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Tuesday, May 21, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Grip on Sports: College basketball’s last hurrah will dominate the extended weekend

In this Jan. 27  photo, Oregon head coach Kelly Graves talks with an official during a  game against Washington in Seattle. Oregon will face Baylor in a Final Four semifinal on Friday. (Elaine Thompson / AP)
In this Jan. 27 photo, Oregon head coach Kelly Graves talks with an official during a game against Washington in Seattle. Oregon will face Baylor in a Final Four semifinal on Friday. (Elaine Thompson / AP)

A GRIP ON SPORTS • The weekend doesn’t really begin today, but in a basketball sense it does. The women tipoff their Final Four tonight, the men tomorrow and by Monday the college basketball season will be over. Read on.

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• The question is, who will be holding the trophies?

And will they have some odd relationship with this area? As per usual, there are Inland Northwest connections to both tournaments.

Oregon is coached by Kelly Graves, the longtime Gonzaga head coach, and features Gonzaga Prep’s Oti Gildon as a key reserve (Jim Allen has a story linked in the prep section below). And I once saw Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma at Chase Middle School during the AAU national tournament years ago. Does that count?

The connection to the men’s tournament is a bit more removed, though Tony Bennett did give Washington State two of its best basketball years ever a decade ago before moving on to Virginia. And Texas Tech did knock this year’s Bulldog team from the tournament last week.

That’s a connection it’s safe to say most GU fans would already like to forget.

• The Mariners have taken the past couple days off, one previously scheduled, the other due to bad weather. Not as bad as it is around here today – it’s been raining all morning, sometimes hard enough to hear inside – but bad enough the White Sox postponed the game 24 hours in advance.

All the while they have been sitting on baseball’s best record. Who would have thought? Not me, not you. Not even general manager Jerry Dipoto.

The 7-1 record makes today’s game – it begins at 11:10 this morning on Root – must-see TV. As does the fact lefty Yusei Kikuchi is pitching, and he’s backed by a defense that can best be described as about as solid as pudding.

It seems like a good way to spend a rainy day, parked in front of a TV set in the living room, with a big ol’ sandwich, a diet Coke and some chips. Yep, that’s the life.

•••

WSU: When I was asked last winter to describe one player on last year’s Washington State football team that could play a much-bigger role in this fall’s success, my mind immediately went to Lamonte McDougle. The former freshman All-American defensive lineman was redshirting after a transfer from West Virginia. But everyone was saying he was wreaking havoc during practice. He’s eligible now and Theo Lawson wants you to know all about him. … Larry Weir called yesterday and we talked a while, mainly about former WSU coach Bennett. The conversation is on the Press Box pod. Hopefully, most if not all Cougar fans no longer hold a grudge about his departure. … Elsewhere in the Pac-12, the conference’s network is highlighting football and basketball more. … There is spring football going on all over, including Washington and Oregon, Oregon State and Colorado. The most coverage, however, is about UCLA and USC. … The Bruins’ wooing of Jamie Dixon may have hit a snag. … As we mentioned, Oregon is in the Final Four. The Ducks play top-seeded Baylor tonight. … And Arizona is in the WNIT finals.

Gonzaga: What are the pro prospects of Rui Hachimura and Brandon Clarke? Jim Meehan sat out to find out, and that search led him to talk with three folks. Their opinions vary. … Neither Josh Perkins nor Idaho’s Taylor Pierce advanced far in the NCAA’s 3-point contest. … Around the WCC, BYU seems to be interviewing the entire West Coast.

EWU: No spring practice yesterday at Eastern. Instead, the Eagles held a pro day. Ryan Collingwood was there and has this story. … Elsewhere in the Big Sky, Montana State hired a new basketball coach.

Whitworth: The Pirates are having success on the baseball field this spring, which is something of a surprise. Ryan has that and more in his college baseball notebook.

Chiefs: It’s been a while since Spokane has been on the ice, but when the Chiefs return for the WHL playoff’s second round in Everett tomorrow, we know who will lead the way. Dan Thompson has a story on Adam Beckman.

Preps: As we said, Jim Allen has a story on former Gonzaga Prep star Gildon. And Ryan adds another on other former Spokane-area stars who played in the women’s Final Four.

Mariners: The road beckons and the M’s will take that 7-1 record with them. How did they get there?

Seahawks: The Hawks signed two relatively inexpensive pass rushers yesterday, one who has been in Seattle before, the other a Hard Knocks star. … You have questions? … We have one. Why isn’t the Russell Wilson deal finished? … The draft creeps closer.

•••       

• That’s it for this morning. See you tomorrow. Bring your umbrella (if you are in Spokane). Until later …

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