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What’s the correlation?

A GRIP ON SPORTS

Well, that seemed all too easy. St. Mary's win over Middle Tennessee State, I mean. Does that bode well for Gonzaga? Read on.


••••••••••

• I guess it can't hurt. Though there is probably little to no correlation. But that is one aspect of the disease known as March Madness. Every little nuance is parsed and parsed again, trying to gain a clue to what will happen in the next games down the road. Supposedly, the NCAA selection committee doesn't take conference affiliation into account when picking the field, but we do. And by we, I mean us fans. We always check out the number of teams from our favorite – and, conversely, most disliked – conferences, arguing if the Big East was dissed or the Big Ten given too many berths. It's important if only because oftentimes the difference in winning the office bracket pool comes down to who correctly discerns which conference's schools will have a good tournament. And that's what is important, isn't it? The office bragging rights? The family bragging rights? The neighborhood's? So much of the fun of the next few weeks is checking out each game with an eye on how “your” team is doing. The ultimate champion is usually one of the usual suspects, but it's figuring out which underdog is going to make a run and which major conference is going to have a strong showing, that usually makes the difference in staying alive in the bracket hunt. With the advent of the Tuesday/Wednesday first-round games, the pool of information only gets deeper. Take last night's win by St. Mary's. Middle Tennessee State, coached by former Idaho Vandal head man Kermit Davis, was a trendy darkhorse. A gaudy record marred by a loss in the conference tournament meant many were talking the Blue Raiders as this year's answer to VCU (the Rams went from first-round survivors to the Final Four a couple years ago). But St. Mary's is a veteran team that has, since December, handled every challenge thrown its way – except one: Gonzaga. Three times St. Mary's had a chance to upset the Zags. And three times it failed. So the Gaels' dominant second half last night has to be a positive for GU, right? If you are looking for an omen, you will see what you want to see in the outcome, sort of like reading chicken bones or Ouija boards. Honestly, it probably doesn't mean all that much other than the Gaels were able to adjust to Middle Tennessee's pressure at halftime and that made all the difference. Whether there is any carryover, any conference mojo headed GU's way, probably not. But, as we said, it can't hurt.

•••

• Gonzaga: The stars are gathering in Salt Lake City in advance of Thursday's game. And by that we mean guys like John Blanchette, who has this column concerning the Zags' most recent NCAA appearances. Over and underachieving are relative terms based on others' expectations, so yes, the Zags have underachieved recently (and overachieved as well, depending on what you were expecting). … Bud Withers covers the same ground. … The Gaels' win moves them into a Thursday game with Memphis, whose record includes exactly one win against anyone in the field. … BYU hosted Washington in an NIT battle last night and routed UW. No wonder the Huskies don't want to play Gonzaga during the regular season. … Santa Clara also won its CBI game. … On the women's side, the Gonzaga women have a strong backcourt. Chris Derrick features one of their outstanding trio, Haiden Palmer (pictured).

• Washington State: Christian Caple is in Salt Lake City on NCAA duty, but he has his usual morning blog post and the first spring football preview here on the blog as well. It's about the offense. … Christian also has a football story, profiling new assistant David Yost, whose hairstyle reminds me a lot of the folks who used to fill the crowd at The Golden Bear back in the day. … One group of former Cougs ousted another in the NCAA Division II playoffs. … The Cougar baseball team dropped a nonconference game with Gonzaga.

• EWU: The Eagle women will face UW Friday night at 7 in the WNIT. … Weber State's men have the best record in the CIT. (Everytime I see the initials for that postseason tournament I think of the song in the Bill Murray comedy “Meatballs.” “We are CITs so pity us …”)

• Idaho: Denver extended its season with an NIT win over visiting Ohio.

• Chiefs: The playoffs are just down the road. Their pressure and intensity usually has those new to the deal saying “wow.”

• Shock: Former Washington State receiver Jeffrey Solomon (pictured), who began his collegiate career at EWU, is adjusting to the Arena game. Jim Allen has the story.

• Mariners: It's been said the best measure of a major league starting pitcher is what he can accomplish without his best stuff. If that's the case, the M's Brandon Maurer might have a bright future. The youngster couldn't get his best pitch working yesterday yet still threw five strong innings against the Giants. … The M's held a minor league intrasquad game and threw left-hander Joe Saunders out there to get work. The veteran responded with a strong outing. There will be some tough decisions to be made concerning the rotation. … Of all the pieces to read this morning, this one might be the most fun. Unless reading about Chone Figgins having a good spring turns your stomach. … Taijuan Walker had more to worry about last year than just pitching.

• Seahawks: It doesn't look as if the Hawks have much of a market for Matt Flynn if they want to trade him.

• Sounders: Money – there is a salary cap in the MLS – seems to be the deciding factor in the Sounders' decision to waive veteran right back Adam Johansson. … It's Wednesday, which means we can link one person's power rankings.

•••

• One more day on the radio – though, if it continues to rain as hard as it right now through Thursday, we may get one more – this afternoon between 3 and 6. You can listen here. Until then …


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Jim Allen Sports reporter Jim Allen's primary coverage areas are Eastern Washington University football and men's basketball, and college and high school soccer. He also contributes to the SportsLink Blog.

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Jim Meehan Jim Meehan's coverage areas include Gonzaga University men's basketball, Spokane Shock football, golf and volleyball. He also contributes to the SportsLink Blog.

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Chris Derrick Chris Derrick is a sports reporter. His primary coverage areas are the Spokane Chiefs, Spokane Indians, women's basketball and high school softball and volleyball. He also contributes to the SportsLink Blog.

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Josh Wright Josh Wright is a freelance correspondent who covers the University of Idaho football team and men's basketball team.

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Vince Grippi is the online producer for SportsLink, a product of The Spokesman-Review.

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