A GRIP ON SPORTS
There is a college basketball dynasty in our area and hardly anyone knows. Read on.
• I'm using the word dynasty a bit loosely – most people think of multiple championships when the word is used to describe a sports team – but Whitworth University is becoming a NCAA Division III dynasty. OK, if you're going to argue with me, I'll call them a national power. Is that good enough for you? The Pirates became a national power back when Jim Hayford was their coach, before he took his talents to South Cheney. But the program hasn't missed a beat under second-year coach Matt Logie. The Pirates have won 19 consecutive games since opening the season with a loss at St. Thomas. They are ranked third in the nation behind only top-ranked Rochester and the aforementioned St. Thomas. And they are poised to move up to the second spot if they can win tonight vs. Pacific, as Rochester was upset Friday. Rarified air, that. But there is more to it. You have to understand how hard it is for a West Coast school to earn any cachet in Division III, especially a school in the Pacific Northwest. As far as the NCAA Division III folks are concerned, anything west of the Rockies might as well be American Samoa. Not all that long ago if Whitworth didn't win the Northwest Conference title, the Pirates weren't going to the postseason. It didn't matter if they won 20, 21, 22 games. An at-large berth was always in doubt. The powers that be at the school used to pray for a Southern California team to excel so the NCAA would have someone relatively inexpensive to match up with the Whits in the first round. Not anymore. Whitworth began spending more on non-conference travel under Hayford. That allowed them to play teams in the Midwest, which, along with the Northeast, is one of two pockets of domination in Division III basketball. Though wins were hard to come by, the early season games built the Pirates RPI and reputation. Continually winning the NWC title didn't hurt either, nor did deeper postseason runs. Now when the ruling powers of NCAA Division III basketball sit down at the table, Whitworth's name is mentioned in the same breath with the schools in Massachusetts, Wisconsin and Minnesota. The national powers.
• And, yes, I know the Super Bowl is tomorrow. Our subject today is the Harbaugh brothers. They held a joint press conference yesterday. Jim seemed a bit disinterested. All I can say is I'm not surprised. As Pete Carroll might ask, "what's your deal?"
• Washington State: Christian Caple has a fun subject to discuss today in a surprising feature on WSU basketball coach Ken Bone. It's about Bone's no-cussing rule; one the coach adheres to himself. Of course, with Arizona in Beasley tonight, Christian also has his usual items, including a blog post this morning. For the second consecutive day, a story on a Cougar football player getting in trouble with the law is usual as well, with Christian covering receiver Drew Loftus' arrest for an alleged theft in this story and blog post. ... Klay Thompson has really picked up his game lately for the Warriors. ... It's Saturday, so we pass along Ted Miller's Pac-12 mailbag on ESPN.com. ... The Cougar women shut down Arizona State last night in Tempe.
• Gonzaga: Every time the Zags face USD these days it is a reunion. A reunion with former assistant coach Billy Grier, who is trying to build the Torero program. Jim Meehan caught up with Grier (pictured) recently and talked about his team. The conversation is reflected in Jim's advance of tonight's game and in this blog post. ... Jim also looked back yesterday at the Loyola Marymount blowout. ... The WCC schedule right now isn't kind to USD, but that's just the way it is in a nine-team conference. ... The ninth team is BYU, which has won a few road games while not playing all that well.
• EWU: League-leading Montana comes to town today carrying another undefeated Big Sky record. ... Weber State finishes up a road trip that saw the Wildcats drop a couple games behind the Griz. ... Portland State anounced its 2013 football schedule.
• Preps: It's not often a basketball coach resigns on the eve of the postseason but that's what happened yesterday at Coeur d'Alene. Greg Lee has the story. ... Greg was also at the Idaho 5A girls Region I playoffs last night and filed this story. ... We also have girls and boys roundups.
• Chiefs: Spokane began its tough stretch with a 7-4 loss at Kamloops. ... Portland won yesterday and is making its case to the WHL Board of Governors for some reduction in the penalties given coach Mike Johnston and the team.
• Mariners: The M's payroll is below last year's as spring training gets set to kick off. Why are we not surprised?
• The weekend is here. Super Bowl weekend. I'm trying to decide if I should weigh myself and see how I do over the next 48 hours (I've been trying to lose weight lately and doing relatively OK). I'm not sure it would make me feel very good, though. So I probably won't. Until later ...