A GRIP ON SPORTS
It seemed almost summer-like around these parts yesterday, what with the high temperature skyrocketing into the 50s. But we all know that is an illusion. Summer is a long way away. Heck, spring isn't all that close. How do I know? Simple. Basketball, hockey and wrestling are still in full swing. Read on.
• When you've worked around sports much of your life, the calendar seasons start to lose a bit of their importance. It becomes much more crucial to understand the ebb and flow of the football season (fall to winter), the basketball schedule (winter to spring) and the baseball year (spring to fall). There are benchmarks along the way, of course, and we're reaching some now. When state wrestling (pictured) appears on the schedule, you know there is going to be a warm day now and then (as happened yesterday). When the state basketball tournaments kick in, it's time to start scheduling spring-cleaning. When the B Tournament (sorry, the 1B and 2B tournaments) ends, the worst of winter is over. And when high school baseball starts, you know it's going to snow – a lot – one last time. Unlike some groundhog in Pennsylvania, the sports calendar has some correlation to the weather in the Inland Northwest.
• One thing college basketball players in this area earn by all their sweat and effort is the occasional trip out of the cold and wet. For example, the Zags are in the Bay Area this weekend, albeit for two crucial WCC games. But I'm sure over the past 48 hours they've been able to enjoy the warmth of the California sun, even if it's overcast as usual around San Francisco. When you've been bundled up against the 30- and 40-degree weather for months, even a 60-degree day seems like summer in the Sahara. Nothing was better than wandering through an In-N-Out parking lot in Burlingame wearing shorts in February while the locals were shivering in heavy coats. The looks were priceless, though they could have been because of the whiteness of my knobby old legs. Whatever, the warmth was appreciated.
• Gonzaga: Mental toughness is important if a college basketball team wants to be successful in March and April. The Bulldogs showed theirs Thursday night in Moraga, surviving the St. Mary's crowd and basketball team to earn a crucial conference win. Today the Zags have to show a different type of mental toughness. They have to put the Gaels behind them and focus on the task at hand, USF in War Memorial Gym. The combination of the opponent and the circumstances will make today's test just as hard as Thursday's, though in a different way. ... Jim Meehan has an advance of today's game covering that ground along with a blog post from last night. He also spent some time yesterday looking back at St. Mary's in this blog post. ... BYU is still suffering a hangover from the dagger Matthew Dellavedova stuck in them a month ago.
• Washington State: We'll be down in Pullman again today, covering the action for the Oregonian (Christian Caple will have the link tomorrow, as a reward for the crisp, new dollar bill I'll slip him at halftime today). Christian gets you ready for the game with this preview that brings the tough news (to WSU fans) Mike Ladd probably will be sitting again. ... Christian also held a live chat yesterday and put together a morning post today. ... We also found an advance of today's game in the Register-Guard. ... The Cougar women won for the fifth time in their last six games last night. ... It's Saturday, so we pass along the ESPN.com football mailbag.
• EWU: The Eagles return to the Big Sky battles today while Weber State, fresh off ending Montana's record conference winning streak, faces a slumping Montana State team.
• Idaho: Utah State hosts New Mexico State today with revenge on its mind.
• Whitworth: It took about three more games than the Pirates wanted, but Whitworth clinched its fourth consecutive NWC title. It’s the first time a school has won that many in a row since 1930.
• Chiefs: Spokane's Alessio Bertaggia returned from injury and showed just what he means to the Chiefs in their 6-3 win at Everett. ... Tri-City traveled to Portland and came away with a rare win. ... Vancouver handled Seattle.
• Preps: Lots and lots of prep events last night but we'll start with the state wrestling tournament in Tacoma. Greg Lee was there and has a couple of stories, one on U-Hi and its outstanding first day in the 3A ranks and another on the smaller schools. We also can pass along Seattle Times stories on the 4A and 3A along with this piece from the News Tribune. ... In state basketball action from Idaho, the Post Falls and Coeur d'Alene girls will play for the 5A title tonight, their fourth meeting of the season. ... Over in Washington, we were at University last night where the Titans moved into the 3A state tournament's round of 16 with an overtime win over Shadle Park (pictured). Colin Mulvany was also there and has a photo story. ... Shadle and U-Hi will meet today in a girls' loser-out game. ... We also have stories about the 4A boys and girls games from last night (an up-and-down result for the GSL), boys and girls roundups from around the area and Jim Allen's coverage of the boys' 5A playoffs in Idaho.
• Mariners: Felix Hernandez's first day of workouts at the M's spring training camp was a light one. He's still recuperating from his emotional contract negotiations. ... One Mariner prospect talks about his odd off-season while former M's prospect tries to recover from an injury.
• One thing's for sure. It is a lot easier to drive to Pullman for a basketball game on state wrestling weekend than it is during bowl season. At least there is less of a chance of snow. Hope your weekend is full of fun things. Until later ...