A GRIP ON SPORTS
At the risk of sounding like the older fellow in "Pickles," something happened yesterday that seemed a little strange – and never occurred back in the "good ol' days." Read on.
• Not all that long ago it was summer. Heck, it was just about 10 days ago. Which made yesterday sort of weird. See, Tuesday was the first day all of the local Division I basketball teams practiced, though some had already practiced over the weekend. Yep, the first of October. Heck, it wasn't all that long ago – and this is where I start to sound like the grandfather in the comic strip – college basketball practice began around Thanksgiving. You know, when football season was winding down. Now that is a weekend filled with ESPN-hyped "Showdowns" or "Battles" in exotic locales. Practice actually begins ... well, it never ends. College basketball has become a year-round profession, though, like an iceberg, much of it occurs out of sight. After years of lobbying, coaches are allowed more time with their players in the summer, so many kids stay at school, take classes and work out instead of going home. Then, when school opens for the fall semester, the NCAA allows even more hours for individual and group work. Schools on the semester system get going in late August while quarter schools have to wait a bit longer. Then there are the new rules for in-season practice. Instead of a hard-and-fast start date, schools can begin practicing 42 days before the NCAAA's first day of scheduled games. In that time they can practice 30 days. Instead of going hard from day one, many schools practice, take a day off, practice, take a day off – you get the picture. It is probably a lot better for the players as they ease into the rigors of a long, long season. But it sure was weird to see college basketball plastered all over the TV news yesterday. Weird considering football season is basically only a third done. Call it season creep. There is one bright side, though. With the staggered dates, ESPN isn't able to hold a Midnight Madness marathon on the "first day of practice" anymore (though I'm sure it will do something). Nope, no more Dick Vitale screaming from Lawrence, Kansas or Durham, N.C. as the season kicks off. And that's a win for everyone.
• WSU: The Cougars first few days of basketball practice has been more noticeable for who isn't there as who is. WSU coach Ken Bone has already had to suspend two players, the latest of which was center Jordan Railey, who is expected to add bulk inside. Jacob Thorpe has the story (and a blog post) on Railey, who joins JC transfer point guard Danny Lawhorn on the sidelines indefinitely. ... It's Wednesday, so Jacob moves seamlessly into the role of Pac-12 notebook writer, putting together his first one for the S-R. He also has the power rankings, a blog post following practice yesterday and one this morning with links. He'll also be holding a live chat this morning at 11, so you can ask him about his musical tastes and those pictures he has on Twitter. Or you can ask about WSU athletics, which would make more sense. ... ESPN.com's Pac-12 blog has some interesting stats (as usual) and a Tuesday mailbag (as usual). ... Bud Withers tells us what we've learned thus far in the football season. ... The Cal Bears aren't tipping their hand as who will start at quarterback on Saturday. I don't care. I'm just happy the game begins at 1 p.m. ... Back to basketball, Oregon State expects this to be a "storybook" season. I don't know about you, but I think I've read that fairy tale before.
• Gonzaga: The Zags were back on the court yesterday, holding their first media day of the season. Jim Meehan dusted off his tennis shoes and was in the gym to research this feature on a slimmer, quicker Sam Dower (pictured). Jim also adds a blog post with more information.
• EWU: Jim Allen was out in Cheney for the Eagles first basketball practice and flooded this blog with video interviews from Venky Jois and Parker Kelly. He also has a story on the experience Eastern has returning. ... One more thing. Jim has a post with links this morning. ... The football team is still playing and, for the second consecutive time, trying to bounce back from a tough defeat. Jim has a story on that. ... Weber State has lost a quarterback. ... Montana suddenly looks vulnerable to Portland State.
• Idaho: We'll stay with football in Moscow, as Josh Wright has this blog post on the Idaho offensive line.
• Chiefs: The WHL is in full swing and Chris Derrick has a notebook with news from around the league.
• Shock: No news from Spokane, but that can't be said from the rest of the West Coast, where there will be two new teams next season. The LA KISS is looking forward to its inaugural season and there will also be a yet-to-be-named team in Portland. The Oregon folks will hold a press conference today to announce particulars.
• Mariners: Want to know what Howard Lincoln (pictured) thinks about the future? If you are like me, if his thoughts don't include "Chuck Armstrong and I are heading into the sunset," then, no. Well, you can read them here and here as Lincoln talked with the Seattle media yesterday. They are, however, still making a bunch of money. ... The news on Danny Hultzen's shoulder is not good. Not good at all.
• Sounders: If Clint Dempsey is healthy enough to play for Seattle on Saturday, he may be called to play for the U.S. National Team. That could hurt the Sounders' power ranking. ... Real Salt Lake was shocked to lose the U.S. Open Cup final to D.C. United. The Sounders were just shocked to not be playing for the cup. ... The Cascadia Cup is still up in the air, however.
• I guess the earlier start to college hoops would be a good thing if you were covering a school. On nice days you could watch football. When it rains or snows, you head inside. A win-win. Until later ...