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As Yogi might say, it’s not over but it’s over

A GRIP ON SPORTS

The college basketball season in these parts is officially over. The ending wasn't what anyone wanted, I'm sure. For any of the area's teams. Read on.


••••••••••

• Though I was glad to see a relatively warm Sunday, heralding the beginning of spring (see below), about 8 last night I became a little sad. Not because the Zags were going down in flames – I figured that was going to happen about 7:15. Nope, about 8 I realized the college basketball season in these parts was finished. And that makes me sad. I love college basketball. All right, I said it. It's my favorite sport, having surpassed baseball a few years ago. So yesterday was the beginning of a long dry spell for me. Oh sure, I'll watch the rest of the NCAA tournament, but it's not the same without a dog in the hunt. It just isn't. So I'll be the guy puttering in his yard this summer thinking about how the Zags senior guards will do or if Eastern can make a run into the NCAAs or if WSU's new coach is really the miracle worker everyone expected at his introductory press conference. It will save me from having to agonize over the M's. Oh, and one other thing. At about 8 last night I realized I needed to summarize each of the area's schools basketball seasons. That also made me sad.

• Washington State men: OK, it is was so bad – how bad was it? – the Cougars made a change. Ken Bone is out. The new guy should be in place soon, maybe even this week. It's hard to say what the future looks like for WSU until that happens, so we will withhold judgment until later. Still, if I had to give a grade for the year just finished, I would have to hand out an F.

• Washington State women: It was a good, though not great, season for the Cougs. A postseason berth was good, a first-round WNIT loss was not great. A semifinal run in the Pac-12 tournament was good, the loss to Oregon State was not great. Still, WSU has a lot coming back, which is good, but the Cougars need to play better defense, which was not great. The grade for the season: B-.

• Gonzaga men: When we have some distance from this season, maybe then we will appreciate how much this team overachieved. Honestly, it was one of the toughest groups Mark Few's put on a floor in a while. That's the only way it could survive. The season highlight: The three (yes, three) beatdowns of erstwhile rival St. Mary's. The lowlight: either the week vs. BYU and San Diego or last night. Take your pick. But still, this group reached the NCAA tournament again, won a game and can call itself WCC regular season and tournament champions. That has to be good for a B+.

• Gonzaga women: Who would have thought the GU women would have had the best season of any of our local teams? That could have been said if not for yesterday's lackluster effort in a first-round NCAA loss to James Madison. A win there and then a battle with Texas A&M on its home court would have earned the Zags an A grade. But, because of yesterday's result, we will give them a B+.

• Eastern Washington men: If you happened to watch the Eagles early on last season then saw them down the stretch, you would realize how much they improved. It's a foundation the senior-less team can build on next season. Their inability to qualify for the Big Sky tournament was a disappointment, sure, but they won enough games in league to make the seven teams that did happy the Eagles were watching, not playing. The future is bright in Cheney but this last season they only earned a C+.

• Eastern Washington women: The Eagle women did qualify for the Big Sky tournament. But that was expected when the season began. In fact, it's kind of a given in Cheney these days. That's why they only earned a C+ as well.

• Idaho men: Another team that got better as the season wore, mainly because Stephen Madison began to assert his will on opponents. He won't be back next season, when the Vandals return to the Big Sky after a long hiatus. He'll be missed. Even with him, however, Idaho still could must only a C this season.

• Idaho women: I have to believe the Vandal women will miss the WAC. They've dominated it the last couple seasons, especially during this one. The Big Sky will be a tougher nut to crack, what with the road trip to Montana and the depth of the conference's programs. That's for down the road. This year, the Idaho women earned an A- despite the blowout loss to Louisville yesterday (pictured).

• Whitworth men: Just getting to the NCAA tournament is not enough for the Pirate men. That's expected. So this year was, at best, a B-. There are high expectations up there on the North Side.

• Whitworth women: Just getting to the NCAA tournament is enough for the Pirate women. But add in the fact they also defeated Whitman, whose only other loss this season was in the NCAA Division III title game and Helen Higgs' crew earned an A-. The minus is motivation for next season.

•••

• WSU: Jacob Thorpe uses his morning post today to update the coaching search a bit. … Stanford is in the Sweet 16. How odd that sounds. … So is Arizona, but that was to be expected. … And UCLA.

• Gonzaga: Arizona's Sean Miller is a proponent of the Pack defense invented by Dick Bennett and popularized by son Tony's success at WSU and Virginia. What was the Pack designed to eliminate? The bounce to the rim. But that's exactly what Gonzaga tried to do last night. It didn't work. The evidence: 21 turnovers. Jim Meehan was in San Diego and he has the game story and blog post from the season-ending defeat. John Blanchette adds a column and Dan Pelle the photographs. … Bud Withers has a column in the Times. … St. Mary's season ended with an NIT loss to Minnesota. … The Gonzaga women looked a little befuddled (pictured) in their loss to James Madison yesterday. Thomas Clouse has the story and a notebook and Tyler Tjomsland has the photographs from the defeat.

• Idaho: The Vandal women didn't get an easy draw in the first round – at Louisville, ranked as high as third in the nation this season – and it showed.

• Chiefs: Two playoff games in Victoria, two overtime losses. The Chiefs can feel snakebit or they can realize how close they are to coming home at least tied. We'll see how they feel when the series resumes. Chris Derrick will be there, of course, as he was in Victoria last night. He has the game story. … Seattle defeated Everett again and Kelowna did the same to Tri-City.

• Shock: The road to the Arena Bowl might just run through Phoenix again this season for Spokane. If it does, the Shock will have to improve on last night's showing in Arizona.

• Seahawks: Still no news on the Jared Allen front.

• Mariners: The M's rallied for a win yesterday over the A's, a win that assured them a winning spring record. And it was Stefen Romero who got it done. He's making a case to make the team, especially with Corey Hart dealing with an arm problem that might make him a DH early on.

• Sounders: No Clint Dempsey, no big deal. The Sounders made the most of their opportunities in a 2-0 win at Montreal. The tough-it-out victory came despite the Impact having a lot more chances to score. That bothered them.

•••

• We had our official end of winter celebration yesterday. Barbecued steaks and ribs. Baked potatoes. Grilled asparagus. A nice salad. Fresh bread. An ice-cold adult beverage. Ice cream for desert. Yep, we're ready for summer. And a diet. Until later … 


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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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Jacob Thorpe Sports reporter Jacob Thorpe covers Washington State University athletics. He also contributes to the SportsLink Blog.

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Greg Lee Greg Lee covers high school sports in Eastern Washington and North Idaho. 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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