A GRIP ON SPORTS
A lot of money could be on the line in Las Vegas tonight, and we're not talking about what's happening in the casinos. We're talking about the game between Gonzaga and St. Mary's. Read on.
• One of the odd aspects of tonight's game is the value of a St. Mary's win to the West Coast Conference. The financial value. If the Gaels make the tournament – and a win tonight would guarantee that – the WCC will earn around $2 million over the next six years. You read that right. By just appearing in the NCAA tournament, St. Mary's would bring in an extra $2 million or so to be divided between USD, USF, BYU and the rest of the nine WCC schools. Gonzaga's appearance in a couple weeks – that's a given no matter what happens tonight – will also bring in about $2 million over the NCAA payout period for each tournament game it plays – for a good explanation of the finances, read this Forbes Magazine story from last year – but I'm sure the WCC accountants have already spent that money. St. Mary's is the unknown. A win means a lot of money for the conference. A loss, well, then it becomes a wait-and-see proposition. Can the Gaels lose tonight and still make the tournament? Sure. Joe Lunardi has them in his bracket and with an RPI of 33 and a 6-3 record vs. the RPI's top 100 – along with no really terrible losses, the worst being Pacific and Georgia Tech, both in late November – the Gaels are a pretty good bet to squeak in. But this is the NCAA and "pretty good bets" have been excluded before. Including St. Mary's. And don't forget the NCAA recently came down hard on the Gaels for some recruiting and practice transgressions. Those things aren't supposed to matter, but you have to believe they will, at least a little. Add it all up and tonight's outcome might mean a whole bunch for the WCC and its members. It might mean about $2 million.
• Gonzaga: Really, haven't we seen this movie before? Gonzaga vs. St. Mary's V. This one is for all the marbles. John Blanchette has a preview of the sports flick in his column today and Jim Meehan has an advance. ... Bud Withers also examines the long-running feud and there is this advance in the San Francisco Chronicle. ... The Gonzaga women, who play this afternoon, may be without the WCC's player of the year in their matchup with USD. Taelor Karr is suffering from a bad back and any of you who've had that problem before know what that's like. Jim has an advance of the game. ... A couple of key Torero guards have spoken up for coach Billy Grier.
• Washington State: Christian Caple has his usual Monday morning blog post, which often includes police matters from the weekends. This time, however, it includes an odd occurrence in Spokane, which might possibly have USC basketball players involved. I will say this. It shouldn't really matter if the players were involved in a fight when it comes to discipline. The incident occurred at 2 a.m. If that's not past a curfew then the head coach – in this case, an interim head coach – needs to go. ... By finishing 11th, the Cougars guaranteed all their games in the Pac-12 tournament (even if it's just one game) will be the last of the night. ... This is a pretty big week in Las Vegas, the headquarters for college basketball in the West right now. ...
• Whitworth: The Pirates will host Mary Hardin-Baylor on Saturday night, the first time Whitworth has hosted an NCAA Division III playoff third-round game. Jim Allen has the story.
• Shock: Jim also has the story of the Shock's scrimmage yesterday in the Arena.
• Chiefs: Nothing from Spokane, but Portland did the Chiefs a favor and handed Victoria another loss.
• Mariners: The evolution of Michael Saunders (pictured) continues after he was named MVP of Canada's WBC bracket, despite his team not advancing to the next round. He also avoided any of the fallout from the fight with Mexico, as did Oliver Perez, who was on the other side. ... Taijuan Walker must be pretty good. He's getting ragged on a lot. ... Relief pitcher Josh McKinney will be out a while. ... Justin Smoak's extra work may just pay off. ... Finally, the M's lost to the White Sox on Sunday.
• Seahawks: The Sounders aim to be the first MLS team to get past a Mexican squad in the knockout round of the CONCACAF Champions League since the format has changed. ... Tigres may not be at full strength tomorrow night – the Sounders certainly won't be – after playing a bunch of games in a short period.
• Sonics: We don't usually go for videos of the big dunks, but this one last night was such a big deal we thought we had to pass it along. The reaction of the boys in the front row was priceless, and by that I am also including all the Clippers.
• That's it for today. As we said yesterday, we're not sure we'll be watching the Gonzaga games today. We don't want to jinx the Zags. Until later ...