A GRIP ON SPORTS
It's the Monday morning following Selection Sunday, so our post is dominated with NCAA tournament items. Isn't that the way it should be? Read on.
• I guess I should apologize up front if, after last night, you are burnt out by NCAA tournament talk, specifically Gonzaga-related chatter. But it is still the No. 1 topic of conversation as far as I'm concerned. We're not here to help you fill out your brackets, of course (if you want to know why, the answer is simple: In all the years I entered pools I never won, not once; I finally gave up), but to help you navigate the local waters.
• We'll start with Gonzaga – and the Zags unprecedented heights. Our front page today, with its homage to the past, is appropriate. This year's success, as we've written in this space before, was built on a solid foundation. And that foundation was many years in the making. Today's front page (pictured) represents that in a visual way.
• Then there is the matter of that No. 1 seed, the unprecedented heights we referenced above. It's pretty cool for a school from Spokane, playing in the often-overlooked West Coast Conference, can be recognized for its splendid season. But after the glow fades, the reality of the path GU must travel to Atlanta comes into view. And it's not easy. John Feinstein's column this morning contains thoughts I had last night. After Southern on Thursday, the road is filled with as many potholes as any Spokane street. No matter who is victorious between Pitt and Wichita State, the Zags are going to face a physical team that prides itself on defense. If seeds hold – they rarely do, but for the purposes of this exercise we'll just assume they will – GU will get Kansas State or Wisconsin in the Sweet 16. I wouldn't bet against Bo Ryan's Badgers, who have made their reputation with offensive execution and defensive toughness. Of course, if Kansas State moves on, the Zags will be facing a team wanting to avenge an early season 16-point defeat. Then there is Ohio State looming with a Final Four berth on the line. Of all the two seeds GU could have drawn, this one may have been the best. The Buckeyes are not as good as last year's edition, which defeated a not-as-good Gonzaga team in the NCAA tournament. In other words, if both make it that far, I'm putting my money on GU.
• Elsewhere in the state on the men's side we have … well, nothing. However, the women, including Gonzaga and neighboring Idaho, will find out their fate today. The Zag women know they'll be playing in McCarthey, though their seed and opponent is revealed later today.
• Gonzaga: There is quite a lot to get to here, so we'll start with Jim Meehan's story on Gonzaga and its opponent, Southern University. We also have short summaries of each of the four schools in Gonzaga's NCAA pod, including Pitt, Wichita State and Southern. … John Blanchette's column focuses on the Zags having to wait to see if they received a No. 1 seed – and the expected criticism when they did. Hey, CBS knew people all over the country would stick around to see if they were on the top line. … We also can pass along a story on the GU students, tickets and a picture of Kelly Olynyk when he had short hair. … Dan Monson has something to say about the Zags' No. 1 seed. … But Withers has a Gonzaga column and Jerry Brewer writes about the season. … You want to know how all 68 teams were seeded? Look here. Want to know who won ore lost? Look here. … Salt Lake City is happy to have the Zags. … St. Mary's made the tournament, sort of. They are in a first-round game tomorrow. … BYU will host Washington in the NIT. … This yearly column by Mark Whicker is always fun.
• Washington State: Christian Caple will be on NCAA duty this week, but he has a morning post to kick off your week. … He also put together an on-line bracket contest. Good luck. I'm not in it (see above). … The baseball team did something over the weekend it has never done.
• Idaho: After being upset in the WAC tournament, Denver earned an NIT berth.
• Chiefs: The final game of the regular season held no significance for Spokane last night, what with the playoff seeding already decided. So the Chiefs rested some as Portland skated to another victory.
• Shock: Spokane has finalized its roster for the opener.
• Mariners: Blake Beavan (pictured) needed a good outing if he hoped to make the M's starting rotation coming out of spring training. So he had one against the Rangers, the Mariners blasted a couple of home runs and, lo and behold, Seattle won.
• That's it today. A busy week looms. We're ready for it. Until later …