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It’s time to bounce the ball

A GRIP ON SPORTS

Yes, I know it's the mid-point of the college football season. And I know high school football is in the stretch run before the playoffs. And heck, I even know major league baseball is in the midst of its playoffs. But today I'm talking a bit about college basketball. Read on.


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• The reason for that is simple. Men's college basketball practice begins today. And there is one other thing I know. This day isn't what it used to be. What with the increased hours the NCAA allows once school starts, the first official day of practice isn't spent on the basics as much as it once was. It's more like a car shifting to second gear on the arterial after driving through the neighborhood in first for a while. But still, if you are a basketball junkie like me, today is a big day. From Miami to Seattle, from San Diego to Orono, Maine, college teams will take the court for the first of about 100 times. For the seniors, it is their final chance. For the freshmen, it's all new. For the coaches it's make-or-break time. But for all of them it's the beginning of a season they love. And I love.

• Around here, Gonzaga is seemingly on the cusp of something special, with the Bulldogs once again the Golden Boys of national basketball experts. But I'm sure if you ask coach Mark Few about his team he'll have a few hundred questions that need to be answered before the season begins. The Zags, unlike some schools in the state (cough, UW), don't have the luxury of a dozen games or so to ease into the meat of their schedule. The tests begin quickly for GU. … Down the road in Cheney, Eastern enters its second year under coach Jim Hayford, with a mix of holdovers from the Kirk Earlywine regime and Hayford's newer players. How they mesh in the veteran coach's system is going to be interesting – and tell the tale of the Eagles season. … Farther down the road (and we're talking U.S. Highway 195 this time, not Interstate 90), Washington State lost more than the usual number of contributors off last season's BCI runner-up team and saw its highly touted freshman class get cut in half by the NCAA. Coach Ken Bone's fourth season will be one of transition, though having the Pac-12's leading scorer returning (Brock Motum) will help. … Across the state line, Idaho is starting the season off on a sour note, with Kyle Barone suspended after reportedly being arrested recently in Pullman on an alcohol-related issue. The Vandals more-than-likely final year in the WAC may be the most challenging of coach Don Verlin's tenure.

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• Washington State: Sometimes football games can hinge on little things. For example, when the Pac-12 revamped its media contract for this season, one little thing that had to change was the consistency of rivalry games being at the end of the year. No big deal, right? But the one rivalry game moved this season is The Big Game. The Cardinal of Stanford and California will meet next Saturday, not in late November. And if one game can capture a team's consciousness a week early, it's the rivalry game. Especially when you're opponent is seemingly overmatched. That's not the case with Stanford, which is at Notre Dame this week. But California? Now that might just be the case, no matter how hard coach Jeff Tedford tries to keep the Bears in the now. Anyhow, that's part of the foundation I'm building for tomorrow morning's pick. … Christian Caple is beyond picks (other than the ones he'll see this evening on the basketball court) but he does have practice coverage, a story on a senior who hasn't been feeding on live human flesh (hope that isn't too obscure of a reference for you) and a morning blog post. … OK, I have a question. Why is it someone who has no contact whatsoever with the Washington State football program – or WSU for that matter – believe they can write stuff (an “S” word I can use on this blog) like this? … Elsewhere around the Pac-12, ESPN.com's blog tells you some things you might not have known. It doesn't note, however, the one active NCAA receiver with more yards than Marquess Wilson is a senior. … Jon Wilner would have understood my flesh-eating reference. … Klay Thompson doesn't believe he will suffer from a sophomore slump. Me neither. … Because it's officially basketball season, we have links to stories we could find about the opening of practice. Then we'll quit linking hoops until the games start. We found stories concerning Oregon State (actually two), Utah (OK, two from the Utes as well), Arizona State and Arizona.

• Gonzaga: As it was GU beat reporter Jim Meehan who put together today's kickoff story for the local college hoops teams, we link it under the Gonzaga banner.

• EWU: Jim Allen is on his way to Bozeman, but before he left, he put up a blog post with links this morning. It includes a link to his Jerry Ceja feature in today's S-R and to his live chat from yesterday. Speaking of the live chat, most of the early questions were from folks wanting to know about injuries. Don't you folks know only lazy reporters worry about that? … From the hoops arenas, I found a Weber State story and a Montana one.

• Chiefs: Jess Brown can't stop blogging about Spokane wins. Mainly because the Chiefs just keep winning.

• Preps: Greg Lee was at Albi last night for Mead's victory over Central Valley. … Jess Brown was at University's volleyball win over Mt. Spokane. …  There was also soccer action.

• Seahawks: The fact Pete Carroll used to coach the New England Patriots hadn't crossed my mind this week, but I'm sure it's a pretty big deal for Carroll, no matter what he says. … The offensive front might be without one player, though it has found another weapon.

• Mariners: There is incredibly exciting baseball action to pass along – after all the A's lost and, much to my chagrin, the Giants won – but the most interesting items to pass along today concern the Mariners and the organization's attempt to submarine a new basketball arena in its neighborhood. Art Thiel has a column and interviews on that subject.

• Sounders: The season will start in Arizona next year, though with soccer, it's hard to tell when one season ends and another begins. … The Sounders' loaned players are back.

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• It's a big day in the Grippi household. My new glasses are in, my new glasses are in. It rivals the day the phone book arrives and my name is in it. Until later …

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Jim Allen (@srjimallen) Sports reporter Jim Allen's primary coverage areas are Eastern Washington University football and men's basketball, and college and high school soccer. He also contributes to the SportsLink Blog.

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Greg Lee (@srpreps) Greg Lee covers high school sports in Eastern Washington and North Idaho. He also contributes to the SportsLink Blog.

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Chris Derrick Chris Derrick is a sports reporter. His primary coverage areas are the Spokane Chiefs, Spokane Indians, women's basketball and high school softball and volleyball. He also contributes to the SportsLink Blog.

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Sean Kramer Sean Kramer is a freelance correspondent who covers the University of Idaho football team and men's basketball team.

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Vince Grippi is the online producer for SportsLink, a product of The Spokesman-Review.

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