A GRIP ON SPORTS
March is beginning to enter its lamb phase, which means it's about time for college basketball fans to turn into bracket lions. Shoot, that sounded better in my head. Read on.
• There are only a couple days now until selection Sunday and once again there is only one school in the state of Washington that has to watch. And only to see what seed it will receive and where it will be headed. The Gonzaga Bulldogs have earned their automatic berth. Now the question is, will they be a top seed for the first time? We'll find out Sunday afternoon. Meanwhile, Washington State, Eastern Washington and Idaho (we include the Vandals here just because they are just so close) are already preparing for next season, with no postseason of any kind possible. The Huskies, who were dumped from the Pac-12 tournament last night in overtime, hope for an NIT berth and have already ruled out playing anywhere else. OK. By the way, though our state's Division I teams haven't done all that well, there are still three schools playing in the other levels. Defending champion Western Washington and Seattle Pacific will represent in the Division II tournament – Jim Allen has a couple of stories today on SPU, which has more local connections than just about any college in the area – while Whitworth continues its run in the Division III tournament Saturday night when it hosts another Texas school. It's enough to make you want to roar. Shoot, that sounded better in my head too. Not my best day.
• Gonzaga: Mike Hart (pictured) earned a national honor yesterday, albeit a made-up one. He was named the captain of this year's Sports Illustrated All-Glue team. Don't know what that is? Well, this explains it. … Former GU assistant Bill Grier, whose status was in doubt, will be back for another year as USD's head coach. But it looks as if the Toreros will have to make the postseason.
• Washington State: Christian Caple stayed another day in Las Vegas – a tough assignment, but someone had to do it – to cover a couple more games. None of which included WSU. However, he does have a morning post. … We found a couple of stories on former Washington State guards today, the first on Klay Thompson's defense – the guy who recruited him to Pullman, Tony Bennett, must be proud – and one on Xavier Thames, whose return to health has corresponded with San Diego State resurgence. … The Pac-12 baseball season begins this weekend and the Register-Guard did a nice job advancing the conference race.
• EWU: The Big Sky tournament began in Missoula (without the Eagles). Weber State had little trouble with Northern Arizona while North Dakota stopped Southern Utah. Northern Colorado eliminated Montana State and will face Montana.
• Idaho: Christian covered the last game of the Vandals' basketball season, a loss to New Mexico State. … John Blanchette has a column about the slow demise of the WAC. … Utah State couldn't get past UT Arlington and Denver was upset by Texas State in a day of them. … You know, Las Vegas seems to be a popular destination – though not for everyone.
• Whitworth: Mack Larkin (pictured) doesn't let a broken nose slow him down, let alone stop him. Jim Allen has the story.
• Shock: The Shock may also have a Spokane high school graduate in the lineup as Levi Horn, who attended Rogers before heading off to Oregon and Montana, has joined the roster.
• Chiefs: A former Chief made his NHL debut last night and this one was more special than most. That's because Tyler Johnson (pictured above) is a Spokane guy. Chris Derrick tells his story.
• Preps: A couple of notes from Greg Lee out of Idaho, where Post Falls' Dani Failor was named the player of the year and Coeur d'Alene's Kent Leiss will not be back as basketball coach. … Greg also has this advance of the state all-star games.
• Mariners: Mike Zunino came through with a late home run yesterday and the Mariners got back on the winning track with an 8-7 decision over the Reds. … There were some roster moves yesterday, with a bunch of the young arms headed back to the minors. But one lesser-known name is still around. … The M's have another Dutch prospect with power.
• Seahawks: Former Hawk Michael Bennett is now current Hawk Michael Bennett. Seattle agreed to terms with the free agent defensive lineman yesterday. It's just another aggressive move in an offseason full of them. … It looks as if Leon Washington has found a home.
• Sounders: When the Sounders meet the archrival Timbers Saturday, there will be a couple more connections than there have been in the past. … And Seattle may have a new player, but who knows. … A former Sounder will talk about the rivalry. … There are a few players out on both sides. … Watching goals are as fun for the players as fans.
• It's supposed to be really nice today. That would be welcomed. As would a quiet weekend. We'll see. Until later …