year, America's media discovers and takes notice of people like Rob Sacre. He seemed to have a presence in most of the nation's sports pages today. ... Jim Meehan discovered Sacre five years ago, so his advance focuses on the Zags trying to stay focused and avoiding another second-game defeat. Of course, Jim couldn't ignore or avoid Sacre, who leads his notebook. John Blanchette examines the recent phenomenon of Gonzaga's NCAA success being underappreciated. ... The Seattle Times' Bud Withers is in Pittsburgh and has a column, a notebook and a quick look at today's game. ... The Zags are the only WCC team still playing, as St. Mary's took a quick exit with a loss to Purdue. ... We would be remiss – though you might be grateful – if we didn't link the obligatory David Stockton story. To us, it's not that big a deal, but to others it must be exciting. ... Don't usually read Men's Health magazine (that's obvious) but a reader passed along this link to the magazine's story on Mark Few.
• Gonzaga women: We broke this into two bites today because there is so much on the Bulldogs' opening-round game with Rutgers. We start with Jessica Brown's piece on the Scarlett Knights and hall of fame coach C. Vivian Stringer, who is under a heat lamp in New Jersey made even hotter by a million-dollar contract. ... By the way, we'll be at the game today for the S-R and will have a game story on our website within minutes of the end of the game. Not sure that will be two or 10, but we'll have it available as fast as possible. ... We can also pass along these stories from Dave Trimmer in the Seattle Times and other pieces I found in the New Jersey newspapers. I'm sure I didn't find them all, but enough to give you some of the flavor. ... The Scarlett Knights have some freshmen who can play. ... Miami will be without one of its best players in its first-round game today as Greg Lee's story and glance relate.
• Washington State: Christian Caple asked a question in the headline of his blog post this morning and I answered it in the headline above. Really, who would take a Patriot League team other than maybe John Feinstein, who not only wrote about the league in one of his 3,247 books, but also attended Duke. Irony. ... Christian also has some information on Wyoming, who comes to Pullman on Monday night to face the Cougars in the CBI's second round. ... We can add to that with this story from Wyoming. ... Former WSU women's player Kiki Moore leads Fresno State into the tournament.
• Idaho: Not that the Vandals can understand what the CIT directors were thinking, but they are more than willing to head to Logan, Utah to face Utah State once a again tonight. Though, as Josh Wright's story and blog post explains, they just don't get it.
• Shock: Spokane is on the road to face a tough San Antonio team tonight, and the Shock will do it with a backup quarterback. Jess has more in her story.
• Seahawks: The NFL's hot stove season is smoking, though the Seahawks haven't been stoking the fires much. They had Matt Flynn in town yesterday, but the quarterback got away without signing a contract. Not a good sign. After Peyton Manning, who might be headed to division rival San Francisco, Flynn seems to be the most wanted free agent quarterback. If Manning goes to SF, then Alex Smith might be a Seattle option. ... The Hawks did cut ties with Charlie Whitehurst, who will now be carrying the clipboard in San Diego, his former team.
• Mariners: The more positions you can play defensively, the more important you become, right? That seems to be John Jaso's theory, anyway.
• That's our report on this Saturday morning. Hope you enjoy your day. There is plenty to watch, both on TV and in person. Until later ...