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Grip on Sports: Games like Gonzaga’s make us realize college basketball is our best friend

Gonzaga forward Rui Hachimura finished the game with a slam dunk against Ohio State, Saturday, March, 17, 2018, at Taco Bell Arena in Boise, Id. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)
Gonzaga forward Rui Hachimura finished the game with a slam dunk against Ohio State, Saturday, March, 17, 2018, at Taco Bell Arena in Boise, Id. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)

A GRIP ON SPORTS • You remember your best friend from grade school? You know the one, for a while there you were inseparable, no matter how many times you disagreed, maybe even fought. The fun, the laughter, the good times made up for it. It’s the same way with March Madness, isn’t it? Read on.

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• There’s no hiding it anymore: I love college basketball. The games, the pageantry, the action, all contribute to it. The agony and ecstasy too. But what makes it unique is the diversity. There is no one way to be successful.

Defense wins. So does offense. Jam it inside, hit 3s. Big guys, little guys. Old grizzled coaches, young guys with earrings.

No cookie-cutters are necessary.

But college basketball also ticks me off about ever 30 seconds.

Think back about you best friend. The person you spent all those key childhood moments with. Think hard. You disagreed all the time, didn’t you?

My best friend and I, back in the day when everyone still wore butch haircuts, used to argue over the dumbest things. I always wanted to be Sergeant Saunders. So did he. I always wanted to be Napoleon Solo. So did he. I always wanted to be Ollie Brown. OK, he gave me that one.

Still we went everywhere together. Did everything. Spent the day side-by-side.

It’s the same with college hoops.

Every game holds the promise of adventure. Two teams, usually with differing philosophies, expending their last ounce of energy to win. Who will prevail?

Yes, it has its warts. The coaches make way too much money, the players not enough. The officiating is often too intrusive – Exhibit A was last night’s Gonzaga game – or overcome by the “let-them-play” attitude. Fans can be obnoxious. The hangers-on have evolved from the obnoxious level to downright criminal in some cases.

But you can hate all that and still love the game. And the games.

Houston won last night. Until it didn’t. Michigan lost last night. Until it didn’t.

Loyola of Chicago, who last played for the national title when Paladin was traveling the West, hits last-second, game-winning shots in back-to-back games.

Blue bloods like Duke, Kansas and, yes, Gonzaga, win and win again. Blue bloods like Arizona, UCLA and Virginia lose, causing seismic forces to be unleashed on their campuses.

America learns about Rob Gray, Jairus Lyles and Rui Hachimura. Coaches like Ryan Odom emerge from seemingly out of nowhere. Schools no one has heard of outside of their home county become household names – for 48 hours.

It’s March. It’s college basketball. It’s the best friend anyone could ever have.

•••

Gonzaga: Before we get started I want to cover my behind. If I miss an S-R story in the links, I’m sorry. There is so much to link I’m afraid I will have a turnover or two. We will start with Jim Meehan’s analysis of the game as well as his three keys to the win and a story on athletic director Mike Roth. … John Blanchette goes forth into numerology with his column. … Theo Lawson took care of the Ohio State side of things and has a piece on the Zags’ opening run. He also dives into another hard-hitting story. … Whitney Ogden ranged far afield, from fans to free-throw woes to foul calls to Mark Few's postgame hand-stand. … Dan Pelle and Tyler Tjomsland shared their photographs from the game. … We had our perspective from the couch. … The guys in the office put together a highlights package. … We also can offer stories about the game from around the nation. … David Stockton's signing is kind of a big deal in Salt Lake City. … The women were also in action yesterday but they weren’t as successful, losing to Stanford in the opening round. Jim Allen was there and has the coverage. … Colin Mulvany has a photo report from the game. … Around the WCC, San Diego defeated Portland State in a CIT game with a last-second shot. … BYU’s defense improved this season. But the guy who transformed it is already leaving.

WSU: With no schools left in the NCAA Tournament, the Pac-12 turns to the NIT. That’s what the conference has become, the NIT dominators. Is it good enough? … Washington has a tough task, facing Saint Mary’s in Moraga. … Utah is wondering if it gets what it is paying for. … Oregon is looking for an edge. … Arizona has questions. Lots of them. … There are also spring football stories from Utah, Colorado and UCLA.

NIC: The Cardinal men will play for the NWAC title.

Chiefs: The regular season is over and ended on a winning note. The Chiefs finished third and will face Portland in the WHL playoffs’ first round.

Mariners: Some M’s are returning from injury, like Ryon Healy. And others, like Erasmo Ramirez, are not. At least not in a timely fashion. … So the minor leagues’ experimental speedup rules are OK with one old-fashioned guy. … The M’s won twice yesterday.

Seahawks: The roster moves are what matter right now as the front office tries to find enough good players to give Seattle a shot next season.

Sounders: Seattle, battling injuries, return to MLS play.

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• Breakfast in bed? No way. It’s a day for breakfast in front of the TV set. By the way, I feel sorry for people who only catch up with college hoops in March. Games like yesterday’s have been happening all season, in November, December, January and on. Until later …


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