A GRIP ON SPORTS
SPOKANE – Downtown Spokane shut down today as amazed Gonzaga University fans took to the streets in celebration of the schools first NCAA mens' basketball national championship. A crowd estimated at more than a million, all of whom said they have been fans of the Zoogs since birth, held banners and cheered as they marched through the streets of downtown toward Browne's Addition, until informed by police the campus was the other way. A large part of the crowd was diverted, however, when a rumor broke out that a Whole Foods had opened on Main. ... Just doing a little fantasizing about early April. Sorry. Read on.
• When the local college basketball team is ranked second in the nation, as the Zags were yesterday for the second time in their history (first time by the Associated Press, though GU was ranked second by the coaches in 2004, the last time it looked like it could win a title), the idea of a national championship doesn't seem so farfetched. Especially in this season of college basketball, when the top part of the national rankings has bounced around like an eight-year-old after Halloween. Is Gonzaga the best team in the nation? Could be. Indiana could be better. Michigan State, Michigan, Duke, Miami, heck even Florida and a handful of others. They all could be better. But the Bulldogs might just be better than all of them as well. We've heard the mantra enough on SportsCenter that it's seared into our brains. There are no dominant teams this season. OK, but someone has to win the title. Might as well be a school from Spokane. Is it a fantasy? Less so than a Whole Foods opening downtown. Winning a national title is the fantasy for every schools' fans, except for a lucky few. A handful of years ago I sat courtside in a Sweet 16 game and watched North Carolina slice up Tony Bennett's best WSU team, pretty much the same North Carolina team that would perform similiar surgery a year late on Mark Few's Zags. That team was head-and-shoulders better than any squad the Inland Northwest has ever sent to the NCAAs. But then again, a couple years ago I sat in Buffalo and watched a Syracuse team that was so long and so athletic, GU had trouble competing. This Gonzaga team, however, would match up just fine. But it is still February. A lot can happen in the next 45 days. If the Zags were to stumble Thursday night in Provo, would it be appropriate to put the national-title fantasy away in drawer somewhere? No. There is only one loss that can – or should – kill that dream. It would have to happen in the NCAAs. Baring that, keep imagining Elias Harris with a net around his neck, Kevin Pangos sitting quietly taking it all in and Mark Few smiling as he hosts that ancient-looking, brown-paper-sack-colored trophy. Such thoughts are a great way to pass the days until spring.
• Gonzaga: Jim Meehan never struck me as a Bill Nye, The Science Guy sort, but he is today as his notebook explains the underpinnings of team chemistry. Right now, the Zags are earning an A in the class. ... Another type of fantasy: All of the folks who put together mock brackets. Here is another one with GU on the top line. ... Not only are the Bulldogs ranked second, another WCC team snuck into one of the polls.
• Washington State: Another quiet day in Pullman (are there any other kind; nights, on the other hand, are a different story). Christian Caple has his morning blog post in which he promises more later today. ... Bob Clark of the Register-Guard looks at Pac-12 basketball coaches on the hot seat and guess who is mentioned.
• Whitworth: The NCAA Division III playoffs get underway this weekend and both Pirate teams will be participating. Steve Christilaw's story explains coach Helen Higgs (pictured) the women will be traveling across the country for their game while the men get to stay home and host.
• Chiefs: Spokane is the midst of a taunt battle with Tri-City and Victoria for crucial playoff seeding. The Americans rely on their top line for production.
• Preps: It's a big week for basketball players in Washington and for the boys in Idaho. Greg Lee's story today examines the latter as Lake City has to be considered a favorite for the Idaho 5A title.
• Mariners: One of the best part of spring training is, for a bunch of the players, they are living the dream. And dreaming of really living. Jerry Brewer catches that today in his column. ... The M's rallied yesterday and finally prevailed 9-8 over the Angels in a game that nearly featured something not needed in the spring: extra innings. Jeremy Bonderman (pictured) pitched yesterday for the first time since 2010. ... There's a new trend in professional baseball: Players hiring their own coaches. I am available for catching instruction and tips on using a blog to advance your Hall of Fame credentials.
• Sounders: Unlike one other Seattle professional team, the Sounders look like they are willing to spend the big bucks to purchase a player that might just put them over the top. ... The Reign hope to have their most high-profile player back soon.
• That's it for today. I was looking at the long-term forecast and it seems the temps might rise into the 50s this weekend. Just in time to be indoors at the state hoops tournaments. Until later ...