A GRIP ON SPORTS
Just noticed something. The tree outside my window, the one with the single leaf still attached – it often moves in the wind, catching my eye while I'm trying to write in the morning – is starting to bud. Yep. The second surest sign that spring is coming. The first? Gonzaga's NCAA tournament run is over. That happened yesterday in Pittsburgh. Read on.
• Everyone has a stupid NCAA rule, right? Well, I can top whatever one you have and I didn't even know it existed until yesterday. It came into play only because I had committed to covering the NCAA women's tournament first round games at Gonzaga, meaning I would miss the GU men's game with Ohio State. The games overlapped, with the men starting just before noon and the women just after 1 p.m. But I figured out a work-around. I would head to GU early and catch the first half or so on the televisions in the media workroom under the stands. A good plan. With a flaw. When I arrived at Gonzaga, I was informed of the NCAA's rule that women's sites can only show women's games on their in-house TVs. The NCAA is adamant about it. To quote a co-worker: Are you kidding me? The Zags are playing Ohio State with a chance to go to the Sweet Sixteen and you can't watch it in the Bulldogs' home arena? Well, that's not exactly true. The office the Gonzaga staff was using had a TV and they put the game on in there, but for the rest of us schleps there to cover the women's game, we were out of luck. I called up the video on my computer and that worked fine for a while, until the arena started to fill up and the bandwidth was sucked up by every computer in the place trying to download the same feed. The Internet slowed to a crawl, making it impossible to even follow the game via ESPN's gametracker. Finally I gave up and relied on Twitter updates for my news. And that, in a long roundabout way, is why I don't have personal thoughts about Gonzaga's loss to the Buckeyes. And why I win the stupidest-NCAA-rule contest.
• Wait, I may have another entry. Playing the first and second rounds of the NCAA women's tournament at home sites. Sure, it seems great if you are a Gonzaga fan – my wife Kim is one – and you get to watch your team play an NCAA game in its arena. But it seems hypocritical to me. There is such a incredible dedication to treating men's and women's college basketball on the same level, to stress an equality of commitment, and then the biggest event in the sport is treated differently? And that treatment causes an unfair advantage in a lot of cases. Sure, I understand women's basketball doesn't draw like the men. When the NCAA held the first and second rounds at neutral sites, it lost its shirt. So? If there is going to be this façade of equality – an equality that doesn't exist in the consciousness of the nation's basketball fans – than suck it up and eat the financial losses. But give all the schools a chance to compete on a level playing field. If yesterday's Gonzaga vs. Rutgers game had been played in Denver, I'm sure GU would have still won – it was the better team despite the inaccurate seeding. And the NCAA would have pulled the "we-are-treated-unfairly" rug out from under the Rutgers (and last year's Iowa and UCLA) faithful. In the end, a true national champion would be decided, not just one who survived a home court advantage.
• Gonzaga men: Talk about stories and pictures and commentary. The number is nearly mind-boggling and I'm wondering if there is anyone reading this that will get through them all. Let me know if you do. I might give you a prize (on my budget, that would be a mention in this column). ... We have our coverage of course, with Jim Meehan's game story, John Blanchette's column, their notebook and Christopher Anderson's photographs. (By the way, Chris is joining that large group of us in retirement now that basketball season is underway. Welcome to the club Chris. Your photos will continue to grace this blog, I'm sure.) We also ran this sidebar. ... From the Northwest, Bud Withers had a column and a sidebar from the game in the Times. ... We perused the Ohio newspapers and came up with these stories, ranging from game coverage to commentary. ... And we found a couple pieces in the Pittsburgh papers.
• Gonzaga women: We wrote from both games yesterday, but our stories existed only to bridge the web gap between the end of the game and when Jessica Brown and Greg Lee were able to finish their report. Sadly, now some of my best work – ever – is gone into the ether of the Internet. Just kidding. It was my best work. ... Jess has her Gonzaga game story, Greg has Miami's rout of Idaho State covered and the two combined on this notebook. We also have a photo package. ... Elsewhere, we can pass along Dave Trimmer's coverage of the GU game in the Times and coverage from Dave and others in other papers around the country. ... The BYU women fell in their first-round game at DePaul. Wonder if a neutral site would have been different?
• Washington State: Yes, the trees are budding. Which means it's almost spring football time. Christian Caple has this story on the upcoming workouts following his conversation with Mike Leach. ... Christian also has his morning post. ... We also found this story from Wyoming on the Cowboys upcoming visit to Pullman on Monday night.
• Idaho: The Vandals' basketball season ended last night in Logan, Utah with a 76-56 defeat to Utah State in CIT play. Josh Wright has a blog post and we have this story. ... There are also a couple stories from Utah on the game.
• Shock: Spokane was on the road, using a backup signal caller and playing a team with an experienced quarterback. So what happened? The Shock force Aaron Garcia – yep, that Aaron Garcia – into a big turnover, rally and win their first AFL game of the season. ... We found this story from San Antonio and a whole lot of photos.
• Seahawks: Not an earth-shattering signing, but the Seahawks did entice a free agent to Seattle. It's defensive end Jason Jones, who played in Tennessee last season.
• Mariners: Crunch time is coming fast. Though the M's made some cuts yesterday, the roster needs to shrink to 30 before they head to Japan. And nowhere is the battle for spots more intense than among the starting pitchers. Will money or talent – and the ability to help the team win – be the deciding factor? ... This Larry Stone column about Ichiro's homecoming is interesting as all get out.
• Sounders: Seattle opened the MLS season with the usual party and pretty usual win. All it took was a hat trick from David Estrada, his first (and second and third) MLS goals. ... There is still some roster uncertainty.
• A pretty full Sunday morning. Despite the tree starting to bud, we're headed back inside a gym today, so we'll miss a few of the NCAA contests. Though I expect the TV in the nearby office will have the games on. Unless the NCAA passes a rule or something. Until later ...