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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper The Spokesman-Review

Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Days just don’t get much bigger than this

Eric McClellan, left, and Przemek Karnowski have helped the Zags reach new heights. (Colin Mulvany)
Eric McClellan, left, and Przemek Karnowski have helped the Zags reach new heights. (Colin Mulvany)

A GRIP ON SPORTS • Today is a huge day around here in sports. Maybe the biggest. Read on.

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• If Gonzaga defeats Duke this evening in Houston and advances to the Final Four, today will be one remembered in Spokane for years and years. The day the Zags got over the hump. Of course, that assumes GU doesn't do anything in Indianapolis because any positive outcome there would dwarf the previous steps. Such is life in the NCAA tournament. Yesterday doesn't matter, today – and tomorrow, if there is a tomorrow – does. And today it is the Duke Blue Devils, coached by a legend and led by a couple of precocious freshmen, who stand in the way. I'm not even going to try to handicap this game mainly because there's a wild-card factor I'm not sure of. That would be NRG Stadium and it's cavernous character. The Zags need to be hitting on all cylinders today if they want to take done a No. 1 seed for the first time in their history. That's seems somewhat of a given. But their outside shooting touch, such a strength throughout the season and especially at Key Arena in the first two rounds, disappeared against UCLA. And no one in America would attribute GU's 3-for-19 shooting from beyond the arc Friday to UCLA's stellar defense. The shots were there. They didn't go down. And, for most people over the years, they haven't in NRG. That's the subject of Jacob Thorpe's notebook today in the paper as well as stories from around the nation. Part of it is due to Ken Pomeroy's piece in which the college basketball statistic's guru breaks down the numbers and, while admitting randomness might be a possibility, he sees a pattern of poor outside shooting. And that's not good. One of the things that makes Gonzaga so hard to guard is their ability to score from anywhere, from the paint, to the mid-range to beyond the arc. Take away one, and another can bite you. But if the threat of the 3 isn't there, the paint gets more crowded, driving lanes close down and points are harder to come by. It will be too bad if the arena plays a part in the outcome of the game today. Let's hope it doesn't.

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• WSU: Though it was news we have been dreading for a while now, the passing of Bobo Brayton yesterday still hit hard. The longtime WSU baseball coach – and school icon – died Saturday at the age of 89. John Blanchette shares his thoughts on Brayton's life and his stamp on Washington State in this column. It's worth reading even if you are not a Cougar fan.

• Gonzaga: We start today with the women's regional game held yesterday afternoon in the Arena. The place was relatively full and most of those in attendance were Gonzaga fans, at least for the day. With less than 7 minutes left I'm sure they were talking about the matchup with Maryland on Monday or how hard it would be to make the Final Four. After all, the women were up 17 on Tennessee and seemed in control. Then it all went south. The Volunteers turned up the pressure, the Zags turned passive and the game just flat turned. UT rallied, forced overtime and won 73-69, ending the Zags' season. Tom Clouse has the game story while Jim Allen has a sidebar on the late comeback. ... Before we leave the Arena, we want to pass along Greg Lee's story on Maryland's win over Duke. ... Down in Houston, the Zags prepared for their game with Duke. Jim Meehan has the advance while John has another column, this one on Matt Santangelo and the last time GU was in the Elite Eight. Jim also has a feature on how tough it is for the families of the European players to watch the Gonzaga games while Jacob has this feature on Duke's Justise Winslow. ... Down North Carolina way, Winslow's return to Houston is big news as well. ... There are things to watch tonight as the teams meet. ... Is this Duke's moment? ... The Duke/Gonzaga matchup has regional implications as well, with Bud Withers writing about the mutual respect between the schools and John McGrath wanting the Zags to end a long streak for the Northwest. ... Former Gonzaga player Rob Sacre has some work to do if wants to remain on the Lakers next season. ... Finally, the GU baseball team earned a win on the road yesterday.

• Chiefs: It took all of the regular season for the Everett Silvertips to earn the home-ice advantage on the Chiefs. And only one game to lose it. That came last night as Spokane raced past host Everett 6-2. Chris Derrick has the game story and this blog post. ... Seattle also took the home-ice away from Portland with a 4-3 series-opening win at Veterans Memorial Coliseum. ... Tri-City is down 0-2 to Kelowna.

• Shock: The Shock opened its season in quite possibly the worst way possible, losing 60-43 to Arizona and probably losing quarterback Carson Coffman for a while to a knee injury.

• Seahawks: The only football news we have today is also baseball news, as Russell Wilson spent the day at the Texas Rangers camp. Hey, he hit a home run.

• Mariners: The M's had a four-run lead in the ninth inning yesterday. But they also had Erasmo Ramirez on the mound. The result was a 9-8 Giants win. ... The end of spring training is near – these are really the dog days – so decisions have to be made. It looks as if Roenis Elias is the odd man out in the rotation, though the M's may actually utilize six starters throughout the year to keep everyone fresh if they make the postseason. ... Felix Hernandez will be the top dog of course. ... More sad news yesterday. The M's confirmed Victor Sanchez, who was critically injured in a swimming accident in February, has died from the head injuries he suffered when hit by a boat propeller.

• Sounders: Seattle was missing five of its best players, including scorers Clint Dempsey and Obafemi Martins. Host Dallas also was missing some key players and, just minutes in, received a red card and played the final 72 minutes a man down. The match had scoreless draw written all over it. And that's what happened. ... The result didn't please anyone but also didn't displease anyone either.

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• Isn't it awful when life gets in the way of sports? I have some previously scheduled commitments today that may just conflict with the Zags' game. Thank goodness for the ability to record the game. Now if I can just avoid the all-encompassing updates on my phone. 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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