A GRIP ON SPORTS
All I can say is it's about darn time. Tomorrow is March 1. Today is the final day of February. Thank goodness. I don't know about you, but I'm getting tired of winter. And ready for the madness of March. Read on.
• Look at the weekends ahead. This one marks the end of the WCC regular season and the penultimate – as I've said many times before, I love that word (it is No. 3 on my favorite-words list) so I use it as often as I possibly can – weekend of the Pac-12 and Big Sky seasons. The next two weekends are full, with the WCC tournament in Las Vegas and the end of the rest of the regular season. The next weekend finishes up the conference tournaments – including the Pac-12 – and holds Selection Sunday. Then all heck breaks loose with the NCAA tourney. Basically, the month of March holds enough college basketball to choke a Clydesdale, even if said Clydesdale is a St. Louis University fan. Lots of people buy a new TV for the Super Bowl. Me, I'm thinking of getting a new one for the tournament. I really big one with Internet capabilities, picture-in-picture and a built-in refrigerator – if that's available. Dream big.
• There was a time not too long ago when the Oscars, opening day of baseball season and the NCAA title game would be on the same weekend, occasionally the same day. It made for some interesting arguments in the household, that's for sure. But the Academy (with a capital "A") moved the Oscars up a month or so and that's no longer true. So Sunday night you can sit back and watch the Super Bowl of movies. And bet if you like. But this is the year of the chalk. According to R.J. Bell of Pregame.com, there is an overwhelming favorite in every category: Best Picture ("12 Years a Slave"); Best Director (Alfonso Cuaron for "Gravity"); Best Actor (Matthew McConaughey in "The Dallas Buyers Club"); and Best Actress (Cate Blanchett in "Blue Jasmine"). But, like the NCAA tournament, there are always upsets. And America always roots for the underdog. I'm no different. So I will be sitting in the Amy Adams (pictured) rooting section with my fingers crossed.
• WSU: Jacob Thorpe doesn't have to act like he can make something from nothing. He does it often. Like today. With the Cougars off, he still comes up with a blog post on Que Johnson's diminishing playing time and another post with links. ... The Cougar women almost posted a road upset that might have assured an NCAA at-large berth but fell to California in overtime, 75-68. ... When spring football arrives – it's not that far away now – the Cougars will be looking to replace a big chunk of their offensive line.
• Gonzaga: It was clinching night for the Zags. The women took care of their part first, avenging an earlier loss to St. Mary's on the road with a 75-65 home win, clinching the outright WCC title. Thomas Clouse was there and has this story. The men did the same about an hour later with a 70-53 win over Pacific in Stockton (pictured). Jim Meehan was there and has this story and a blog post. He'll also be back later today with a morning-after post. ... Next up for the men is St. Mary's. The Gaels held off a beat-up Portland team, 70-61 last night in Moraga. ... USF moved into a tie for second with BYU after defeating Pepperdine, 77-53, in Malibu. ... The Cougars are waiting for USD on Saturday.
• EWU: The Eagles toughed-out one of the more important wins in school history last night, handing Northern Colorado its first home defeat of the season, 80-66, behind Tyler Harvey's 31 points. The win kept the Eagles in the Big Sky tournament chase and set up another key game Saturday at North Dakota, which defeated Portland State, 83-73. Win Saturday and the Eagles may have obtained the golden ticket, a spot in the Big Sky tournament. ... Weber State handled Sacramento State, 79-67, to win a share of the regular season title. ... Southern Utah came this close to handing Montana State a killer loss in Bozeman but fell in overtime, 77-72. Next up for the Thunderbirds as they try to get at least one Big Sky win: Montana.
• Idaho: The Vandals didn't play and, thank goodness, they didn't fight. Though Utah Valley and New Mexico State did.
• Whitworth: The NWC playoffs are at hand and the men are hosting them. Round one went to the Pirates, 87-62, over Lewis & Clark (pictured). Jim Allen has the story and Colin Mulvany has the photographs. ... The Pirate women also won, upsetting George Fox on the road, 74-55. The playoffs finish this weekend with the NCAA automatic berths decided.
• Preps: Oops. Yesterday I said the WIAA considers this weekend the first games of state. That is so last year. Yep, if you look up a school's state record on the WIAA website, the games this weekend are part of their state tournament record in 2012 and 2013. But that won't be the case any longer. The WIAA told Greg Lee earlier this year the organization is only considering the eight-team extravaganzas next week as State (with a capital "S") now. ... There were some playoff games last night in Idaho. We have a roundup.
• Seahawks: Thanks to the Super Bowl win, the Hawks will pick last in the NFL Draft's first round. Who will they take? Here's one possible nice fit. ... Russell Wilson will not play for the Rangers, but he figures someday he'll be on "Dancing With the Stars." That's his first swing and miss in my book. ... Riley Cooper just signed a big contract with Philadelphia, the terms of which may affect the Golden Tate negotiations. Or maybe not. Tate is just part of big free agent class. ... Jeremy Lane will do whatever it takes on special teams.
• Mariners: The games have begun. Yippee. And the revamped Mariners lineup looked like the 1927 Yankees. Sort of. The M's defeated San Diego 7-1 as Robinson Cano singled in his first at-bat. What, he's getting $240 million for singles? C'mon. (I'm getting into shape for my mid-season complaining.) ... One of the more interesting battles (and questions) this spring – there are always battles in the spring – is the one for the leadoff spot.
• Sounders: There is just one team in the MLS that will be affected by the U.S. National Teams pre-World Cup friendly with Ukraine. Yep, the Sounders. Clint Dempsey's return to Seattle may be delayed due to the match. ... As usual, Sigi Schmid has something to say about it and about the South Carolina training.
• Hey, the river didn't rise. Not as cold as it was yesterday. So we came back. We may just be here tomorrow as well. Until then ...