A GRIP ON SPORTS
Late last night I had already decided what I was going to write about today. But in the foggy focus of morning, I changed my mind. Read on.
• Yep, after spending another Saturday listening to ESPN announcers and all the so-called “experts” on the Internet complain college basketball officials were ruining the game by calling way too many offensive fouls, I had decided to respond. I had decided it was time to swim upstream on this one and campaign for more whistles on the offense. Whenever a point guard holds his off hand out like a stiff-arm while penetrating, call an offensive foul. Whenever a post player lowers his shoulder like a fullback to open space, call an offensive foul. Whenever a screener throws his hip out, moves a foot-and-half or grabs with his hands, call a foul. But why should I rail? It's not going to happen. If anything, the loud cries of the masses will prevail and a defender who beats the offensive player to a spot and gives up his body for the team will be less likely to earn the whistle. And that's sad. Unlike most of the twittering masses, it seems to me offensive players are protected, almost to the extent of NFL quarterbacks. Now I know it's not always true – the on-ball defender impeding with a hand check, either with one hand or two, is not called enough at every level, but that's easy to understand; it happens so often the whistle would blow two or three times on every possession if it were – but in most cases the benefit of the doubt goes to the offense. Why should it? Both players should have equal rights to a space on the court. If contact is made there should be a simple rule to follow: The foul is on whomever initiated the contact. If a defender is moving with a dribbler and the defender reaches out to slow him down, call the foul on the defense. In the same situation, if the offensive player initiates the contact with his shoulder or arm, call it on the offense. Seems simple to me. But that's not the way the majority sees it these days. And not wanting to feel like a salmon trying to get to its favorite rock way upstream, we'll avoid the discussion today and write about other things.
• This is the first Sunday in a long, long while without football. Five-and-a-half months to be a bit more precise. Watching the NFL is a hard habit to break – that sound you just heard were cheers from the NFL office – especially when baseball's opening day is still more than a month away. So what to do? You could look forward eagerly until tomorrow, when the weekly college basketball polls are released. Heck, you could even make friendly wagers around the house on how high Gonzaga will rise in the polls. Or you could watch golf from California, counting the number of times CBS shows the Pacific Ocean crashing down on the Monterey shoreline – or the number of times you see video of Phil Mickelson slipping on the rocks yesterday while looking for his ball. Either number is going to be a big one. Or, in an odd convergence of timing meeting need, you could catch up on the little things around the house you've put off since September, like changing the furnace filter or replacing burned out light bulbs. Whatever you decide to do, you've been given the gift of three, four, five hours or more. Use it wisely.
• Gonzaga: Speaking of the Zags, they did what they had to do yesterday, take care of Loyola Marymount. The Lions played a bit tougher than they did in Los Angeles and the score reflected it. With the 74-55 win, Gonzaga raised its overall record to 23-2 and remained undefeated in WCC play after 10 games. Now it gets tough. As well as GU has been playing lately, St. Mary's may be playing better. The Gaels have won nine consecutive games, their defense has been nearly impenetrable and Matthew Dellavedova has shaken off a mid-season shooting slump. Thursday night's battle in Moraga is going to be fun to watch, no matter what the Zags are ranked. … Getting back to last night, Jim Meehan was in the Kennel and has a game story and postgame blog post. He'll also be back today with more on the blog. Tyler Tjomsland was also at McCarthey and has this photo story. … St. Mary's handled USD in San Diego with relative ease. … There is only one way BYU is making the NCAA tournament now. The Cougars have to win the WCC tournament after losing at home to a red-hot USF team. … Portland rallied to force overtime but still fell to Pepperdine. … The Gonzaga women maintained their hold on first place in the WCC by running away from Loyola Marymount. They also have a showdown with St. Mary's on Thursday, albeit in Spokane.
• Washington State: Unlike most Cougar followers, I will be able to go to my grave with the knowledge I saw WSU defeat UCLA in Pauley Pavilion. In person. It hasn't happened often and it certainly wasn't going to happen Saturday. Christian Caple was there and chronicles UCLA's easy win with his game story, a pregame blog post, the tale of the tape, quotes and in his morning post today. … John Blanchette looks back on the WSU career of the late Jim Sweeney.
• EWU: While listening to the Eagles' broadcast yesterday, I was sure they were going to lose when they fell behind by 18 with less than eight minutes left. Northern Arizona must have felt the same way. But Eastern, behind Tyler Harvey and Parker Kelly, roared back, tied the game and won in regulation. It may have been the most satisfying game in Jim Hayford's two years at EWU. … Portland State's tailspin continues, though Southern Utah's hot streak didn't. … Montana set a record with its 25th consecutive Big Sky win.
• Idaho: The Vandals had no chance in Denver yesterday, not with the way Jalen Love was shooting. The second-place Pioneers rolled over UI, 74-58 as Love was 9-of-10 from the floor. Josh Wright has a blog post on the defeat (pictured). … New Mexico State stayed tied with Denver – Louisiana Tech leads the WAC – with a tight win over Seattle U.
• Whitworth: Forget about one of the NCAA's top seeds. How about clinching the NWC title? The Pirates should still get that, though they failed in their second attempt, this time getting shot down by George Fox at home. Jim Allen has the story of Whitworth's second consecutive defeat.
• Preps: District playoffs began for the Greater Spokane League schools last night. We were at Central Valley to watch the Bears hold off Gonzaga Prep for the boys title (the Bears will play Richland next week) while Greg Lee was at Mead to watch the Panthers do the same for the girls title. … We also can pass along girls and boys roundups from around the area. … Mike Vlahovich covered regional wrestling at CV yesterday. … The Mead gymnastics team won't get a chance to defend its state title.
• Chiefs: The U.S. Division's fourth, fifth and sixth playoff berths are so tight, a win like the Chiefs posted over Tri-City last night moved them up a couple spots. Chris Derrick has the story and a blog post. … Portland finished up a weekend sweep of Kelowna. … Seattle lost another close one.
• Yes, I'm going to be one of those guys who does a few chores around the house today. And, yes, I know I'm semi-retired so I shouldn't be putting such things off until Sundays – NFL or not. But that's the day Kim is home to see me working hard. It's all about the PR. Hey, don't judge. Until later …