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Grip on Sports: OK, so the season hasn’t ‘officially’ started yet, but Gonzaga was on TV last night

Gonzaga’s  Rui Hachimura, right, defends Central Washington’s Jackson Price in the first half Thursday  at McCarthey Athletic Center. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)
Gonzaga’s Rui Hachimura, right, defends Central Washington’s Jackson Price in the first half Thursday at McCarthey Athletic Center. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)

A GRIP ON SPORTS • College basketball season isn’t officially here. But it sure seemed like it was last night. There was a game on television and everything. Read on.

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• That would be Gonzaga’s exhibition victory over Central Washington, the school in Ellensburg.

Such a description – do you know Ellensburg almost became the state’s capital back in the late 1800s? – sort of fits every college basketball team in the state, except maybe Gonzaga’s.

It has become that way over the past 20 years.

As the Zags have become a nationally recognized and respected power, the rest of the Evergreen State’s basketball programs have had their moments in the sun. Moments that turned into a couple years and then, poof, they were gone.

Washington, Washington State, all the directional schools, they have had great seasons. Maybe two or three or even a couple more. But not 20 years like GU. In fact, the only school that can even come close to rivaling Gonzaga’s success is Whitworth, albeit at a lower level of competition.

The Pirates have strung together 17 years of successful seasons, not always finishing in the NCAA tournament but always winning. And yet still not up to Gonzaga’s gold standard.

The success ensures Gonzaga basketball is treated, in the broadcast world, with the same reverence given professional teams or college football programs. In other words, every game is available on TV. And not just via a streaming service. Real live professionals are doing the broadcast. There are commercials – lots and lots of commercials – and everything.

It’s the big time. And it’s from Spokane.

• Enough about the background. How did the Zags play?

Not their best, which isn’t too surprising. It was their first game, they are dealing with an injury to their Swiss Army knife inside – Killian Tillie – and they are trying to meld in two new contributors, one of whom, Geno Crandall, only got on campus a few weeks ago.

Central played hard but was, as you would expect with a Division II program, overmatched, especially in size and strength. Gonzaga started strong, seemed to coast in the middle of the first half, then played with more cohesion just before halftime.

After that, the game was a whistlefest, with some one-on-one play and garbage time mixed in. In other words, not all that much fun to watch.

But it was the Zags and it was our first chance to see the 2018-19 edition in a competitive environment. And it gives Mark Few and his staff more video from which to teach.

The real games? They start Tuesday night – election night for everyone else – with Idaho State coming to town. And then it’s basketball until March. It will be fun to see how the journey unfolds.

•••

WSU: The Cougars are smack in the middle of a football journey. An unexpected one in many ways. Theo Lawson explains how the running backs improved their game and their image. … California’s defense has continued to improve and has helped the Bears to the cusp of bowl eligibility. … Elsewhere in the Pac-12, with Stanford coming to town tomorrow, Washington coach Chris Petersen is once again defending his offensive coordinator. … UCLA and Chip Kelly will make a visit to Eugene tomorrow. The Oregon fans (and team) are ready. … Oregon State has improved defensively. Will it be enough to contain USC? … Arizona State is doing better than most thought with Herm Edwards in charge. But Utah is a different type of foe. … The football weekend begins tonight in Tucson, when under-the-gun Colorado faces off with Arizona. … In basketball news, you probably should read these stories concerning Oregon and the national FBI probe into corruption. It doesn’t look as if the Ducks did more than give a cursory glance at whether their program was involved. … Washington faced a tough Seattle Pacific team in its exhibition game last night and won.

Gonzaga: There is the typical in-depth coverage of the Zags, exhibition or not. We start with Jim Meehan’s game analysis and John Blanchette’s column. … We chip in with our view from the couch, which is, as usual, covered with dog hair. (The couch, not our view. Though, come to think of it, maybe both.) … Justin Reed has a story on Brandon Clarke returning to the court after sitting out his transfer season. … The guys in the office put together the recap and highlights. … Jesse Tinsley was the photographer in attendance and he has this photo report. … The GU women host Carroll College tonight in their exhibition. Jim Allen has a preview. … Finally, we have a story from CBS Sports outlining the NCAA favorites. Gonzaga is included.

EWU: Jim Meehan also has his college volleyball notebook that points out an interesting fact. For the first time in almost 40 years, every college program in the area has a woman head coach. … Larry Weir’s Press Box pod from yesterday looked at the college basketball scene in the area. … Around the Big Sky, Portland State is playing better but Idaho State is a tough out this season. … UC Davis is playing well and hosts reeling Northern Arizona. … Montana has a good chance for a road win against struggling Southern Utah. … Montana State is getting some players back. … Weber State should have no problem with Sacramento State at home.

Preps: The prep volleyball playoffs continued in Washington.

Seahawks: Russell Wilson is playing better this season. There are lots of reasons. … K.J. Wright wants to be in Seattle and he wants to do good. … Michael Dickson has already run into Seattle's memory. … Dion Jordan is healthy. That helps.

Mariners: It looks as if Marco Gonzales and the M's have struck a deal that helps both sides.

Sounders: The Sounders will face rival Portland in their first playoff series.

•••       

• I hope you are having a great workweek. It’s been raining here. A lot. So we will once more pour some cold water on your Saturday. It will have to start without this feature. Sorry. No column tomorrow. I’m taking a day off. Until Sunday …


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