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Five keys to navigating today’s NCAA Tournament coverage

The Madness is spreading again.

In two days, the virus will move from coast to coast, most poignantly from Michigan to Spokane, where in 1950 a young Washington State grad named Jud Heathcote began his basketball coaching career at West Valley High School.

One generation later, Heathcote took his craft to Michigan State, won a national title in 1979 and later retired – back in Spokane.

For a few days this week, the Spartans will be here too, at the Spokane subregional of the NCAA Tournament. Heathcote will take a seat and so will we, capturing in stories and photographs the hopes and dreams of eight different teams.

At the same time, we’ll journey with our own poster boys, the Gonzaga Bulldogs, as they embark for San Diego for a second-round game against Oklahoma State. Later this week, we’ll travel with the Gonzaga women, who’ll learn their NCAA fate this afternoon.

It’s not about the brackets – although we have those too – it’s about the people. Like Gonzaga coach Mark Few, who’s leading the Bulldogs to their 16th straight NCAA appearance. And former Washington State coach Tony Bennett, who just led Virginia to one of its best seasons in decades.

The stories are waiting to be told, and we can’t wait.

No, we can’t stop the Madness; we can only hope to contain it in these pages.

See you on the court!

1. Gonzaga to face Oklahoma State, Smart: Seeded eighth in the West region, Gonzaga will play No. 9 seed Oklahoma State, led by Marcus Smart, Friday in San Diego.

2. Blanchette’s outlook: Columnist John Blanchette examines the Zags’ draw.

3. Spokane subregion: Michigan State, San Diego State, Cincinnati and Oklahoma highlight the eight-team field at Spokane Arena.

4. The national picture: Florida, Arizona, Wichita State and Virginia, led by former Washington State coach Tony Bennett, grab the tourney’s top seeds.

5. Fill out your bracket: The field of 68 is set and all that’s missing is your bracket. So here’s one to fill out.