A GRIP ON SPORTS
Before we get into Gonzaga's crucial West Coast Conference win at St. Mary's last night, I want Bulldog fans to know what I gave up for them. It's a pretty big deal. Read on.
• After having a nice dinner and watching the GU women handle their counterparts from St. Mary's in McCarthey last night, Kim and I raced home to watch the GU men battle the Gaels on ESPN2. And I noticed something odd. Every time I sat down to watch the game intently, St. Mary's would make all the big plays. Whenever I would get up to grab a drink or wash my hands or whatever, the Zags would get on a roll. For example, I watched every second of the last few minutes before halftime. And the Gaels had a dominating stretch just before going into the locker room. So I made a decision. Facing the always tough-to-overcome "Bud Light Conundrum," I made up my mind to not watch the second half. And guess what happened? The Bulldogs began to run away with the game. But I couldn't sit in the computer room forever, following the play-by-play on my iPhone. Nope. I had to head downstairs. And as soon as I sat down, the Gaels went on a run, which included Matthew Dellavedova's only 3-pointer of the half. That was it for me. Upstairs I went, not to emerge in front of the TV until the final minute. Yes, I sacrificed my viewing enjoyment to ensure you, Mr. and Mrs. Gonzaga-Fan, would be able to watch your team win. I'm sure if I watched the entire game, St. Mary's would be celebrating a huge upset and an increased chance of making the NCAA tournament. Instead, due to my unselfish attitude, the Gael faithful are making NIT plans. Of course I know it's all malarkey, but, as the commercial says, it's only weird if it doesn't work.
• Speaking of working, that's just what the Zags did last night. They put in the work needed to overcome a hostile crowd and a really good team. They were tough when they needed to be tough, something that's hasn't been all that true for GU at times in the past. There's a reason for that, of course. This group can defend. Defend better than just about any Gonzaga team I can remember. It's starts with Kelly Olynyk and his ability to handle the ball screen. Having a 7-footer with a Pterodactyl wingspan able to switch onto or double a guard coming off a screen disrupts a lot of offensive flow right there. But the rest of the Zags are disciplined in their assignments. They stay in their gaps, they help, they help the helper, they communicate, they play team defense with passion. The size of their guards can be a problem, but they minimize it with help, especially from the bigs. And Mike Hart gives the whole concept a power boost by being uber-physical and never seeming to lose focus. It's what sets this team apart from other GU teams of the past. I'm sure you are saying, how does he know, he didn't watch the game. Well, I did watch much of it live – though, of course, that's when Gonzaga didn't look all that great – but there is also the wonderful WatchESPN app on my iPad. It allows you to watch games that appeared earlier on the network, and to go through them either quickly or over-and-over. Man, how I love technology.
• Gonzaga: OK, that one's over. It's time to get ready for USF on Saturday. The classic trap game. Don't worry Zag fan. I can't watch. I'm busy. ... Jim Meehan was really busy last night, trying to avoid the St. Mary's crowd that overflows into the worst press box seating on the West Coast, hands down. He still was able to bring you an in-depth game story and a post-game blog post. He'll also be back with a day-after blog post sometime today. ... ESPN did a couple of stories in the run-up to the game yesterday that I thought I should pass along. ... The San Francisco-area newspapers also covered the game, focusing on St. Mary's problems. ... The GU women put some distance between themselves and the rest of the WCC with a big home win over the Gaels. Chris Derrick was there and filed this game story and blog post. Colin Mulvany als has a photo story. ... Back to the men, there was another big game in the WCC, with Santa Clara holding off USD to earn the inside track for the fourth seed, and a bye, in the postseason tournament. I couldn't find a story, however. I did find this on Portland's unexpected win at USF. BYU had the night off, but that doesn't mean there weren't any stories. ... John Blanchette has a fun column today on a friend, former college referee Randy Burkhart. It's worth reading. I decided it would also pair nicely with this story from San Diego.
• Washington State: Not a lot from Pullman, though Christian Caple will have a live chat today. He also had a morning post with links on last night's Pac-12 action. ... Major college baseball season begins today and Christian has a preview of the WSU and GU seasons. I also found this story on USD's new stadium. I don't pass it along because the Toreros are picked to win the WCC. No, I pass it along because one of the scariest moments of my life was as a freshman, wearing baseball cleats under orders from the seniors, carrying the equipment bag down the stairs at USD's old field before a game. One slip and ... jeez, I don’t even want to think what might have happened. After finally getting down the stairs that callow freshman was then confronted by USD's huge coach, John Cunningham, who wanted to know why anyone would wear metal cleats on his concrete steps. Yes, the seniors were hysterical.
• EWU: Call it the Boise State Rule. But as the NCAA moves toward outlawing a uniform choice, it could affect Eastern just as much as the Broncos. Jim Allen has the story. ... Montana's long Big Sky winning streak is over, shot down in dominating fashion in Ogden. ... Portland State routed Southern Utah and Northern Colorado defeated Northern Arizona. ... The big trial continues in Missoula.
• Idaho: Another close home loss for the Vandals, who see their season slowly slipping away. Josh Wright was in Moscow and has this story and blog post from the defeat to UT Arlington. ... Denver and Louisiana Tech continue to roll, defeating Utah State, in overtime, and Seattle U., respectively. San Jose State lost to New Mexico State.
• Sonics: If the Kings are going to move to Seattle, legal problems shouldn't stop them.
• Got to love Friday mornings. Wait, it is Friday morning, isn't it? I get confused sometimes now. Yes, it is Friday. I know because I will be out at U-Hi tonight covering a high school basketball game. Until later ...