A GRIP ON SPORTS
Thanks to the magic of the "first round," the NCAA tournament begins tonight. Imagine, being picked on Sunday night, flying to Dayton on a Monday and then playing on a Tuesday. Lots of prep time contained in there. And lots of time for school too. Read on.
• It's a bit funny, isn't it, there is always a big deal made about APRs and GPAs and the like, but for the next few weeks, the student-athletes involved in the NCAA basketball tournament seem to be athlete-students, with the emphasis on the first word. The organization that tells us 11 months of the year it exists to protect the academic futures of college athletes spends about four weeks making sure kids have to think about winning basketball games above all else. I don’t think it's wrong, mind you, just a bit hypocritical and ironic. Sure, every school in the tournament travels with academic advisors and support staff, but if it really came down to upsetting Wichita State or passing the econ exam, which do you think would take precedent? Player: "Coach, I can't play tonight. I really have to spend the next four hours studying." Coach: "But Jimmy, you average 23 points a game. We need you." Player: "Nope, I really need to study. This exam might make the difference between attending grad school or not." Coach: "Well, if that's the case, go ahead, study. We'll get by without you." Yep, I'm sure that's how the conversation would go. Actually, at a lot of schools, I'm sure the final sentence would sound like this: "Don't worry Jimmy. One of our boosters has a building named after him at State U. Actually two buildings. He's assured me, if you play tonight, you'll get in no matter what happens. And, if we win, he'll donate enough money for a third building." Not around here mind you, but at a lot of places.
• WSU: The Washington State women will be making their first appearance in the postseason since the older Bush was president, traveling to Missoula to face Montana in the women's NIT. Thomas Clouse has the story. ... Jacob Thorpe has his usual morning post, keeping you up-to-date with WSU and Pac-12 news. ... Where does everyone stand in football recruiting? ... And, no, Bruce Pearl isn't going to be the next Washington State basketball coach.
• Gonzaga: With the first couple rounds of the women's tournament in Seattle, you would have thought the NCAA would have sent one of the local schools there. But no. Gonzaga is headed to Texas, where they will take a school-best sixth seed into their first round game with James Madison. Thomas Clouse has more in this story. ... The men know Marcus Smart (pictured) is the engine of Oklahoma State's offense – and defense. Jim Meehan introduces you to the guy everyone knows as "the player who went into the stands after a fan." ... Mark Few did an interview with the Oklahoma folks. ... BYU's women are playing in Los Angeles while the men will be playing without a key player.
• EWU: Weber State started slowly but finished better, making the NCAA tournament again, and that helped coach Randy Rahe win the conference coach of the year award. Remember that name. He'll be at a bigger school soon enough. ... Portland State made the CIT and they'll play at USD tonight in a battle of coaches who are on the hot seat.
• Idaho: The other local women's team that got shipped off? The Vandals. And they have to play the ridiculously low-seeded Louisville Cardinals, a three seed that might have been a one. Josh Wright has the story of the Vandals' odd placing.
• Shock: Portland made its Arena Football League debut last night and lost to San Jose, 64-34.
• Whitworth: A couple of Pirates earned all-region honors.
• Seahawks: You know you are a fan of a pro football team when they re-sign their kicker and you celebrate. Happened a lot yesterday when the Hawks reached an agreement with Steven Hauschka. ... Brandon Browner knew he wasn't coming back to Seattle a long time ago. So did a lot of us. ... Despite the recent defections, Larry Stone thinks the Hawks will be just fine.
• Mariners: Andy Van Slyke and Lloyd McClendon were teammates on the Pirates a long time ago. Now they are together in rebuilding the Mariners. ... The M's had the day off yesterday – my guess is they have a lot of Irish guys who didn't want to work – but from here until the end of spring training, each day may bring change.
• Sounders: Getting back on the pitch was important to new Sounder Gonzalo Pineda, but the atmosphere made it even more special. ... There were a few controversial plays in the loss to Toronto. There always are.
• That's it for today. We'll be back tomorrow. I'm just hoping my 10-year-old television will make it through the month. Until later ...