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A few mad thoughts about the tournament

A GRIP ON SPORTS

It's random thoughts time. The subject: March Madness. To be more precise, the field of 68. Read on.

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• Looking at the bracket this morning, we had about 68 unrelated thoughts. And, as is our charge here, we share them – at least, many of them – with you. ...

• Everyone seems to think Gonzaga got hosed a bit and, if you go by the numbers, the Zags probably did (John Blanchette has all the RPI and BPI and the like in his column this morning). But you and I both know the eye test tells us Gonzaga is about an eight, right where the Bulldogs were seeded. My beef with the seeding is not the number but the placement. Why couldn't they have been the eight in the Midwest, where they would have met Kansas State – another long-time foe – in the second round? Why there? Because, if GU found a way to advance, Wichita State would probably have waited in the round of 32. Why not give the Zags a chance at redeem last year's upset loss?

• Speaking of last year, Jim Meehan has a great blog post up which includes his story from last season's one-point win over Oklahoma State, Friday's second-round opponent. It's obvious these teams are different from last season – Gonzaga was a one-seed in the tourney back then and OSU a five, though both lost earlier than expected, with the Cowboys upset in the second round by Oregon – but there are enough players back on both teams to add a delicious little undercurrent to this game. And let's don't forget, Mark Few coached OSU star Marcus Smart (pictured) a couple summers ago.

• There is no way I am getting on board with Art Thiel's Cinderella story, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. Nope. Those jackaninnies knocked my Anteaters out of their rightful place in the tournament. It serves the Mustangs right they have to play in Dayton on Wednesday against Texas Southern. I'm rooting for the Tigers.

• We mentioned the eye test with Gonzaga and the committee, which seems to changes the criteria on how it picks each season, has professed such a nebulous standard is now part of their process. Really? So how did Michigan State and Louisville get saddled with four seeds? I love Tony Bennett's basketball style as much as anyone – I was infected with the Bennett virus in Pullman and it has yet to clear my system – but if you are going on the eye test, both of those schools seem better equipped for a long tournament run than Bennett's Cavaliers, a top seed. And I watched Creighton and Villanova play each other twice this season. It was no contest. The third-seeded Bluejays were so much better than second-seeded Villanova, it's crazy. But the committee also says it's the body of work, so that's their out. Of course, that seemingly didn't come into play with Virginia, who lost at Wisconsin-Green Bay, and when evaluating Michigan State's season. The Spartans were either the best or among the best in the country early in the season when they were healthy. Now they are healthy again. And headed, again, to Spokane.

• Which brings up Jud Heathcote. I know the man is universally loved – pretty interesting for a gruff, no-nonsense character – but really? Does the committee have to go out of its way every year Spokane hosts to send the Spartans here? We know the motivation isn't really to let Jud watch his beloved green and white in person, but it's worth saying it is. And it's a nice gesture. But it seems like an unfair advantage for Tom Izzo's crew. After all these years, they must know what the rims are like in the Arena and, as a local coach told us recently, that's really important. If you're interested in more on the eight teams coming to Spokane and what to expect this week, Jim Allen has you covered.

• Finally, I'm still trying to figure out which underdog I want to adopt this year. Maybe it should be the plucky Orangemen from Syracuse, dissed with a third seed. Or defending champion Louisville, underappreciated and shoulder-chippy after being given a four. There is always Wichita State. Though the Shockers were awarded a No. 1 seed after their undefeated season, they were also handed the toughest region to navigate since Magellan. Nope, I'm going with Dayton, who gets to play Ohio State in the first round. The Flyers have been trying – unsuccessfully – for years to get a series going with the high-and-mighty Buckeyes and now they get to meet them in the biggest game of the season. It didn't even take a publicity-driven legislator or an act of God to make it happen. That's worth rooting for.

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• WSU: No NCAA tournament for Washington State so Jacob Thorpe has plenty of time to deal with all the news from Pullman. Hear the silence? Well, he has put together a bracket challenge so you can have some fun over the next few weeks. And he does have a morning post today.

• Gonzaga: As can be expected, the Zags are all over the Review today, with Jim Meehan leading the way with a story on their draw and the aforementioned blog post. ... BYU feels awful lucky to be in the tournament, even if it means a rematch with Oregon. The teams played earlier this year, which is another change the committee made. It sure seems like a moving target, doesn't it? ... The NIT is sort of a Bay Area Invitational this season, what with St. Mary's, USF and Cal invited. ... By the way, the Gonzaga women will find out their NCAA fate at 4 this afternoon. They are hoping for Seattle.

• EWU: The lone Big Sky representative is Weber State, which was given top-seed Arizona as a foe. At least Weber wasn't relegated to a play-in game.

• Chiefs: Will anyone, Spokane, Everett, Kelowna, Seattle, anyone, be able to derail Portland in the WHL playoffs this season?

• Seahawks: The subtraction continues with Walter Thurmond III's signing with New York becoming official. But the Hawks are in discussions with a couple of veteran defensive linemen, including Jared Allen. None have signed as of yet. ... Former Hawks John Moffitt is in trouble with the authorities.

• Mariners: The M's are looking for starting pitchers. That's more than obvious. So lefthander Roenis Elias (pictured) has stepped forward and thrown his slider into the ring. ... So has veteran righthander Scott Baker. ... The M's won again yesterday with Elias' pitching playing a big part.

• Sounders: If the Sounders fall behind 2-0 in another game, you might as well go work in the yard. They aren't coming back. ... A newcomer loved his first experience at CenturyLink, despite the poor circumstances.

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• Another Monday begins. Another week starts. But this one feels different. Why? Oh ya, it's time for the NCAAs. Cool. Let's get started. Now. OK, I can wait a day or two. Until tomorrow ... 




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Vince Grippi





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