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Tuesday, December 11, 2018  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Grip on Sports: The Pac-12 would like you to know First Four participants have had some success in the past

Southern California’s Jordan McLaughlin (11) drives against Providence’s Jalen Lindsey (21) during the second half of a First Four game of the NCAA men’s college basketball tournament, Wednesday, March 15, 2017, in Dayton, Ohio. Southern California won 75-71. (John Minchillo / Associated Press)
Southern California’s Jordan McLaughlin (11) drives against Providence’s Jalen Lindsey (21) during the second half of a First Four game of the NCAA men’s college basketball tournament, Wednesday, March 15, 2017, in Dayton, Ohio. Southern California won 75-71. (John Minchillo / Associated Press)

A GRIP ON SPORTS • The NCAA basketball tournament begins today, with Radford and Long Island University-Brooklyn having the honors. And the honor of losing to Villanova on Thursday. Read on.

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• Inclusion is one of those words not used all that much 50 years ago but all the rage these days. Even the NCAA tourney is into it, adding the first four a few years back to include a Simpson-handful more teams.

Yes, it’s a participatory trophy-type event for the 16 seeds, who now get to say they won an NCAA game – before the inevitable loss to one of the top seeds. The 11th-seeded teams that play tonight and tomorrow night – including UCLA and Arizona State, two-thirds of the Pac-12 representation – have a better chance of moving on, even as far as the Final Four.

Yes, Virginia Commonwealth was a First Four participant seven years ago and then made a run to the semifinals. LaSalle, in 2013 as a 13 seed, and Tennessee, in 2014, each made the Sweet Sixteen.

So don’t count out Saint Bonaventure or UCLA or Syracuse or ASU. One of them might actually ruin a few office pools.

• When I recorded the Press Box podcast with Larry Weir yesterday, he surprised me with a question about Gonzaga’s start time and whether it would adversely effect the Zags. (If you don’t know, they tip at 10:30 a.m. our time, which is a blow to bars and restaurants in the Spokane area.)

Luckily, I’ve thought about this before. College basketball consists, for the most part, of the best youth players in the nation. If only one percent of America’s high school players move on to Division I hoops (according to NCAA statistics), then most of those players have been playing basketball much of their lives. And that means playing morning games.

Whether it was as an elementary school-aged child in Y ball or AAU, or as a high school player in spring or summer tournaments, games can start as early as 8 a.m. Getting up, grabbing a bite to eat and heading to the gym is second nature to these guys and gals by the time they get to college.

My guess is Josh Perkins, Silas Melson, et al, have played hundreds of games with pre-noon starts in their lives. So Thursday will just be one more.

• It’s time for that annual rite of “which channel number is TruTV?” I’m not telling you. I believe in self-reliance. Besides, I don’t know and I don’t want to walk downstairs and find out.

•••

Gonzaga: UNC Greensboro is going to shoot the 3-pointer Thursday. Shoot it a lot. And it will try to befuddle the Zags with full-court pressure. Will it work? Jim Meehan talked with a former Idaho assistant that knows a lot about the Spartans. Jim also has takes a deeper look at Greensboro. … John Blanchette’s column examines last year’s Final Four run and its effect on this season. … A couple of dominating wins at the WCC tournament impressed Dick Vitale but not the Associated Press poll voters. Jim has that story as well. … The women learned their NCAA fate yesterday and it wasn’t what they wanted. A 13 seed and a trip to Stanford. Plus they don’t have a chance to win and come back to Spokane for the regional round. Jim Allen and Whitney Ogden have that coverage while Colin Mulvany has a handful of photos. … The Oregonian’s John Canzano interviewed Gonzaga assistant Brian Michaelson. … Pepperdine made it official yesterday. It hired Lorenzo Romar as its once-and-future coach. He’ll head to Malibu when Arizona’s season is over. … San Diego won its opening game in the College Invitational Tournament. … Dave Rose thinks BYU and the WCC can survive if Gonzaga leaves. But everyone will have to adjust.

WSU: As we mentioned above, the Pac-12 begins its NCAA journey with UCLA playing in Dayton tonight. The Bruins will have their hands full with St. Bonaventure. … Oregon begins the NIT by hosting Rider tonight. The runner-up tournament, also owned by the NCAA, will feature a different-looking court and timing rules the women have used the past few years. … USC hosts North Carolina-Asheville tonight still reeling from its NCAA snub. That’s not a recipe for NIT success. … Wouldn’t it be ironic if Arizona finally made the Final Four under Sean Miller this season? … Arizona State had just a few hours to get ready for Syracuse’s zone. … There is spring football news from Utah, where there is a new quarterback, Oregon and Colorado

Idaho: The senior-dominated Vandals didn’t pursue a postseason tournament. Peter Harriman has that story.

Whitworth: Kyle Roach is the region’s player of the year for Division III basketball.

Preps: Dave Nichols tells us a few local seniors were selected to play in the state coach’s association all-star game, including Central Valley’s Hull sisters. They also shared state player of the year honors from the Seattle Times.

Mariners: A line drive, a starting pitcher knocked out. Yes, it happened again to the M’s last night in a loss. … Robinson Cano’s hamstring isn’t that bad.

Seahawks: How do Seattle fans treat Richard Sherman in the future? Remember his contributions, sure, but also realize he’s playing for the rival now. So there is no reason to cheer for him after the ball is kicked off. … Not all of Seattle’s defensive backs are leaving. … Some people are odd. … A couple of veterans are in Seattle.

•••       

• OK, I have decided to relent. If you live in Spokane and have Comcast, as I do, TruTV is on channel 49 in standard-definition. As for high-definition, it is 705. For DirecTV and other outlets, you are on your own. Until later …


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