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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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This run is different, but just as successful for Zags

Zags’ second-half surge was good sign for young fans.
Zags’ second-half surge was good sign for young fans.

A GRIP ON SPORTS • There was something magical about Gonzaga's run to the Elite Eight in 1999. A scrappy bunch of Bulldogs did the unexpected, shocking the nation with crashing dunks and deadly daggers from the outside. That was so 20th Century. This year's Zags are in the same spot, but the road, and road map, has been so different. Read on.

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• It was that 1999 run that thrust Gonzaga into the nation's consciousness, mainly due to the Little Engine That Could Syndrome. Who would have thought a small Jesuit school from Spokane, Washington could pull itself up the NCAA hill, just missing the Final Four summit by a shot or two? That perception stuck around for a few years but recently, over the past 10 or so years, has morphed from underdog to underachiever, as early round NCAA exit was followed by early round NCAA exit. That was then. Friday night the Zags played like the bullies they have become, muscling UCLA out of the tournament with a tough-it-out 74-62 win in Houston. This wasn't the Matt Santangelo, Richie Frahm Zags. This was the Przemek Karnowski Zags, all 7-foot-1 and 288 pounds. The biggest kid in cavernous NRG Stadium. The Alpha dog, if you will. Close on his heels was Domantas Sabonis, another foreign import who banged away down low until the Bruins finally caved. And out front, senior guard Kevin Pangos, a first-round NCAA loser in each of his first three seasons, guided the pack to the Elite Eight, even if he couldn't find the bottom of the net from the outside. (Who could in that place, more airplane hanger than Hoosiers' gym; a place that holds a lot of humanity but cheapens everyone's experience?) No matter. Neither could the Bruins until the last couple minutes, way too late when the opponent's center is delivering two behind-the-back passes for key buckets. Friday's game showed once again how many ways Gonzaga has to beat you, a must for any team hoping to be in the national championship conversation in late March. And that's where, for the first time in 17 years, Gonzaga finds itself today. Oh, sure, Kentucky is still Snow White, towering over the rest of the competition. But among the seven other contenders, Gonzaga is not dwarfed. It has as good a chance as any, with enough offense to win a shootout and enough defense to grind it out if need be. The next test is the toughest thus far, the blue-blooded boys from Duke, college basketball royalty for a lot longer than anyone left not from the Bluegrass State. But Gonzaga has the pieces to compete, to deal with Duke's size, quickness and talent. And they think they can. That's just as important.

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• WSU: A pair of Cougar basketball players earned All-Academic honors from the Pac-12. Jacob Thorpe has a blog post on the news.

• Gonzaga: We'll start with Jim Meehan's game story, covering the nuts and bolts of the Sweet Sixteen win. Then we'll head over to John Blanchette territory, with his column focusing on Karnowski's huge contributions. Finally, Jacob Thorpe has a sidebar from UCLA's point of view and Colin Mulvany has a photo report. ... From Houston, there are a couple of stories on the Gonzaga win as well as one from Duke's 63-57 victory over Utah. ... The Los Angeles Times has a game story and a couple others on what the loss means to the Bruins. ... Bud Withers has a column from Houston. ... We also can pass along stories from ESPN, the New York Times and the Sporting News. ... The women's regional begins today in Spokane with Duke and Maryland kicking it off. Greg Lee has the advance of the matchup between former ACC foes. ... The Gonzaga woman follow against Tennessee in the evening, with Tom Clouse putting together this story on the tough task ahead for GU. Jim Allen has a piece on the Volunteers' goals. ... The Times has an advance of the Gonzaga game. ... Back to the men, Portland expects to have a surprisingly good team next season.

• EWU: Tyler Harvey and Venky Jois earned all-district honors from the National Association of Basketball Coaches yesterday. Jim has a blog post on the awards.

• Chiefs: The Chiefs held a 1-0 lead heading into the third period last night in Everett but it didn't last 20 seconds. And the Silvertips didn't stop there, scoring five times in the final period for a 5-1, series-opening win. Chris Derrick has all the coverage in this game story and blog post. ... Tri-City was shut out in Kelowna.

• Shock: The season begins tonight in Arizona, home of the three-time defending Arena champions. Jim Meehan has the advance.

• Seahawks: The NFL is ready to make major changes to the almost-automatic extra point.

• Mariners: David Rollins, a Rule 5 pickup from the Astros, seemed to have the inside track as the second lefthander in the M's bullpen. Until yesterday. He was suspended by baseball for 80 games due to a failed PED test, something Rollins admitted in a statement. That suspension seems to open the door to Spokane's Tyler Olson, who has had a nearly perfect spring. ... With or without Rollins, the M's bullpen was going to hard-pressed to emulate last-season's success. ... The bats were basically silent last night in a 5-1 loss to the Royals. ... All signs are still pointing toward Taijuan Walker being the fifth starter.

• Sounders: Dallas is a tough place to win an MLS match even when the visiting team is healthy. The Sounders won't be tonight when they face FC Dallas in Frisco. Injuries and national team responsibilities have left the Sounders a bit short, so the lineup tonight will be more or less a surprise. Which won't make it any easier to win.

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• There are four more games this weekend in the men's tournament. Then it's off to Indianapolis. Will Gonzaga be part of that final four? ... Before we leave, I wanted to call attention to the passing of a longtime radio voice I used to listen to when I was young. Until later ...



Vince Grippi
Vince Grippi is a freelance local sports blogger for spokesman.com. He also contributes to the SportsLink Blog.

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